Domaine Rollin: The Elegant and Classic 2014 Vintage

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2017 marks the 35th year of our partnership with the Rollin family in Pernand-Vergelesses. Over the years, first with Maurice and his son Remi, and today with Remi and his son Simon, this remarkable domaine has provided us with wines of finesse, character, and startling purity—and at prices that put to rest the notion there is no value to be found in great Burgundy anymore. Each visit with the overwhelmingly kind and gentle Rollin men is a master class in the unique terroir of their northern sector of the Cote de Beaune, those lesser-appreciated vineyards on the northwestern flank of the imposing hill of Corton. As with the most soul-stirring of Burgundies, the hand of the grower is virtually invisible at Rollin, the wines tasting as if they crawled directly out of the mother rock and into the bottle. There is no flash, no pretense, and no forcefulness here—just the cool, elegant dance of acid, fruit, and mineral. Even in their great and iconic Corton-Charlemagne, though there is no shortage of terroir-derived power, there is an elegance and grace rarely glimpsed in some of the more brawny and elevage-driven versions of this cru from other cellars.

During our visit with Remi and Simon this past September, we tasted through two quite different vintages in their entirety: 2014 and 2015. Both are ravishing in their own way, and both play to different strengths of the Rollin style. The vibrant, racy, and fresh character of 2014 marries perfectly with the purity and lift inherent to Rollin’s wines, resulting in both whites and reds of almost shocking kinetic energy. The 2015s are certainly heftier wines than their 2014 counterparts, as the vintage was much warmer and sunnier, but the characteristic restraint and acidity of the Rollin style keep the wines from being ponderous or overwhelming, and the results are thrilling.

In early February, we will receive the complete set of 2014s from Rollin (plus the 2015 Aligoté and 2015 Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Blanc). Over the years, Rollin’s wines have understandably built up quite a following, so please contact your Rosenthal representative for availability.

2015 Bourgogne Aligoté
The Rollins own just over a hectare of 50-year-old Aligoté in a parcel between Pernand and Echevronne, and it is always a delightful offering that beautifully exemplifies the mineral-driven “house style”. Not your everyday Aligoté, this ’15 shows the exceptional richness of the vintage in an intriguing and appealing manner. A ripe, saline nose of honey and white flowers introduces a resinous, broad palate showcasing notes of seashells and juicy citrus, with the mountain-flower overlay of the nose continuing to shine through.

2015 Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Blanc
Vintages like ’15 tend to strongly elevate “lesser” appellations (like those of the Hautes-Cotes), resulting in wines of uncommon density and longevity. From a minuscule parcel on the border of Pernand and Echevronne, Rollin’s ’15 Hautes-Cotes Blanc offers an incredible thickness of texture that is more reminiscent of a premier cru than a regional-designated wine. Slightly reticent and inward-facing at the moment, its brooding power hints at great rewards for the patient drinker who allows it a few years to spread its wings.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc
Rollin’s basic Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc—always a knockout for the price—comprises four separate parcels, with an average vine age of 40 years. This ’14 is classic in its demeanor, but especially ravishing in its harmony and freshness. Its laser-like, crystalline nose beams limestone essence straight into the cerebellum, and the clean, kinetic, beautifully focused palate leads the way to a long, overtly salty finish that leaves the drinker invigorated.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc “Les Cloux”
“Les Cloux” is a well-situated lieu-dit on the north side of the hill of Corton, adjacent to the premier cru “Sous Fretille” (see below). It lies on a high-altitude, steep part of a hill, but a general lack of direct breezes there ensures its ripeness. This ’14 shows a lower-pitched, deeper nose than the basic Pernand-Vergelesses above, but with equivalent limestone intensity—more solid in its character than powdered. It is richer and thicker in the mouth as well, but the balletic acidity of the ’14 vintage holds it together perfectly.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc 1er Cru “Sous Fretille”
“Sous Fretille” is one of those stealth values that true lovers of Burgundy justifiably covet. A steeply sloping site overlooking the village itself, “Sous Fretille” is a stone’s throw from Corton-Charlemagne, and the Rollins always coax a showstopper from their old-vine parcel. In contrast to the richness of the “Les Cloux” above, this cru boasts a raciness and a palpable, pungent, ultra-intense mineral character reminiscent of great Chablis—but with a regal power that refers to its proximity to Corton-Charlemagne. This ’14 is taut, muscular, sleek, and driving, the pure essence of minerality.

2014 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
The first half of a tasting chez Rollin always culminates with this, one of the great white Burgundies of the Rosenthal portfolio. We have collectively experienced dozens of older bottles through the years, whether in the family cellar or over dinner with Neal (whose immense collection of older Rollin Corton-Charlemagne speaks to its character and quality), and it is a wine that never fails to dazzle. The Rollins own two parcels on this majestic hill—one on the Pernand side, and one on the Aloxe side, totaling only about a half-hectare—and the wine has always been a blend of the two. It spends a full two winters in the cellar as per tradition, and it wears the 50% new oak elevage effortlessly. This ’14 is brazenly mineral on the nose, and its dense grand cru texture presently only hints at delights to come for the patient drinker.

2014 Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Rouge
The Rollins exploit two hectares worth of Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Rouge from various parcels in Pernand and Echevronne. Always a wine of freshness and vibrancy, this ’14 is particularly energetic, offering exuberant raspberry and cherry notes on the vigorous, acid-driven palate. The fruit is crunchy and snappy rather than thick and juicy, underlining the deep mineral streak that runs through all of Rollin’s red wines.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge
A classic rendition of a truly underappreciated red Burgundy appellation, Rollin’s Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge comes primarily from two old-vine parcels—one in the lieu-dit of “Les Pins” in the northern part of the village, and the other in “Les Noirets” on the southern side. Compared to their better-known brethren in Savigny-les-Beaune, the red wines of Pernand-Vergelesses tend to be more firmly mineral, more savory, and a bit more finely wrought, and this ’14 is a beautiful encapsulation of that distinctly Pernand personality. A stellar value.

2014 Savigny-les-Beaune “Aux Grands Liards”
Not a typical Savigny-les-Beaune, this vineyard actually sits closer to the Pernand-Vergelesses premier cru “Les Fichots” (see below) than the main swath of Savigny-les-Beaune proper. As such, it displays a savory limestone edge more akin to Rollin’s trio of Pernand premier crus than to more classically plump and fruit-driven examples of Savigny. This ’14 is slightly juicier than the Pernand above, with an attractive mentholated accent to the direct, gleaming cherry fruit. A beguiling wine that should develop beautifully over the next few years.

2014 Aloxe-Corton
Aloxe-Corton is the warrior to Pernand’s diplomat, the weightlifter to the runner. Always a bit more gritty, structured, and viscerally earthy than its neighbor, Aloxe-Corton can also take longer to come around in bottle. The payoff is a wine of great substance and depth that tends to offer amazing value due to its relatively under-the-radar reputation. Rollin’s exceptional rendering of this appellation is definitely of a piece with their overall lineup in its precision and its mineral drive, but it shows the scrappier, more animale character of its birthplace. A rugged, serious wine.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge 1er Cru “Les Vergelesses”
Each wine in Rollin’s trio of Pernand-Vergelesses premier crus emphasizes a particular facet of the village’s complex personality. “Les Vergelesses” is situated in the southern part of the appellation, just below the grand “Ile des Vergelesses” (see below), and it is the most elegant, gentle, and supple of Rollin’s three crus. This ’14 is particularly breezy and beautiful, a gentle caress of pure Pinot Noir pleasure very much in line with the fresh and lovely character of the vintage.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge 1er Cru “Les Fichots”
“Les Fichots” borders “Les Vergelesses” to the north, and lies just below “Ile des Vergelesses” on the slope. As befits its situation on the border of Aloxe-Corton, this vineyard presents a more tenacious minerality, a broader carriage, and a firmer structure than its next-door neighbor above. This ’14 shows the clarity of the vintage, but it is certainly a more brooding, savory wine than “Les Vergelesses,” with greater depth of fruit and an interesting overlay of spice and pepper.

2014 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouges 1er Cru “Ile des Vergelesses”
Universal consensus holds that “Ile des Vergelesses” is the greatest site for red wine in the village, and the Rollins turn out a stunning example each and every vintage—one of the most consistent and distinctive red Burgundies in our portfolio. The ’14 “Ile des Vergelesses” combines the arresting elegance of “Les Vergelesses” with the mineral power of “Les Fichots,” all elements hanging together in delicate harmony. A present but non-disruptive firmness of structure implores the drinker to wait a few years, but this wine shows immense promise.

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