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Drouhin reveals key to success in 2013

Despite its challenges, the 2013 Burgundy vintage offers wines with “beautiful definition” that are “very precise on terroir”, according to Veronique Drouhin of Joseph Drouhin.

Veronique Drouhin introduces the 2013 vintage from Joseph Drouhin
Veronique Drouhin introduces the 2013 vintage from Joseph Drouhin

Introducing the Beaune-based producer’s portfolio of wines from 2013, Drouhin highlighted some of the major challenges faced by winemakers during this year.

“The conditions were not easy,” she reported, recalling the 1,300 hectares of vineyard damaged by hail “in a couple of minutes”, which “had a huge impact on Beaune, Volnay and Savigny”.

On top of this the cool conditions led to issues with coulure – poor fruit set leading to irregular bunches. In some regions such as Corton-Charlemagne, Drouhin reported: “coulure was more of a problem than hail.”

In order to remove all the berries damaged by hail, coulure or botrytis, the producer used not only hand sorting, but both vibrating and optical sorting tables. The use of this optical sorting table also allowed operations to run continuously, bringing as many grapes in as possible before more rain hit.

Another element Drouhin identified as important for success in 2013 was the house’s practice of vinifying the last section of its pressed juice separately. In most years this higher pH, often more tannic wine is then blended back into wine from the main pressing, but in 2013 the producer kept it out, leading to a further decrease in quantity.

“In the end all the attention to detail paid off,” maintained Drouhin, “We have a vintage that is very precise on terroir. There is beautiful definition.”

In particular she pointed to the high quality results from Chambolle Musigny, which “did very very well in 2013.” Chablis was also another highlight for the producer, which manages around 40ha in this northerly appellation. Drouhin described the results here as “very good” but, although spared hail, coulure led to a 40% smaller than usual crop.

Clos des MouchesParticularly hard hit by conditions in 2013 was the jewel in Drouhin’s crown, its Clos des Mouches premier cru vineyard in Beaune. Confirming that hail had slashed the crop to just 10% of its usual level, a cut that was compounded by the decision not to include a further four barrels of separately vinified juice from the end of the pressing, Drouhin reported that in the end just nine barrels had been bottled.

As a result, there will be no magnums or half-bottles of Clos des Mouches in 2013, with the wine being made available in just three-bottle cases in order, explained Drouhin, “to give maximum satisfaction to customers.”

Despite the shortfall, Drouhin expressed relief that it had been possible to make any of this wine at all. “We were not sure in the beginning whether we would make Clos des Mouches,” she admitted. “We did not produce any in 2004 because it never really got ripe, but in 2013 you did get ripeness if you could wait and the fruit was lovely.”

Despite the fact that overall quantities from 2013 are considerably smaller than average, Drouhin was able to show a number of new additions to its portfolio. These include Mâcon-Bussières Les Clos, the result of a new long-term contract; Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embazées, a vineyard previously declassified as Chassagne-Montrachet; and Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux Saint-Jacques, the result of another new contract – and something of a coup at a time when good land in the Côte de Nuits is in high demand.

As buyers are forced to hunt around for allocations of good quality wine, Drouhin echoed recent comments made by Pierre-Henry Gagey of Louis Jadot in her praise of Beaune, which she described as “a very interesting appellation for the price and quality you get.”

Nevertheless, she remarked, “Beaune is hard to sell. Everyone knows the Hospices de Beaune, but they know wines from Pommard better. Unless it’s Grèves or Clos des Mouches it’s not easy.”

Despite this challenge of building a profile for an appellation comprised of so many small, relatively unknown vineyards, Drouhin concluded: “Beaune deserves more attention and we are working as a group to promote it.”

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