New Producer: Domaine Rougeot, Mersault

By: Josh Adler

Many trips to Burgundy over the years have been rather disappointing. Searching for a great unknown domaine to work with in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or is like looking for a needle in a crowded and historic haystack. Earlier this year, on the advice of Marc Soyard from Domaine de la Cras, I ventured out to visit Pierre-Henri Rougeot at his family winery smack in the center of Meursault. Tasting through the first few wines from bottle and talking with Pierre-Henri about transitioning the domaine to organic farming and no-sulfur winemaking, it quickly became clear that Rougeot is making some truly deliciously compelling wines.

About the domaine:

In the center of Meursault village, Pierre-Henri Rougeot has been quietly producing impeccable minimal intervention, low-sulfur wines since he returned to the family domaine in 2010. The 18th century stone cellar was originally built for the Hospices de Beaune to press the fruit from the adjacent orchards, and was purchased Pierre-Henri’s great-great-grandfather in the 19th century. Today the orchards have been transformed into an elegant garden and stamp-sized monopole vineyard, and the cellar has been renovated to comfortably hold two vintages from Rougeot’s 13 hectares of vines in and around Meursault.


Pierre-Henri’s experience travelling throughout France gives him a unique vision that hews strongly to Burgundian tradition with a soft touch inspired by the vins natures made by his friends in Saumur, Cahors, and beyond. Today, the Rougeot vineyards are farmed organically, and Pierre-Henri’s no sulfur vinification effortlessly balances a natural wine approach with traditional Burgundian technique to create wines with energy and balance. Each terroir from Aligoté and Passetoutgrain through Premier Crus is bottled as a single-vineyard designate. The wines are energetic, precise, and delicious. It’s simply astounding that the domaine has maintained a quiet profile while producing such compelling wines. It will be even more astounding if that continues.


See his list of wines here


2018 Harvest at Ruppert-Leroy

By: Josh Adler

I’ve been wanting to take part in a harvest at Champagne Ruppert-Leroy in Essoyes for many years ever since we started working with the domaine. In 2018, the stars aligned and we were able join them for a short weekend in early September. Bénédicte Ruppert and Manu Leroy have fully embraced the biodynamic philosophy more than any other winemaker I’ve seen in France. On their plateau above Essoyes where Bénédicte’s father used to raise sheep, there is now a small farm next to their home and winery. In addition to making their own biodynamic preparations and compost, they take care of horses, cows, chickens, and sheep, and grow the crops to feed everyone, themselves included.

The harvest crew consisted of travelers, artists, acrobats, retired wine lovers, and the occasional American wine exporter. The domaine has four parcels, and each one is bottled separately each year as a single-vintage wine: Martin-Fontaine (100% Chardonnay), Les Cognaux (100% Pinot Noir), Fosse-Grely (50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay), and Papillon (100% Pinot Noir). We arrived in the middle of Fosse-Grely, the largest parcel, and began picking Pinot Noir alongside the rising sun. By the end of the day, the team of 15 or so vendangeurs had picked enough grapes to do one press, and enjoyed a hearty dinner with a bit of folkloric dancing before turning in to get up before dawn and head back to the vines.

(For those of you who have been following the domaine for a while, Papillon is technically part of Fosse-Grely, but has been bottled separately since the 2014 harvest)

2017 Reds - A High Wire Act from Marc Soyard

By: Josh Adler

Since his first vintage in 2014, Marc Soyard has managed to perfectly balance between the worlds of natural wine and “serious” Burgundy - a most impressive balancing act indeed. Perhaps because he is originally from the Jura, and not from the Côte d’Or, he has an unusual vision of winemaking in a region that hews close to tradition. Who else would release a shockingly light red Burgundy nouveau jokingly called Deprimeur?

Since the city of Dijon selected Marc to take over the vineyards and winemaking at Domaine de la Cras in 2014, the vineyards have been farmed organically, and all wines have been made with native yeast and no temperature control in the cellar. Marc has used increasing amounts of whole cluster in his red wines, and in 2017 nearly all of the cuvées are 100% whole cluster. The exception is the Coteaux de Dijon, produced with a “whole-cluster sandwich” method that Marc made up - a base layer of one third whole cluster at the bottom of the tank, followed by a third destemmed grapes, and finally another third of whole cluster on top. Fermentation and Elevage is sans-soufre, with a small amount of SO2 added add bottling for all cuvées except L’Equilibriste.

The wines from Marc Soyard have always been excellent, but 2017 shows a clear step up to the next level. Marc attributes the improvement to 3 years of organic viticulture and work in the vines, but I have a hunch the winemaker deserves a bit of credit as well.

Without further ado, a rundown of the 2017 red wines from Domaine de la Cras.

The designation Coteaux de Dijon is officially “tolerated” for the Domaine de la Cras vineyards within the AOP Bourgogne, though it is not necessary to add it for all wines that come from these vineyards.

Domaine de la Cras 2017

Bourgogne Coteaux de Dijon Rouge - vinified using the “whole cluster sandwich” method described above. ⅔ whole cluster, ⅓ destemmed. Grapes come from En Bessy, a lieu-dit next to the winery in Plombières-les-Dijon, planted in 1983 and 2001. 11 months elevage in mostly used barrels and demi-muids.

Bourgogne “L’Equilibriste” - Grapes come from clonal selections in En Bessy, a lieu-dit next to the winery in Plombières-les-Dijon, planted in 1983 and 2001. Vinified 100% whole cluster with semi-carbonic maceration.9 months elevage in used barrels and demi-muids. Bottled sans-soufre.

Bourgogne Coteaux de Dijon “Cras” - Tasted out of barrel. Grapes come from the oldest vines in En Bessy, a lieu-dit next to the winery in Plombières-les-Dijon, planted in 1983. Vinified 100% whole cluster with semi-carbonic maceration. 18 months elevage in used barrels and demi-muids. To be bottled in Spring 2019.

Marc Soyard

Wines under the Marc Soyard label are from vineyards owned by Marc outside the Coteaux de Dijon area. The vineyards and harvest are managed exactly the same as Domaine de la Cras by Marc, and vinified at Domaine de la Cras.

Bourgogne Montre-Cul - Grapes come from the imaginatively named Montre-Cul (show your ass), a 4 hecatre vineyard which is one of the last remaining parcels within the city limits of Dijon. Supposedly, the vineyard is so steep that you can see the knickers of the person in front of you. A quick visit will reveal that most of the vineyard is actually flat, and only the very top part has any significant slope, where Soyard’s small parcel of vines can be found. Vinified 100% whole cluster with semi-carbonic maceration. 18 months elevage in used barrels and demi-muids. Bottled in Spring 2019.

Bourgogne Hermaion - These grapes come from Marc’s 0.20 hectare parcel in Ladoix which suffered hail damage in 2016 and again in 2017, resulting in painfully low yields. Vinified 100% whole cluster with semi-carbonic maceration. 18 months elevage in used barrels and demi-muids. Bottled in Spring 2019.

Tercet

Marc started the Tercet label in 2017 with two friends who have deep connections in Burgundy. All wines are vinified and bottled by Marc Soyard at Domaine de la Cras in Plombières-les-Dijon.

Bourgogne Rouge - These grapes come from Marc’s own vineyards at Domaine de la Cras that are used to make the Bourgogne Coteaux de Dijon, and were part of Marc’s participation to help start Tercet. Vinification is 100% whole cluster, with an elevage of 9 months in used barrels.

Pommard “En Boeuf” - From a 0.15 hectare parcel in Pommard planted in 1934. This microparcel is owned and farmed organically by one of the partners in Tercet, then harvested and vinified by Marc Soyard at Domaine de la Cras. Vinified 100% whole cluster with semi-carbonic maceration. 18 months elevage in used barrels and demi-muids. Bottled in Spring 2019. Wow.