Domaine Joliet Fixin 1er Cru 'Clos de la Perrieres' 2013
Pale ruby red, this Fixin at 13% alcohol is anything but your stereotypic Fixin rustic. Very elegant, sweet fresh raspberry fruit, then cherry. There’s richness and intensity, ripeness and purity, a tension that tells you it will age well. Complex and seductive, long and exciting.
COTE DE NUITS
The Clos de la Perriere in Fixin, founded by the Cistercians in 1142, is, as the name implies, a walled-in vineyard that the monks way back when knew made an exceptional wine. Inside those walls however, the vineyard is composed of 4 distinct parcels. And while each of these 4 parcels on its own produces an interesting wine, the four together make magic.
That the monks knew this back in the Middle Ages is not, in itself, extraordinary. They had time, and plenty of ‘ora et labora’. And as, over time, they came to know where the best vineyards were, they put walls around them.
There are lots of vineyards called ‘clos de something-or-other’ in Burgundy. The best known of course is the Clos de Vougeot. But where the Clos de la Perriere is different, unique even, is that it has never been divided up. If the idea of putting a wall around a vineyard was to enclose various parcels of land that are component parts of one great wine, then dividing and selling off parcels within the clos can only dim the original vision.
In 1855 Dr. Lavalle classified the Clos de la Perriere as ‘tête de cuvée’, as he did most of the present-day grand cru vineyards. Two years previous, the Joliet family bought the Clos, and it has been in their family since. 6 generations, with Benigne Joliet at the helm today. Perhaps because the wine at the time was not up to its potential, perhaps simply because it is Fixin, who knows, but when the modern classifications were made, the Clos was relegated to premier cru.
But Benigne Joliet knows that it is a grand cru. Perhaps the only vineyard of grand cru stature still intact that was laid out by the monks in the Middle Ages. And he is fighting to have it recognized as such, both with the AOC people and in the cellar.
I have had the pleasure of tasting the 2013 in its component parts, 4 cuvees from the four parcels inside the walls. Benigne Joliet presented it dramatically. Cuvée #4, the oldest vines from the parcel the furthest to the north was alive, like only wine from well-tended vines can be alive. Depth and density. Cuvée #2, the youngest vines gives vivacity, a bright acidity over soft tannins. Cuvée #1 from the parcel the furthest south, and hence the earliest harvested, gives you the fruit, a big burst of fruit. And Cuvée #3, from the edge of the wall near the forest at the top of the vineyard gives the bottom, the edge, the tannin.
But like four notes in a chord, when Benigne blended together the approximate assemblage that will be 2013 Clos de la Perriere, the wine sang. Bright, peppery, alive, with big yet subtle fruit and a long, long finish.
Fixin 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Perriere’ from Domain Joliet. Relatively unknown. Poised again for greatness after nearly 900 years!
Fixin 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Perriere’
Fixin 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Perriere’ *
*Within the Clos de la Perriere are lieu-dit parcels:
Queue de Hareng
Bas de Chemin
Vierge Jeune and Vieille
Parc Bas and Haut
Benigne Joliet has radically changed production methods at the Clos de la Perriere during his stewardship. Each of these lieu-dit parcels listed above is picked and vinified separately. And 4 separate cuvees are eventually assembled before bottling. Yields have been greatly reduced. Harvest follows the maturity of each individual parcel, the grapes are picked as late as possible. The grapes are sorted and destalked, then fermented with a minimum of handling. Each cuvee is considered separately in terms of manipulations, punching down or pumping over. The wines are raised in 15% new Troncais oak for 24-36 months with no racking.
Burgundy 2013 was yet another small crop. The fourth in as many years. Some of it will be very good, in both red and white. But for some producers it was a disaster. As we always do, let’s start with a run-down of the weather conditions over the growing season (what the locals tellingly call ‘the campaign’).
Winter was wet and hung on stubbornly. March snow gave way to a few spring-like days, and everyone thought the worst was over. But no. April was cold and wet. May was the wettest on record. We posted photos of ducks swimming in the flooded vineyards. And winter gloom and temperatures persisted.
June was better, but just. Flowering started in the early part of the month, but with the cool wet conditions it was erratic and irregular. Lots of coulure and millerandange as a result. These aborted grapes would be one of the reasons for a small 2013 yield, and would come in to play in the final outcome at harvest.
Summer arrived late in the month. But even the warm temperatures and relatively fine weather did little to dispel the feeling of instability. There was nothing consistent to make you feel like you could just settle in to grape growing.
Then in the third week of July, high pressure and high humidity built up to a series of storms, the most violent of which tore out of the Savigny valley on the 23rd. Like a military gunship, the hail storm swept across the Savigny vines, hit Pernand on the west side of the Corton Mountain and headed south across Beaune, Pommard and Volnay. Producers tell us it lasted almost half an hour. It was the second year running that Pommard and Volnay were ravaged.
The humidity continued into August, and producers up and down the Cote nervously watched the sky. The big fear now was that damaged grapes would rot of mildew and odium, so preventive spraying intensified. If there was a bright spot in the growing season, it was the dry spell in mid-August. The damaged grapes shriveled and dropped off the vine, making the inevitable sorting at harvest more manageable.
Yields were tiny, even in the areas not ripped by hail. But the quality of the fruit was good going into September in the Cotes de Nuits and the white wine production south of Beaune, as well as in the Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Chablis.
Most of the harvest came in in the first weeks of October, the latest Burgundy vintages since 1991 and 1978. Maturity arrived at the end. Slowly at first, just like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like it to be. But that slow maturity turned into a gallop, especially for the whites. From Macon to Chablis, the quality of 2013 whites comes down to crucial decisions about when to pick in the final few days.
Two months prior to harvest, the mood was gloomy. And granted, those poor producers who got slammed in July will suffer for years. (Some say that another small crop in 2014 could force some out of business.) But there is quality in many cellars. The reds will be highly variable, but the best wines (from domains that sorted the harvest carefully as it came to the cuverie) are fresh, deeply colored and beautifully ripe, with balance that seems apt for long aging. As always, you have to know who made the wine. There is more consistent quality in the whites across the board. Some say an excellent exciting year.
COTE DE NUITS
You can see the upper reaches of the Fixin vineyards as you leave Dijon heading south. Only the vines of Marsannay separate Fixin from the modern commercial zone that sprawls out into the plain. And along with Marsannay, Fixin seems at times to have lost its identity in the hub-bub of suburbia. For some reason these appellations are seen as the rustic cousin of Gervey-Chambertin. But look closely and carefully and you will find not only substance and tradition, but also some interesting undiscovered gems.
Fixin is a ‘village’ appellation of the Côte de Nuits. This appellation includes 6 Premiers Crus Wines from within the area of this appellation (including the villages of Fixin and Brochon) may also be known as Cote de Nuits-Villages.
Fixin produces mostly red wines from Pinot Noir but there are some plots of Chardonnay. The reds are generally considered ‘gutsy’ and require some aging before opening. They can be a deep purple color, but more modern wines tend to a classic Burgundy ruby or garnet. The nose is floral, often violet (not unlike wines from further south in the Cotes de Beaune). There are classic Burgundy blackcurrant and black cherry fruits, and the nuttiness of cherry pits. They are often marked with animal and peppery notes. Usually considered to be tannic and hard in their youth, but this is a function of the winemaking and use of oak. With age Fixins have a rounded attack and solid structure, with remarkable fullness and surprising finesse.
Fixin is very similar in soil make-up to Gevrey-Chambertin, but lower, and with more alluvial soil in the lower reaches. The premier cru parcels are on homogenous brown limestone with east to south-east exposures at 350 to 380 meters of altitude. In some spots the soil is more marly. The remaining plots are on lower ground at the foot of the slopes and the soil is a mixture of limestone and marl.
Reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Area under production
1 hectare (ha) = 10,000 m2 = 2.4 acres
Reds : 91,76 ha (including 17.12 ha Premier Cru)
Whites : 4,25 ha (including 0.5 ha Premier Cru)
Red wines dominate appellation Fixin, and these are generally muscular wines with a tannic structure that make them ideal for braised meats, roast pork, beef rib, or traditional stewed poultry like coq au vin. Cheese combos tend towards hard mountain gruyere or comte. Rarer white Fixin partners well with the Burgundian specialty of cold-cuts like jambon persillé, as well as with firm-textured goat cheeses.
On the label, the appellations 'Fixin' and 'Fixin 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de la Perrière
Clos du Chapitre
Le Meix Bas
The following climats are village wines from a single-vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
Aux Petits Crais
Champs de Vosger
En Combe Roy
La Croix Blanche
Le Poirier Gaillard
Les Basses Chenevières
Les Champs des Charmes
Les Champs Tions
Les Crais de Chêne