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.
Mercurey is the largest appellation of the Côte Chalonnaise region, and produces both red and white wine, although red does tend to dominate with almost 80% production coming from Pinot Noir grapes. The remaining white wine is made predominantly from Chardonnay.
Named after the Roman messenger deity of trade, the appellation is generally regarded as the most widely recognised of the five villages, indeed for a while the Côte Chalonnaise was referred to as the ‘Région de Mercurey,’ and it has the largest production by far: over half of all wine from the Côte Chalonnaise is from Mercurey.
No Grand Cru vineyards lie within the Côte Chalonnaise, however Mercurey produces wine from 32 Premier Cru vineyards, accounting for over a fifth of its vine-growing land. Mercurey reds are generally regarded as strong, full-bodied and exhibiting notes of red fruits such as cherries, or violets, and are very well-suited to red meats such as beef, or stews. The rarer whites on the other hand are known for their minerality, and hints of slate and apple.
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.