2016 Domaine Joliet Clos de la Perriere Monopole
Those of us who love Burgundy are almost constantly – incessantly – scanning the maps of the Grands Crus, looking for bargains among the top of the top. I know I am, and I think you are too.
So I’ve got one for you – Domaine Joliet Clos de La Perrière Monopole, a Grand Cru site if ever there was one. But more on that in a moment.
First planted by Cîteaux monks in 1142, this is a site that has never been altered, expanded or contracted in all of its history. The Joliet family took over in 1853, and today Benigne Joliet is the family’s sixth generation winemaker and property owner. When I visited Benigne in January, he told me what makes the terroir of Clos de la Perrière extraordinary: “The monks chose a very special site that would create harmony across the entire vineyard. And we know this because in the exact center of the vineyard, they placed a statue. From this statue you can detail the differing soil compositions of the vineyard, all of which were divided equally to create this harmony in the finished wines. I am very lucky because all I have to do is take care of the land and the wine resolves itself.”
Why do we not know this wine as a famous Grand Cru? We tend to reference the 1930s AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) system for Burgundy’s hierarchy of which vineyards are best. But there were two rating systems that came before the AOC. And both of them classified the Clos de La Perrière as Grand Cru. English wine merchants Barry Brothers & Rudd explain:
“There are certain vineyard sites up and down the Côte d’Or in Burgundy which have been recognized for centuries as being outstanding locations. The monks were usually the first to spot the potential and to stake a claim. One such is the Clos de la Perrière in Fixin, just north of Gevrey-Chambertin, founded by the monks of Cîteaux in the early 12th century.
“Various early wine authorities in the 19th century singled out Clos de la Perrière as an exceptional vineyard, cited by legendary wine writer André Jullien in 1811 as being the equal of Chambertin and Corton, and heralded by wine classification pioneer Dr. Jules Lavalle in 1855 as a Tete de Cuvée [the very top of his scale]. Dr. Lavalle wrote that Clos de la Perrière “makes wines which kept for longer than any others of the Côte d’Or.”
So if you’re willing to trust the monks, along with over 700 years of documented winemaking, wine writing, and wine drinking, then we’ve got a hidden Grand Cru in our glasses.
What happened in modern times to deny this wine its coveted Grand Cru AOC status? Family squabbles, unfortunately. As you might guess, ownership of the property was fragmented among the many generations of Joliet heirs, who couldn’t even agree to enroll Clos de la Perrière in or petition it for Grand Cru status.
This situation didn’t start to change until the 1990s. The arrival of Benigne Joliet at its helm brought a radical rebirth of the estate. First he bought out other members of the family; then, with Philippe Charlopin as consultant, he radically revamped the estate’s cellar, farming methods and vinification techniques. Quietly, he has elevated the wine back to its centuries of status at the top of the top of the Cote D’Or, and we are lucky, because very few have yet to notice.
The 2016 Clos de La Perrière is powerful and robust now, but has years to go in your cellar. Benigne does use stems but very little oak, resulting in a dynamic, naturally full bodied Pinot Noir. It drinks like a Chambertin, dark and forceful yet also has elegance and freshness. As a 2016 vintage, I find it to have settled into its bottle, delivering delicious fruit, spice and youthful structure right now. I have also drunk it over several days, letting it fully round out with oxygen, leaving me no doubt that it has decades ahead of drinking at the Grand Cru level. We’re helping a distributor get through her restaurant allocation, hence the price as well as the allocation! Cheers!