Henri Gouges

Domaine Henri Gouges is arguably the most famous domaine in Nuits St. Georges. The Gouges family has been vineyard proprietors in Nuits for generations and proprietors of the current domaine since 1919. Henri Gouges, along with the Marquis d' Angerville from Volnay, was in the forefront of the war against fraud in Burgundy in the 1920's and in the 1930s he was heavily involved with delineating the crus in Burgundy for the Institut National d'Appellation d'Origine, and he was a member of that regulatory body at its outset.

Currently run by cousins Pierre and Christian Gouges, grandsons of the original Henri, with the next generation now joining in. No prisoners are taken here – these are wines designed to age for the long term and if they happen to show awkwardly in their youth, tant pis. Two historical aspects of note: the original Henri Gouges was mayor of Nuits-St-Georges when the various appellation classifications were being decided. He advocated that no vineyards be proposed for grand cru, even though – or perhaps because – he was a significant owner of the candidate most likely to succeed, Les St-Georges. It was also in his time that some of his Pinot vines mutated from red to white grapes and became the Pinot Gouges with which the domaine’s white Perrières is planted. Other vignerons have been supplied with cuttings too.

The domaine consists of 14.5 hectares of vineyards and includes holdings in 6 Nuits St. Georges 1er Crus. The harvest is entirely destemmed and vinification takes place in lined cement vats for approximately fifteen days, depending on the vintage. After cuvaison, the wine is transferred to small oak barrels, of which approximately one-quarter are renewed each year. The wines are fined with egg whites and given a light filtration before bottling.

The wines made in the ‘40s and ‘50s were immensely dense, backward and long-lived, though a substantial replanting programme may have been responsible for a lightening in style in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Today Pierre and Christian Gouges again provide powerful, structured wines, the grapes vinified in cement tanks. The time in tank may vary enormously according to the vintage: just a week for 1997 or 2003, 18 days for 2006. There is no deliberate cool pre-maceration, though in some years the destemmed and lightly crushed grapes may be slow to start fermenting. Not much new oak is used in the élévage which takes place over 18 months, with one racking after malolactic fermentation.

Production is small, with demand invariably outstripping supply and consequently wines from this domaine are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.

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