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2009 Nuits-St Georges 1er Cru, Clos des Forets, Domaine de L'Arlot
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Domaine de L'Arlot was created in 1987 by giant insurance company AXA. They appointed Jean Pierre de Smet as winemaker and the Domaine has not looked back since. Smet, an accountant by training, is one of Burgundy`s more romantic characters, having previously been an international skier and a renowned long-distance yachtsman. Together they set up a management company to run the business as a 50:50 partnership, until AXA took 100% control on Jean-Pierre’s retirement in 2006. The original property consisted of three monopoles, Clos du Chapeau in Comblanchien, Clos de l’Arlot where the domaine is based and Clos des Forêts St Georges. In 1991 they were able to buy a small slice of Romanée St Vivant and the following year some Vosne Romanée Les Suchots, bringing the domaine up to 14 hectares in all. Olivier Leriche joined the business as a stagière in 1998, was hired full time and took over from Jean-Pierre de Smet in 2006. The vineyard has been farmed biodynamically in part since 2000 and entirely from 2003.
In 1987 the vineyards were in poor condition and a great deal of replanting was necessary. Slowly, the quality of wines improved and from 1991 the Domaine has made superb wines every year.
There is a clear influence from Domaine Dujac, Jean-Pierre being a long time friend and protégé of Jacques Seysses, both in the wines and indeed how the cuvérie is laid out. There is a sorting table in the vineyard and another vibrating table back at base camp. Stalks are retained as much as possible (though less for Clos de l’Arlot than Clos des Forêts). The domaine purchases and air dries its own wood for 2 to 3 years, using Rémond as the cooper to make the barrels. Around 40% new wood is used for Clos de l’Arlot, slightly more for Clos des Forêts and Romanée St Vivant.
The younger vines from Clos de l’Arlot and Clos des Forêts are vinified and bottled apart and are sold as Le Petit Arlot and 1er cru Les Petits Plets respectively, while there is also a second white wine from part of Clos de l’Arlot sold as Nuits St Georges Blanc La Gerbotte. These are beautifully balanced wines, lightly coloured but intensely flavoured.
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.
Originally known as Nuits, or even Nuits-sous-Beaune, the town was happy to add the name of its finest vineyard, Les St Georges, in the 19th century. There are no Grands Crus, but many fine Premier Cru vineyards, the mayor of the time – Henri Gouges – preferring not to single out any vineyard for the highest status.The wines of Nuits-St Georges vary according to their exact provenance. Those of the hamlet of Prémeaux, considered to be part of Nuits-St Georges for viticultural purposes, are often on the lighter side.
The richest and most sought-after are those just south of Nuits-St Georges such as Les Vaucrains, Les Cailles and Les St Georges itself. The third sector, including Les Murgers, Les Damodes and Les Boudots are at the Vosne-Romanée end of the village, and demonstrate some of the extra finesse associated with Vosne.
Several domaines (Gouges, Rion, Arlot) now produce a white Nuits-St Georges from Pinot Blanc or Chardonnay.
- 175 hectares of village Nuits-St Georges
- 143 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (20 in all). Best vineyards include Les St Georges, and Clos des Argillières and Clos de la Maréchale in Prémeaux
- Recommended producers: Gouges, Rion, Liger Belair, Potel
- Recommended restaurant : La Cabotte (small but stylish)