Taste the Terroir of Burgundy: Maison Joseph Drouhin

Maison Joseph Drouhin, logo from company website www.drouhin.com

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

This year I treated myself to two wine seminars at the Boston Wine Expo, focusing as last year on French wines that I don’t have a chance to experience on a day-to-day basis.

The day began with “Taste the Terroir of Burgundy with Laurent Droughin of Maison Joseph Drouhin.”  Maison Joseph Drouhin is one of the largest and most well regarded houses in Burgundy.  Founded in 1880 by Joseph Drouhin, it remains a family-owned business run by the fourth generation, Frédéric Drouhin, President; Véronique Drouhin, Head Winemaker; Phillipe Drouhin, Estates Manager, and Laurent Drouhin, Director United States Market.  They work closely with their father, Robert Drouhin, who ran the house until 2003.

The house was founded in 1880 when a very young Joseph Drouhin established his own wine company in the Beaune region of Burgundy.   Joseph’s son, Maurice, expanded the business, purchasing the domain’s first vineyards in 1919.  He continued to purchase vineyards through the 1920s and 30s, including the Clos des Mouches, which produced one of my favorites among the eight wines presented that afternoon.   Maurice Drouhin was, in turn, succeeded by his son Robert who continued to expand the vineyards, particularly in the Chablis region, which hadn’t yet been recognized for it’s full potential.  Under Robert Drouhin’s leadership, Maison Joseph Drouhin became a leader in “natural” viticultural practices, moving away from the use of pesticides to organic and sustainable methods.  In 2009 Maison Joseph Drouhin was awarded organic certification.  While proud of this certification, Laurent Drouhin pointed out that Joseph Drouhin did not pursue organic, “natural” methods in the hopes of winning awards or recognition, but rather to better allow the nuances of terroir to express themselves through the wines.  “The Burgundian soil expresses itself through the vine.  We strive to reveal its most hidden and subtle message.” (Source: Joseph Drouhin brochure).

Laurent Drouhin, seminar host; photo from Joseph Drouhin website www.drouhin.com

Maison Joseph Drouhin has vineyards across Burgundy in the Chablis, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune (Côte d’Or) and Côte Chalonnaise regions.  The domain encompasses 182 acres of which 60% are Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards.

Maison Joseph Drouhin remains committed to five core values:

  • Dedication to the diversity of Burgundy through a focus on clean, pure wines that reflect the character that nature provides through the soil and the climate.
  • Family heritage which allows the family to make decisions based on what is best for the wine and not just the bottom-line.  To illustrate this, Lauren Drouhin offered as an example the family’s decision to declassify (not bottle and market) a recent vintage.  The barrel tastings indicated that the wine was “not bad,” but “not bad” was not good enough to release in the family’s mind.  Better to not release the vintage than to release a vintage that did not live up to the standards Maison Joseph Drouhin has set for itself.
  • Listening to nature, which manifests itself through a commitment to use only natural products and methods, including ploughing by horse rather than machine to avoid compacting the earth and better protecting the vines roots.
  • Perfection and Elegance.  Joseph Drouhin works to craft wines that achieve balance and harmony, elegance, charm, complexity and pleasure.
  • Sharing with the world
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