The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

A Tasting with Burgundy’s Joseph Drouhin

Posted on | January 28, 2011 | Written by Tida Lenoel | No Comments

IWM sometimes offers wines from areas outside of Italy for our Cellar Selections and Investor Club clients. This post takes a look at one of the producers of a recent offering, Drouhin-Laroze from Burgundy. If you’re interested having access to these offerings, go here for more information.

Wednesday, we had the great fortune of meeting with a fantastic and historical producer from Burgundy, Domaine Joseph Drouhin. Laurent Drouhin, the founder’s great grandson, director of the US market, came to tell us a bit about their philosophy and to give us the opportunity taste some wines. I wanted to highlight a few key points that I think really differentiate this estate from others in the region. (Here’s a blog post from Francesco that looks at the region of Burgundy itself.)

Joseph Drouhin shows a commitment to showcasing the natural terroir of Burgundy and its appellations. In order to do this, they have been practicing organic viticulture and recently got certified as organic, making them the largest estate in Burgundy to be certified. They also use biodynamic growing methods in some of their vineyards. Laurent explained that by being “organic you’re feeding the soil, otherwise you’re feeding the roots.” The difference is that you want to make the soil rich so that the vines dig deep and search for the nutrients and get the essence of the land, whereas if you feed the roots directly they don’t have to try and develop less flavor.

Not only is Joseph Drouhin organic, but they are also family run. This makes a big difference, because they don’t have to make decisions based on making money for the shareholders. Laurent emphasized that the estate’s reputation was on the line in every single bottle that went out to the market because their family name is right on the label. A great example of this is how in 2004 they declassified their Clos de Mouches and mixed it with their Cote de Beaune because there was a hailstorm that rendered the grapes sub-par to the norm for Clos de Mouches. An estate with shareholders could feel pressure to make a different decision that privileges money over quality.

60% of the wines that Joseph Drouhin produces are either Premier or Grand Cru, and if you remove their Chablis wines from the total, that percentage rises to 90%. Consider those percentages with the knowledge that only 1.6% of wines produced in Burgundy are Grand Cru, and you’ll see an estate with a commitment to producing quality wines. Even further, this estate goes so far as to choose their own trees to find wood for their wine barrels and aging that wood for three years at their facility before giving it to a cooper to craft the barrels themselves.

The wines that we had speak for themselves; they were amazing. However, it’s important to remember the context of how Joseph Drouhin made them and the effort the estate put into creating them. It’s breathtaking to consider, and it’s reflected in the taste of these Burgundies. I’m happy that Joseph Drouhin do what they do, and I am excited to be able to share with you my experience and help you in finding wines I know you’ll love.


Leave a Reply