(Allen Meadows, burghound.com - Jan 2008)
David Schildknecht - 30/04/2007
About this WINE
The Domaine Fourrier is a domaine in the Gevrey-Chambertin region of Burgundy. In 1994, having previously done six month internships with Henry Jayer and Domaine Drouhin, Oregon, either side of military service, Jean-Marie Fourrier took over the domaine from his father Jean-Claude who had been working since the age of fourteen, on the death of his own father in 1961. Jean-Marie had his own views on how best to run the vineyards and make the wine, and his own markets to create. He is assisted by his sister Isabelle, in the vineyards, and by his English wife Vicki.
Jean-Marie has expanded the range by vinifying and bottling apart each of the Gevrey 1er crus which is father used to blend together, and by increasing domaine bottling to 100% excepting the produce of young vines. In general though he is lucky enough to be working with very old vines, mostly planted between the two World Wars, and thus only with local genetic material and not modern clones.
Fourrier does not fit into any specific camp of vignerons. He is not biodynamic though his approach shares much with the more sensitive protagonists of that philosophy. You have to get it right in the vineyard, which means being there all the time, and understanding equilibrium. Yields are restricted through pruning, debudding and careful management of vigour – he is not a fan of green harvesting, nor for that matter of leaf-plucking in July.
In the cellar, Jean-Marie is looking to preserve the silkiness of the fruit in his wine. There is a vibrating sorting table, after which the grapes are entirely de-stemmed (he tried using stems in 1995 with unsatisfactory results, but may experiment again in his new, purpose-built cuvérie.) The vats are not cooled at the start of fermentation, Jean-Marie being happy with the natural 3 to 4 day pre-maceration before the grapes start to ferment of their own accord. The skins are punched down, manually, two to four times a day, but there is no pumping over. After fermentation Jean-Marie does cool the vats down to about 12°c, which inhibits the early onset of malolactic fermentation.
All the wines, whether village or grand cru, are matured in 20% new oak, the idea being to keep renewing the barrel cellar rather than to influence the fruit with any barrel flavours. For Jean-Marie’s ideas on steam cleaning barrels, please see page x. The wines are not racked at all until transferred to tank about two months before bottling in the spring, eighteen months after harvest.
The results of all this meticulous work are very appealing wines, each of which shows the character of its provenance quite clearly. The wines are bright in colour but not exceptionally deep, with very pure red fruit flavours on the nose. The shape of the wine thereafter depends on the vineyard. Tannins are typically fine-boned except where the cru (Clos Solon, Combe aux Moines) dictates otherwise.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest wine-producing village in Burgundy’s Côte d'Or, with its vineyards spilling over into the next door commune of Brochon.
Located in the far north of the Côtes de Nuits above Morey-St Denis, classic Gevrey-Chambertin is typically deeper in colour, firmer in body and more tannic in structure than most red Burgundy. The best can develop into the richest, most complete and long-lived Pinot Noir in the world. This is largely thanks to the iron-rich clay soils, though much depends on whether the vineyard is located on either the steeper slopes (Evocelles, Clos St Jacques) or the flatter, richer soils (Clos Prieur, Combottes).
Whereas in the past there have been numerous underperformers in Gevrey-Chambertin exploiting the reputation of this famous village and its iconic Grands Crus, today there are many fine sources to choose from, and overall quality is higher than ever.
Gevrey-Chambertin’s greatest Grand Cru is named after the field of the monk Bertin (Champ de Bertin). In 1847, Gevrey appended the name of this illustrious vineyard, Chambertin, setting a trend for the other principle villages to follow. Le Chambertin may not be quite as sumptuous as Musigny or Richebourg, or as divinely elegant as La Tâche or Romanée-St Vivant, but it is matched only by the legendary Romanée-Conti for completeness and luscious intensity.
In all, Gevrey boasts an impressive nine Grands Crus, with the name of Chambertin retaining a regal omnipresence throughout its finest vineyard names. The other truly great Grand Cru is Chambertin-Clos de Bèze which has the right to sell its wines simply as ‘Chambertin’, and is the only wine allowed to put the Chambertin name before, rather than after, its own. Situated slightly further up the hill, the wines are fractionally less powerful yet full of sensual charm and finesse.
Quality-wise the next best are generally acknowledged to be Mazis-Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin. The former is incredibly concentrated and very fine, but its structure is a little less firm than Le Chambertin. Latricières is less about power (although it can be explosively fruity) and more about an entrancing silkiness.
Situated slightly higher up the slope, Ruchottes-Chambertin is impressively rich, stylish and slightly angular. The tiny Griottes-Chambertin, which owes its name to the grill-pan shape of the vineyard rather than the wine’s griotte cherry aroma, is lower down the slope and boasts a velvety texture and rich fruit reminiscent of Chambertin itself. It is generally better than the lighter, although wonderfully fragrant Chapelle-Chambertin and Gevrey’s largest Grand Cru, the pure and seductive (if variable) Charmes-Chambertin.
Gevrey also has some outstanding Premier Crus on the south-east-facing slopes above the town. Les Cazetiers and especially Clos St Jacques produce some exceptional wines. Indeed Armand Rousseau, who pioneered domaine bottling here in the 1930s and is still one of the region’s very best producers, often sells his Clos St Jacques for more than several of his Grand Crus.
Drinking dates for these wines vary, but Grand Crus are generally best from at least 10 to 25 years, Premier Crus from eight to 20 years, and village wines from five to 12 years.
- 315 hectares of village Gevrey Chambertin
- 84 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (20 in all). The foremost vineyards include Clos St Jacques, Lavaux St Jacques, Combottes, Corbeaux, Cherbaudes, Cazetiers.
- 55 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Latricières-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyères-Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin, Griottes-Chambertin..
- Recommended producers: Bachelet, Dugat, Esmonin, Mortet, Rossignol Trapet, Rousseau, Serafin, Bernstein
- Recommended restaurants : Chez Guy (good wine list), Rôtisserie du Chambertin (and Bistro)
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.