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Domaines or Maisons, does it matter?
TALKING of Burgundy again, there is a marked preference for the production from growers (for example, Domaine Dujac) over that of negociants (Maisons, for example, Maison Joseph Drouhin).
Negociant wines are those made from purchased fruit, instead of fruit grown in the bottler's own vineyard, but there is a misconception that all such wines come from bought-in fruit or finished wine.
It is not well known, at least to the general wine public, that the major Maisons such as Joseph Drouhin, Joseph Faiveley and Louis Jadot are both negociants and wine growers. All three of them are owners of sizeable vineyards.
Indeed, their Grands Crus, Premiers Crus and some of their Village wines come from their own vineyards - and are very good indeed. Pierre Henry Gagey of Louis Jadot, Veronique Drouhin, and Erwan Faiveley of Joseph Faiveley, are just a few such major vineyard owners.
The obvious question that this fact raises is how does one distinguish each Maison's "grower" wines from their "negociant" wines?
This difficulty in distinction is compounded by the absence of any clues on their wine labels. The consumer actually needs to know what vineyards each Maison owns.
But this raises the question: Is it important in the first place to know whether a particular wine is from the Maison's own vineyard or from purchased wine? One might think so, but in practice, only the purists really care. For the ordinary wine lover, it is not really important.
Two Burgundies, 14 years apart in age, drunk at dinner at home four evenings ago:
Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Fuees 2002, Joseph Faiveley
Oct 29, 2016, at dinner at home
A transparent, brilliant, medium-hued strawberry-red with brownish tints. Beautiful, pure aroma of pinot noir - strawberry and red berries. Medium-weight lushness of ripe fruit with lovely freshness on the palate. Lovely wine, at its peak at 14 years old, but will still hold for a good many years. Very seductive wine, text-book Chambolle Musigny.
Beaune 1er Cru 1er Cru Beaucherottes 1989, Louis Jadot
Oct 29, 2016, dinner at home
An opaque, very dark red with brownish tints, heavy aroma of ripe strawberry fruit. Thick texture, good ripe fruit on palate but with time in glass, showed signs of fading on the after-taste. What surprises about this 27-year-old wine was the fleeting presence of freshness at the beginning.
These two wines from two great Burgundy houses were of superb quality, giving the lie to the popular notion that wines from negociant houses are not in the same class as Domaine wines. Both impeccably made, and eminently enjoyable. But perhaps the best thing about them is that they are more readily available than Domaine wines of the same class and much more affordable as well.
The same remarks about the quality, availability and affordability of such wines apply equally to the whole range of their wines as well as those from Maison Joseph Drouhin. Sometimes I think a hint of snobbishness marks consumer attitudes to the wines of these large negociant houses - simply because they are Maisons and not Domaines.
Actually the Domaine nomenclature is legitimately applicable to these wines. If one looks closely at the very bottom of the Beaune Boucherottes label, right along the bottom is a line that reads "Domaine des Heritiers Louis Jadot".
All three of these major Maisons in Beaune produce great Grands Crus, for example, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Chambertin, Corton "Clos des Cortons" (Faiveley) and Musigny.
I cannot conclude this week's column without referring to Joseph Drouhin's delightful Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches, which is produced in both red and white. They are two of my absolute favourite wines from the Cote d'Beaune in the heart of the Burgundy wine-making region.
The white is delicious, a lightly citrusy, juicy wine with delicious freshness. It does not have the kind of minerality nor touch of steeliness one sees in the Pulignys and Meursaults, and dances on the palate, leaving a haunting presence which no other white burgundy is able to do. Thoroughly recommended. And these wines are fully capable of long ageing, if one can resist the temptation to keep pulling the cork!
Finally if I may inform readers about a special wine event in January 2017: "Celebration Ninety", a gala charity wine dinner, wine auction and wine tasting session from Jan 6 to 8 at Capella Hotel in Sentosa. More than 25 wine growers from major wine estates in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Napa Valley will present their wines at the dinner and wine masterclasses that weekend. Lisa Perotti-Brown of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate will conduct the wine masterclasses.
The proceeds from the event will go to the St Andrews' Church of England Autism Centre, to build and run a home for autistic young adults.