Maison Joseph Drouhin ~ Chambolle-Musigny, Cote de Nuits

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

I’ve been remiss in not keeping up with my writing here. You’d think with all the wonderful wines I sampled during my two seminars at the Boston Wine Expo, the words would flow from my fingers onto these pages. But even with great notes and great experiences, writing, I find, is very hard work. And too often takes a back seat to work, chores, friends, and, hopefully, further wine adventures.

So I metaphorically pick up the pen again after an absence of almost three weeks (where DOES the time go?) and continue with the second flight presented in the “Taste the Terroir of Burgundy” seminar I attended at the Boston Wine Expo. The seminar had kicked off with a flight of four white Burgundies from the Chablis and Côte de Beaune regions of Burgundy.  The next flight featured reds, and in this case four wines all from the same village, Chambolle-Musigny, in the Côte de Nuits region.

According to our host, Laurent Drouhin, this is one of the family’s favorite villages, with a range of vineyards, including both Premier Cru and Grand Cru that produce wines that are subtle and rich, without too many spicy notes.  The four wines presented were, like the whites, all from the 2006 vintage.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny From vineyards classified as village vineyards (for a discussion of the differences between village, region, premier cru and grand cru classifications in Burgundy, see my post of January 25th).  Fermented in open vats and matured in oak, with a limited use of new oak, the wine is bright and easily drinkable.  The color is a bright, deep ruby-garnet.  The nose is fruity with notes of black cherry and plum.  Also, I immediately noticed the flinty “tang” that I find so often in Northeastern US reds.  The soil in these vineyards have strong limestone content, similar to that of southern New England, and it comes through in the wine.  In a seminar entitled “Tasting the Terroir,” it felt very satisfying to be able to make that connection.

In the mouth, the wine is bright, lightly dry with a somewhat chalky finish.  The notes of black cherry and plum that I picked up in the nose are very subtle and the fruit is very much in the background.   This would pair well with lighter meats, tuna or salmon, but would not stand up well to anything really spicy or peppery, or rich robust meats like roasts or steaks.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru This and the next wine in the flight were both from Premier Cru vineyards.  This particular wine I found to have the strongest affinities with a southern New England red, and interesting observation because the Burgundies are all Pinot Noir, a grape we grow very little of here in the Northeast.  What’s coming through the wines in both regions is the terroir, the mineral content, particularly limestone; these were the observations that really brought the seminar alive for me.

The color of this wine was a lovely bright burgundy red.  The nose had notes of black cherry and the hallmark flintiness that I’ve been commenting on above.  In the mouth, the wine is very bright with light notes of black cherry and stronger notes of damp earth.  The finish is really nice, smooth with silky tannins.  Laurent Drouhin recommended cellaring this for no more than 6-7 years.  I personally thought it felt “young” that day – a little too bright – and may track down a couple of bottles to cellar for a few years and sample the difference.  Perhaps we’ll see this wine featured in my 2015 Open That Bottle Night festivities.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses, Premier Cru Aged 25% in new oak, this was was very nice wine, and one of my favorites of the seminar.  The color is a darker, more matte-finish burgundy than the previous wine.  The nose is chalky and deeper, not as bright, than the previous two reds.  The notes of cherry are still present, but they are much more discreet; the predominant notes in the nose are flinty, “tangy,” granite/limestone.  Interestingly, in the mouth, the wine is fruitier and richer than the previous two, and overall the wine is more intense and complex.  The wine lingers on the palate with a long finish with the black cherry fruit notes developing into a delicate earthy, granite finish.  Only 240-250 cases of the Amoureuses were produced, and the wine can age for a long time.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Musigny, Grand Cru The last wine of the flight – and the seminar – was the Grand Cru.  The color is a very dark ruby with a matte finish.  The nose is very subtle, and interestingly, didn’t have the strong limestone/granite flintiness that I picked up in the other wines.  We were also told that the inclusion of this in the seminar was a special treat, as it was only the 3rd or 4th time in 10 years, that Maison Joseph Drouhin had included the Grand Cru in the seminar.

In the mouth the wine was very intense; deep, rich, and complex, although not a “big” wine.  Notes of black cherry were present here, as in the previous wines, although the wine is still young and the presence of the fruit was not fully developed.  According to Laurent Drouhin the wine should be cellared for 10-30 years for optimal drinking.

Joseph Drouhin ~ Chablis and Cote de Beaune

ôMarguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

To best present the effects of terroir on wine, Drouhin selected two flights, one white one red, of the 2006 vintage.  Same grapes, same vintage ~ different regions, different vineyards.  In addition, among the whites all four wines were either Premier Cru or Grand Cru.

Wine classifications such as Premier Cru and Grand Cru are critically important and very tightly controlled in Burgundy, dating back to the Cistercians, among some of the largest landowners in Burgundy in the Middle Ages, who were able to differentiate soil differences and types and identify those areas that would produce the most distinct wines. (Source: Wikipedia).   This focus on terroir remains, and as a result Burgundy is known as one of the most, if not the most, terroir conscious wine regions in the world.

Burgundy’s wine classifications are strictly defined by AOC laws and are assigned based on the quality of the soil not the house producing the wine. Grand Cru, the highest classification, is the rarest with only 33 vineyards or 2% of the region being classified as Grand Cru.  Recognized as the best vineyards in the region, the wines produced from these vineyards are generally intended for cellaring a minimum of 5-7 years. Premier Cru, which total 12% of the region’s vineyards, are considered to be high quality vineyards, but not as high quality as the Grand Cru, and are also intended for cellaring, although for a minimum of 3-5 years.  Grand Cru wines will be produced from grapes from a single Grand Cru vineyard; Premier Cru, on the other hand, may be produced from grapes from several Premier Cru vineyards.

Below the Premier Cru are the Village and Region appellations. Village wines are produced from lesser quality vineyards organized around one of the region’s 42 villages.  The influence of terroir remains important at this level as well, with distinct characteristics present in the wines differentiating and helping to define the boundaries of the villages.  Again it is the soil which defines the appellation and not all towns in Burgundy are recognized as villages for wine classification purposes. Finally the Regional appellation are wines that are allowed to be produced form vineyards across the entire region, or regions larger than the individual villages.   For a more thorough discussion of Burgundian wine classifications, see Wikipedia or The Wine Doctor.

Having soaked up this quite fascinating background, the next step was to experience the terroir in the wines themselves.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru From the Chablis region of Burgundy, the northenmost of Burgundy’s five regions.  The soil in this region is generally flinty and chalky with strong minerals.  The Les Clos Grand Cru is one of seven Grand Cru vineyards on the hill overlooking the town of Chablis.

Aged in old oak only, the 2006 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru is pale golden yellow in color.  The nose is pretty and floral with light notes of honeysuckle and a hint of lemon which gives it freshness.  In the mouth the wine is delicate with some light grassy notes and a finish that opens up with notes of lemon.   The finish has the brightness of the citrus without the tangy bitterness.  One of the seminar participants described the wine as “having weight without being heavy,” a description that was well received by Laurent Drouhin, the seminar host.  It’s a perfect description – the wine has presence, lingering on the palate, but doesn’t overwhelm the mouth.  Food pairing suggestions included seafood and goat cheese.   Cellaring is recommended for a minimum of 5-6 years, although the wine should keep for 15-20.  The wine is currently retailing for $70-$75 a bottle.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Folatières Premier Cru From the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, the southern region of the Côte d’Or.  The soil of Puligny-Montrachet has a lot of limestone which contributes strong minerality to the wines.  The Folatières is the most famous of the Premier Cru vineyards in the region.

Aged in oak with 25% being new oak, the 2006 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Folatières Premier Cru is a lovely bright goldeny-yellow color.  The nose is very dry with discreet notes of honey and an “alcohol sting.”  In the mouth, the wine has strong mineral notes, although it’s not as flinty as the Chablis Les Clos.  There’s also a slight creaminess to the Folatières, but it’s not the kind of creaminess one finds from the more heavily oaked California Chardonnays.  It’s more of a softness – very subtle notes of honey that hover just under the minerality and earthiness of the wine.  The wine retails for about $100 a bottle, although a recent internet search turned up many places which list a sale price of $80/bottle.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche Premier Cru.  Also from the Côte de Beaune region, this vineyard is part of the estate of the Marquis de Laguiche, one of the oldest and most aristocratic families in France.  In 1947 the family approached Maurice Drouhin, son of Drouhin founder Joseph Drouhin and asked him if Maison Joseph Drouhin would be interested in taking over management of the Marquis de Laguiche vineyards.  The two struck a handshake deal which continues through today.

Aged in oak, with 25% being new oak, the wine is light gold in color with a soft, delicate nose.  Described by Laurent Drouhin as “one of the ultimate expressions of what they can do in Burgundy,” the wine is very silky and light, earthy with a light chalkiness, and has soft notes of apricot and a very light citrus/acid finish.  The finish has some tannic texture which gives the wine a bit more body to the finish.  Very well balanced, it’s a subtler and rounder wine than either of the previous two.  A beautiful wine.  This wine currently retails for $100 a bottle.

2006 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Premier Cru The last of the four whites also hails from the Côte de Beaune, although north of both the Puligny-Montrachet and the Chassagne-Montrachet regions. The soil here is stony with limestone, clay and silica.  The word “mouches” means flies, so named for the honey bees (“flies”) once housed in beehives in the vineyards.  The Beaune Clos des Mouches was one of the first vineyards acquired by Maurice Drouhin, son of Maison founder, Joseph Drouhin, in the 1920s.  Today half the vineyard is planted with Chardonnay, the other half Pinot Noir.

The wine was my favorite of the four, edging out even the Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru.  The color is a pale yellow as opposed to the more golden yellow of the previous three wines.  The nose is soft, rich and delicious with notes of damp soil, grass and a hint of almonds.  In the mouth the wine is velvety – subtle notes of honey give the wine a hint of soft sweetness, delicate and very lightly creamy with notes of nutmeg.  The wine finishes with a nice balance of acid that develops into soft citrus notes at the back of the mouth.  Retail prices for this wine seem to range widely; I found prices from $60 – $100 on a recent internet search with the majority in the $75-$85 range.

Taste the Terroir of Burgundy: Maison Joseph Drouhin

Maison Joseph Drouhin, logo from company website

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

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