During the 2008 harvest, I spent a few days in Burgundy visiting the Joseph Drouhin family, which has been making wines in Beaune since 1880. We visited most of the vineyards the Drouhins owned or whose grapes they purchased along the fabled Cote d’Or, including Clos des Mouches. Clos des Mouches is not the most-fabled of these vineyards, but it is a very good one and one that is interesting because it produces both red (Pinot Noir) and white (Chardonnay) grapes. Like most vineyards along the Cote, des Mouches has multiple owners who each farm a section, but the Drouhins, who practice organic agriculture, seem to have an affinity for making particularly good grapes and wines from this small stretch of hillside.
When we returned that evening to the center of the old walled city with its ancient buildings, I was taken on a tour of the family’s centuries-old cellar that is still in use. My guide was Frédéric – the youngest of the four Drouhin siblings, but the one chosen to head the Joseph Drouhin business. Sister Véronique makes the wines, brother Phillippe grows the grapes, and brother Laurent lives in New York where he heads the North American business.
At the end of the tour, Frédéric took us into an oversized, stone-walled room filled with the largest wine press I have ever seen. It was composed of sinewy old wooden pieces and a few thick ropes to facilitate movement of these parts.
“It dates back to 1570,” Frédéric explained. “After it was restored, it has been used only three times. The first time was 1980, and it took a day and half to press both red and white wines from a part of Clos des Mouches. The second time was in 2000, and we did white wines only.” These were experimental wines, and neither was sold commercially.
The third time was the charm. That was in 2005, and the Drouhin family wanted to make a special wine for its 125th anniversary. They again chose white and red grapes from des Mouches, and, Frédéric told me, “We made it as wine was made by the anciens – no electricity, no science, no pump over. We just used buckets for that.”
Talk about authenticity – wine made completely by hand in a 435-year-old wooden press from grapes organically grown in a centuries-old vineyard in Burgundy, the fountainhead of the philosophy of terroir, by a family that has been in the business for 125 years!
That wine comes to the American market in a couple of months in a very limited edition, sold to retailers only by Dreyfus, Ashby & Company (www.dreyfusashby.com), the New York-based agent for Joseph Drouhin. It is labeled Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches “l’Ouvrée des Dames” 2005. There will be 100 coffrets or wooden boxes, each containing a bottle of red and a bottle of white. The price per box will be in the $320-$330 range, quite reasonable for a very historic bottling of two distinctive wines. Another 50 pairs will be available to Drouhin’s wine club members.
How do the wines taste? “Phenomenal,” says Laurent Drouhin, who has tasted them recently, really exceptional.
And very authentic.