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2009 Vosne-Romanée, Les Rouges, 1er Cru Domaine Jean Grivot
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Etienne Grivot and his wife Marielle (Patrick Bize's sister) took over from his father in 1990, making him the 5th generation of Grivots to make wine in Vosne-Romanée. In the 1930s it was one of the first domaines to bottle and sell the wines themselves.
The Grivots go back a long way in Burgundy. Indeed two previous generations of Grivots have married girls of the same surname. Jean Grivot, whose name continues to appear on the labels, took over from his father in 1955 and handed on to his son Etienne in the early 1980s.
Etienne, married to Marielle Bize from Savigny, has been through a number of incarnations as winemaker here. When he took over, his father’s style was for gentle, graceful wines which perhaps were a little weak in the lesser vintages. Etienne wanted to produce something more concentrated and started working with the controversial oenologist Guy Accad from 1987 to 1992. These wines showed too much the hand of the winemaker and/or his oenologist, disguising at least in the wine’s youth the terroir.
In 1994, a difficult year but a breakthrough vintage at the domaine, Etienne began to find his own voice and made a range of very fine wines given how poor the weather was. Since then he has not looked back, and a drive to reduce yields and fine-tune his work in the vineyards and cellar since the mid-2000s continues to drive quality upwards.
Recently big strides have been made on the viticultural front. Etienne has bought a Chenillard caterpillar tractor to work some of the more inaccessible vines, and has hired a horse, Pirate, to plough his Richebourg, Echézeaux, Beaumonts, Brulées, Suchots, Boudots and some village Vosne vineyards. He is not a fan of training the vines too high, or of leaf-plucking on the south side, as he prefers a long, slow ripening period.
The grapes are 100 per cent destalked, though with some experiments where stalks are retained, and the fermentation allowed to start naturally, with a little punching down before this starts. Thereafter there is no more pigeage – ‘I don’t like to mix the physical (punching down) with the spiritual (fermentation)’, in Etienne’s words. Thereafter there is one pumping over per day before the wines go to barrel once fermentation has finished. Four tonneliers are used so as to avoid the signature of any one. Etienne prefers the wood from the Allier, Tronçais and Bertranges forests, and now buys some of his own wood.
There is an average age of 45-to 50-year-old vines across this 15ha domaine which covers 22 appellations (18 red) with holdings in Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Clos de Vougeot, Echézeaux and Richebourg. Etienne produces a range of stunning wines which possess real depth and class. In answer to a question over the secret of his success, he confides "there's no recipe, it's very personal and as a result it's very frustrating as one's never content".
These are very personal and undeniably fine wines, with dramatically aromatic notes of red fruits, becoming denser up the range.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
The small commune of Vosne-Romanée is the Côte de Nuits’ brightest star, producing the finest and most expensive Pinot Noir wines in the world.. Its wines have an extraordinary intensity of fruit which manages to combine power and finesse more magically than in any other part of the Côte d’Or. The best examples balance extraordinary depth and richness with elegance and breeding.Situated just north of Nuits-St Georges, Vosne-Romanée boasts eight Grand Cru vineyards, three of which include the suffix Romanée, to which the village of Vosne appended its name in 1866. The famous La Romanée vineyard was formerly known as Le Cloux but was renamed in 1651, presumably after the Roman remains found nearby. In 1760 the property was bought by Prince de Conti, and subsequently became known as Romanée-Conti.
Vosne is the home of the phenomenally fine wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti; divine wines that are, as they say, not for everyone but for those who can afford them. The region also boasts some of the world’s most talented, quality-conscious and pioneering producers: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of course, but also Henri Jayer, Lalou Bize-Leroy, René Engel, as well as the Grivot and Gros families, to name but a few.
Vosne-Romanée has the greatest concentration of top vineyards in the Côte d’Or, including the tiny Grand Crus of the astonishing La Romanée-Conti (a monopoly of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti producing about 600 cases a year), the classy, complex La Romanée (a monopoly of Vicomte Liger-Belair, but until 2002 bottled under Bouchard Père et Fils, producing a minuscule 300 cases or so a year) and the little-known La Grande Rue. As the name suggests, this runs up the side of the road out of Vosne. Originally a Premier Cru, it was rightly upgraded in 1992, although its rich, spicy, floral Pinots are yet to reach their real potential under Domaine Lamarche who hold it as a monopoly.
By convention the wines of neighbouring Flagey-Echézeaux are considered part of Vosne-Romanée. These include the large, very variable 30-hectare Echézeaux (divided between 84 different growers) and the more consistent, silky, intense, violet-scented Grands Echézeaux Grands Crus.
La Tâche is another monopoly of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is explosively seductive with a peerless finesse, and is almost as good as their legendary eponymous wine. Richebourg is one of Burgundy’s most voluptuous wines and is capable of challenging La Tâche in some years, while Romanée-St Vivant, which takes its name from the monastery of St Vivant built around 900AD in Vergy, has a lovely silky finesse but is slightly less powerful.
If that wasn’t enough, Vosne-Romanée also boasts some absolutely magnificent Premiers Crus headed by Clos des Réas, Les Malconsorts (just south of La Tâche, and arguably of Grand Cru quality) and Les Chaumes on the Nuits-St Georges side, Cros Parantoux (made famous by Henri Jayer), Les Beaux Monts and Les Suchots on the Flagey-Echézeaux border. The old maxim that ‘there are no common wines in Vosne-Romanée’ may not be strictly true, but it is not far off.
Drinking dates vary, but as a general rule of thumb Grand Crus are best drunk from at least 10 to 25 years, while Premier Crus can be enjoyed from 8 to 20 years, and village wines from 5 to 12 years.
There are no white wines produced in Vosne-Romanée.
- 99 hectares of village Vosne-Romanée.
- 56 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (14 in all). Foremost vineyards include Les Gaudichots, Les Malconsorts, Cros Parentoux, Les Suchots, Les Beauxmonts, En Orveaux and Les Reignots.
- 75 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Romanée-Conti, La Romanée, La Tache, Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, La Grande Rue, Grands Echézeaux, Echézeaux.
- Recommended producers: Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Leroy, Cathiard, Engel, Rouget, Grivot, Liger Belair.