1999 Domaine Ampeau Volnay Santenots Premier Cru
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Robert Ampeau The Darkest Catacombs of Meursault

We first rang the bell at #6 Rue du Cromin in July 1982. Unlike other vigneron addresses in town, there was no sign outside the whitewashed courtyard. It seemed as if the reclusive Robert Ampeau was doing his best to dissuade collectors from knocking on his door.

Even as Robert Parker, Clive Coates, Jancis Robinson and Stephen Tanzer lavished critical praise on the Ampeaus, Robert and his son, Michel, had no tasting room hours. They rarely accepted appointments. Our visit had been arranged by a longtime friend of the family. Otherwise, we would never have marched down those twenty-three steps into the coldest catacombs of the Cote de Beaune.

The cellar was dark and dank. Most Burgundian cellars housed a year or two of back vintage Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. But here, the cave was filled with bottles, neatly stacked into wooden bins, packed to the vaulted ceiling. Robert Ampeau, clad in his classic blue worksuit handed us a piece of paper. On the x-axis were the vintages. On the y-axis, the names of the climats. "Qu'est-ce-que vous voulez gouter?" he asked. ("What would you like to taste?")

In retrospect, we lost our cool. Typically, particularly in Burgundy, it's best to practice politesse. In villages like Meursault, Puligny, Vosne Romanee and Chambolle Musigny, growers are famous for their rudeness. But on that summer afternoon, staring at a price list that began in 1959 (!!), we couldn't help ourselves. What did we want to taste? We rattled off vintages and appellations of 27 bottles. Robert Ampeau never blinked, simply scratching out our request in pencil on a small notepad. Then, the guy in the blue worksuit excused himself, leaving us in that Hitchcockian cellar for the better part of forty-five minutes, wishing we'd brought corkscrews.

As we would later learn, the wines on our list were housed in six cellars -- the one in which we were freezing half to death, and five others. Robert had hopped on his one-speed bicycle fitted out with metal crates, each slot sized for a bottle of Burgundy. It would require three trips en velo before M. Ampeau had collected all 27 bottles, finally returning 45 minutes later to treat us to the Burgundy tasting of our young lives.

If the white wine class of Robert Ampeau's cellar came from Meursault "Perrieres" and Puligny "Combettes," it was the Premier Cru Volnay Santenots that stole the afternoon thunder. In 1982, we tasted "Santenots" from 1959, 1964, 1969 and 1972, each bottle somehow living in a time machine, rich, marvelously vibrant, ethereally complex.

In the last decade of the 20th century, the limestone hillsides of the Cote de Beaune would give birth to two historic vintages. While the class of 1990 was the richest and lushest of its time, it would be the fabulously compact, marvelously structured 1999 that most collectors deem the finest of the decade. Robert Ampeau's 1999 Volnay Santenots would be a wine for the ages.

The 1999 Domaine Ampeau Volnay Santenots is locked in suspended animation. Deep ruby in color with gorgeous secondary aromas of crushed red fruits, pine needles and underbrush, the attack remains ethereally rich and juicy, slowly peeling away fine layers of raspberry complexity. Firm and perfectly persistent on the finish -- as was true of all the great 1999s -- this one has just now come into its own.

Tasting Notes

1999 Domaine Ampeau Volnay Santenots Premier Cru
"Deep ruby in color with gorgeous secondary aromas of crushed red fruits, pine needles and underbrush, the attack remains ethereally rich and juicy, slowly peeling away fine layers of raspberry complexity. Strikingly youthful and vibrant, the finish remains firm and refreshingly persistent. Like all the great 1999s, this one is only now hitting full stride. Drink now-2018."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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    • This is a Pre-Arrival Offer: Weather permitting, wine will begin shipping in October 2013.

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