Domaine de L'Arlot
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2009 Romanée Saint Vivant, Grand Cru, Domaine de l'Arlot, Burgundy
Drink, at peak
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.