Burgundy producers seek new sources

16th January, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt

Burgundy producers are increasingly looking beyond the Côte d’Or to satisfy an increasing demand for the region’s wines.

Burgundy vineyardsMaisons Joseph Drouhin and Louis Latour, as well as grower and winemaker Dominique Lafon, are among famous Burgundy names buying land beyond the region’s high quality heartland – the strip of southeast facing slopes from the river Dheune to Dijon – in order to secure grape supplies for the future.

One particular source of investment by Côte d’Or producers appears to be the Maconnais, home to famous Chardonnay-producing appellations such as Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé.

For example, it was announced at a Master of Wine seminar on Burgundy last Friday (10 January) that Dominique Lafon had jointly bought a property in Pouilly-Fuissé with producer from the area, Olivier Merlin – renowned as “the wizard of the Mâconnais”.

The property, called Château de Quarts, is a 2.23 hectare monopole containing vines planted in 1937.

Speaking at the seminar last week, Olivier Merlin, who was invited by Jasper Morris MW to address viticultural developments in Burgundy, said, “When I brought Dominique Lafon to the property he took one look at the soil and said, ‘yes, we go, I know we can produce good wine’”.

Others, however, are looking further north, and in a discussion with the drinks business in late November, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of Beaune-based grower and négociant Maison Louis Latour, admitted that he had just bought a vineyard in Auxois, a region between Dijon and Chablis.

This will give Louis Latour a further 15 hectares of Chardonnay he said.

Dominique Lafon

Dominique Lafon has jointly bought a property in Pouilly-Fuissé with Olivier Merlin

Meanwhile, Frédéric Drouhin, president at Maison Joseph Drouhin told db on Tuesday this week that the company had just bought more land in Chablis, although he said he would officially announce the exact details of the acquisition at the end of this month.

However, as previously reported by db, Burgundy’s shortage is most acute for its reds according to Latour, who commented, “What we are lacking is Pinot Noir”.

To address this issue, Maison Louis Latour has recently planted almost 20 hectares of Pinot Noir in the southern part of Beaujolais under the Coteaux Bourguignons appellation, which extends as far north as Auxerrois.

Louis Latour has, of course, already expanded its source of Pinot outside Burgundy by planting vines in the Var where it bought 30 hectares back in 1989.

Taking a rather different approach to the constraints on Pinot supplies however is Drouhin, which – as previously reported by db – has doubled its Oregon holdings with the acquisition of Roserock, a 279-acre property in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA with 111 acres of Pinot Noir.

But, back in Burgundy, the wine shortage has prompted calls to increase plantings in the region, particularly following small harvests in 2012 and last year.

While a vintage in Burgundy produces on average 1.5 million hectolitres, in 2012 that figure was 1.28mhl, and this year it is estimated production will total only 1.2mhl following destructive hail storms in the Côte de Beaune.

Such a situation has encouraged Latour to comment, “Prices are going up and there is a big demand and there are tons of territories [which are currently not planted to vines] where we could make great wine; we ought to do something.”

When the topic of plantings was raised at the MW Burgundy seminar last Friday, Morris pointed out that the northwest Burgundian department of the Yonne could offer land for future vineyards, particular if average growing season temperatures rose.

“In parts of the Yonne, such as Tonnerre and Irancy, there are still places to plant which could be suitable, especially with global warming,” he said.

Finally, as reported yesterday, one UK merchant is looking to boost its Burgundy offering with wines from the Mâconnais and Châlonnaise as Côte d’Or prices rise and volumes shrink.

Siobhán Gillespie from Haynes, Hanson & Clark said that the merchant was broadening its offering this year to include more Mercurey, Rully and even a little Passtoutgrains to help bolster the smaller quantities from the Côte d’Or which are the tiniest on record.

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