Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain 2017
Domaine Michel Lafarge is one of the great producers of the wines of Burgundy’s Volnay appellation. The domaine is small, owning just under 25 acres of vines, and producing only about 4,000 cases annually, but the wines are models of their genres. The family has been cultivating grapes in Volnay since the early 19th Century and possibly back to the late 18th Century. Very gradually did the Lafarges accumulate, piece by piece, the portions of vineyards that comprise their domaine; these include Volnay Clos des Chênes and the wholly owned Clos du Chateau des Ducs, Beaune Grêves, Pommard Pezerolles (all Premier Cru) and parcels of Volnay village and Premier Cru, as well as Bourgogne Aligoté and Bourgogne Passetoutgrain and a village Meursault.
Lafarge was a pioneer in bottling its own wine, rather than selling the wine to a negociant, beginning with the harvest of 1934. The wines see only about 25 percent new oak, typically aging for 15 to 20 months, depending on the vintage and the vineyard. The entire domaine has been farmed on biodynamic principles since 1997-2000.
Passetoutgrain is a unique red wine of Burgundy. Bourgogne Passetoutgrain is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, producing a juicy, fragrant, uncomplicated and affordable red. The appellation (officially, Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains) actually covers the entirety of Burgundy, and was first designated in 1937, though its history (and the devotion of winemakers) dates back much further. In his 1831, Statistique de la Vigne dans la Département de la Côte d’Or, Dr. Morelot, a Burgundian landowner and one of the first writers to explore the region’s various terroirs, wrote, “Passe-Tout-Grains makes, in the propitious years, an excellent [wine]… It presents a color of a beautiful red a lot of body, of spirituality, and a particular bouquet that is not without pleasure.”
This legacy of endearment continues today. The wines produced under this appellation are ready to drink nearly as soon as they’re bottled and many winemakers still keep back a good portion of their production to drink with family and friends. In fact, that these wines have made it to the U.S. at all is thanks to a number of devoted importers, including Kermit Lynch, Becky Wasserman and Neal Rosenthal, who have been similarly charmed by how easy they are to love.
The name, which loosely means, “throw it all in,” is a nod to the heritage of these wines as field blends, in which Gamay and Pinot Noir have historically been co-planted in vineyards in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, and then co-fermented. That’s changed somewhat over the years, with many winemakers today sourcing the grapes separately, from different parcels. But as prices for both red and white Burgundy continue to escalate, Passetoutgrain, which by law is composed of at least one-third Pinot Noir and no more than two-thirds Gamay, is becoming ever more obscure. And it’s the Gamay that’s the problem—growing it on land that’s prime for Pinot Noir or Chardonnay just doesn’t make all that much fiscal sense.
Today, Gamay constitutes a mere 2.5 percent of the plantings in Burgundy (outside of Beaujolais, of course), and that number is shrinking. Fanny Sabre, a young producer in the Côte de Beaune, made outstanding Passetoutgrain, but pulled out her old, low-yield, co-planted vines in Volnay to plant Pinot Noir after the 2011 vintage; Digloia and Meo Camuzet followed suit in 2015. This is the trend. As a result, the production of Passetoutgrain has drastically decreased: the five-year average production from 2007 to 2011 was 740,000 gallons; from 2012 to 2016, it was just 340,000 gallons.
Despite the small quantities, more than 80 producers still make a Passetoutgrain across Burgundy. And, while on paper the bulk of Burgundy’s Gamay is planted in the Mâcon—at the warm, southern end of the Côte d’Or—some of the best producers have theirs in lauded parts of both the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Many of these producers are also working with vines that have been around for generations (at Domaine Michel Lafarge, for example, the vines for the Bourgogne Passetoutgrain were planted in 1926) for reasons that have more to do with a loyalty to these wines than with profit.
|Region||France, Burgundy, Bourgogne|
|Brand||Domaine Michel Lafarge|
VinousAn equal blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, the 2017 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain has a simple but satisfying bouquet of dark cherries and crushed strawberries. The palate is well balanced. Here the Pinot Noir is more expressive than the Gamay, finally reverting to something almost Fleurie-like on the blueberry finish. Delicious.