Domaine Joliet Fixin 1er Cru 'Clos de la Perriere' 2019
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 2019 VINTAGE
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
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