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 2012 VINTAGE
What a surprise! To say today that the 2012 harvest produced, not just a good Burgundy vintage but an exceptional one, beggars belief.
Here in Burgundy it is often said that June makes the quantity and September makes the quality. And 2012 was a classic example. But because 2012 was such a lousy growing season, and because the wine is just so good, folks are trying to understand why and how that can be.
Here’s how we saw it. It all started well before the sap started to rise in the vines. February was frigid. We had two consecutive weeks where the temperature did not rise above freezing. Our producers tell us that this polar period may have had an important effect on what was to come, notably the poor flowering later in June.Then March was just about all the springtime we had. In fact it was more like summer than summer was. And with those warm dry sunny days, the vines leapt into action. The sap rose and the buds burst well before the end of the month. Everyone was talking about an August harvest! It was, considering what was to come, a glorious time.
Then April brought radical change. A four month period of gloomy cold and wet set in. It rained one day in three until July. And during this time a series of hailstorms shattered the vineyards, especially in the south. The vines flowered in early June, but this was slow and drawn out over the course of the month. Because of this, a lot of the flowering failed. Every incident, it seemed, reduced the potential yield of the crop. Many producers reported as much as 50% crop loss. Some, in the areas worst hit by hail, were almost wiped out.
Then it got warm and the threat of rot turned to reality. Mildew and oidium were rampant. Producers later said that if you were late with copper sulfate treatments in 2012 it was fatal. Then it got hot. And grapes literally grilled on the vine in August, scorched by the heat.
The locals are saying that every month claimed its part of the crop. So the first thing to remember about 2012 is that it is a small harvest, and a very small harvest in certain zones. But what happened next saved the day for what remained on the vine.
Mid-August was hot and sunny, and this continued until well in to of September. The well-watered vines fed what grapes remained, and sugar levels shot up dramatically. It felt like a time of healing. The crop was made up of small clusters of grapes with very thick skins, with lots of space between the berries to allow them to expand and to let air circulate.
So with a healthy albeit small crop on the vines, and what appeared to be stable weather conditions, the producers felt safe that they could wait for ideal maturity. And when harvest began in the latter half of September, the grapes were in good condition. Which is just as well, because halfway through it started to rain and got cold. The worry again was rot. But the thick-skinned grapes were resistant, and the cool temperature kept botrytis at bay.
Those cool final days had another advantage. The fruit was brought to the winery at an ideal temperature to allow a few days of cool maceration before fermentations started, slowly and gently. So from the very start, these wines have shown brilliant color and delicate aromas.
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