Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy (January 2022)
About this WINE
Maison Camille Giroud
At Maison Camille Giroud, a diversity of terroir allows for delicious variety. From perfumed, plush reds to perfumed whites; their precise wines are made from plots all across the famed Côte d’Or – what unites each parcel is a signature precision and character.
Founded in 1865, Maison Camille Giroud began as a specialist négociant. They had a few hectares of their own vines, but the vast majority of their wines were purchased from top-ranked growers across the region. They’d then age these wines in their cellars until they reached peak maturity; sometimes decades later.
In 2001, Giroud was purchased by a consortium, counting Napa Valley winery owner Ann Colgin and a number of wine investors as members. They wished to retain the distinctive business model of the maison as well as developing their terroir-driven approach with new, modern techniques. They brought in young winemaker David Croix and undertook a major revamping of the winery.
Many new techniques were introduced, including a wooden press for the red wines, open wooden vats for fermentation, subtle use of oak and minimal racking. David's legacy of innovation was succeeded in 2016 by Carel Voorhuis, who is crafting similarly pure, seductive and terroir-driven wines; and is continuing to manage the valuable cellar.
During the tenure of winemaker David Croix, all wines were made from purchased grapes, with the exception of three cuvées: Beaune Les Avaux and Aux Cras, and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Au Crêtot. Most of the grapes purchased come from old vines – up to 90 years old in some cases – and all come from producers with whom the maison has longstanding personal relationships.
All grapes are sorted twice. Reds are partially or fully de-stemmed depending on the vintage, and vinified in stainless steel. Whites are vinified in 228- to 600-litre casks; the choice of barrels for ageing is carefully matched to the appellation, and only 15-30% of maturation involves new oak. All wines are fermented with natural yeasts, bottled without fining and with only coarse filtration.
Cote de Beaune
With its three musketeers of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, alongside the imperial Corton-Charlemagne, the Côte de Beaune is home to the finest Chardonnays in the world. It hosts seven of Burgundy's eight white Grands Crus, along with a single red Grand Cru. Ironically though, much more red wine is made in this southern half of the Côte d'Or than white.
Stretching 30km south past the town of Beaune to Cheilly-lès-Maranges, the Côte de Beaune has a more expansive feel and gentler slopes than the Côte de Nuits. Its finest Chardonnays are characterised by an incomparable intensity and complexity, while its Pinot Noirs generally have softness and finesse as their calling cards. The best reds come from Beaune, Pommard and Volnay, and the powerful Grand Cru of Corton.
As in the Côte de Nuits, the fragmentation of the Côte de Beaune's vineyards brings the single biggest hurdle for any wine lover, namely the unpredictability of its wine. The human factor is paramount, and sadly too many lazy or unscrupulous growers and merchants have produced disappointing wines from some of the region's greatest names, while their more talented and quality-minded neighbours craft exquisite examples from the same terroir. Happily, quality is now higher than it has ever been here and organic and biodynamic methods are increasingly popular – especially amongst the younger generation.
Wines labeled `Beaune' come from the appellation adjoining the town while those labeled Côte de Beaune (red or white) emanate from a group of vineyards on the hill above. Côte de Beaune Villages is a red wine that can be made from a number of lesser, named villages in the region, while Hautes-Côtes de Beaune (mostly red) is produced from vineyards in the hills to the west of the appellation, divided in two by St Romain. These tend to be light yet often fine wines, especially in hot years like 2003 and 2005.
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.