The 2016 vintage at the Domaine Fourrier presents in a classic manner with precision and grace. However, it is another in the recent spate of scarce harvests that makes this offer a challenge to place in front of those who have patronized the wines of this estate since the first vintage (1994) we imported so many years ago. Early season frost damage, particularly in Chambolle and certain zones in the southern sector of the Cote de Nuits severely reduced yields. The clement weather during the latter part of the growing season blessed the remaining grapes with the result being beautifully balanced and expressive wines available in dramatically short supply. So goes the story in Burgundy ….
To review the basics once again in advance of the mid-August arrival of the entire range of wines from this renowned estate, we note:
The Domaine Fourrier, various branches of the family, has a long history in Gevrey-Chambertin that extends over four generations;
Jean-Marie Fourrier began working with his father in 1994, which is when we (RWM) began to import the estate’s wines on an exclusive basis for the USA;
Domaine Fourrier owns 9 hectares of vineyards in the communes of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny and Vougeot; the vineyards are composed of vines of an average age between 50 and 70 years old, with several parcels exceeding 85 years of age.
The Fourrier maxim is “Until a vineyard develops a root system, it doesn’t develop flavor”; thus, in most instances, wines made from pinot noir vines less than 30 years old are sold to négociants.
Sélection massale (use of cuttings from their own vines) is the only method used to replace missing or failing vines. Chemical fertilizers are not used and treatments to combat fungus and insects are applied only when necessary.
Achieving natural balance between yield and vine growth as a function of each season’s growing conditions is Fourrier’s key objective. Harvest workers are instructed to eliminate any unsound grapes in the vineyard before the bunches go into the baskets. Because of this rigor, grapes going into the tanks are impeccably clean and healthy, allowing for an extensive aging on clean lees without racking until the moment before bottling.
Intervening as little as possible in order to allow the vines, the terroir and the vintage to express themselves is the basis of Jean-Marie’s winemaking philosophy. Each parcel is vinified separately. A cold soak of 3 to 4 days prior to fermentation allows gentle extraction of color and aromatic phenols. Fourrier avoids the use of sulfur dioxide in his wines, preferring to use temperature, carbon dioxide and lees contact to preserve them. No more than 20% new oak is used in order to preserve the purity of the fruit and the personality of each wine. The malolactic fermentation is allowed to proceed at its own rate. He likes to leave the wines on the fine lees until bottling, without fining or filtering, preferring to allow the dissolved CO2 to remain in the wine as protection rather than risk the addition of SO2. What ends up in the glass is a pure expression of terroir.
The history of these wines over the past 22 years speaks to the character of this domaine and the intrinsic value of this offering. Immediately below is a summary of specifics relating to each holding.
The only white wine made at Domaine Fourrier, the Bourgogne Blanc is sourced from a very small parcel located in Gilly Les Cîteaux. We get only a handful of cases of this affable white each year. Chardonnay is rarely seen occupying the slopes of the Cote de Nuits, but it can be an interesting illustration of the range of white Burgundy. Grown here, it tends be more broad-shouldered, with an earthier tone to the fruit.
Bourgogne Rouge: not bottled in 2016!
Made from a .39-hectare parcel planted in 1936 in the lieu-dit of “Les Mombies”, this cuvée is classic Chambolle, light on its feet, more a marvel of minerality than fruit. Still, the fruit is sweet and present, with some subtle supporting tannins.
Morey St. Denis “Clos Solon”
This parcel, which is over a half-hectare, is located within both the village and Premier Cru section of “Clos Solon”. The vines were planted in 1961, in a parcel located right below the Premier Cru “La Riotte”. The lavender-spiced blackberry fruit has a much richer and darker tone than the Chambolle Muisgny. The tannins are also more evident, adding a slightly bitter spice to the finish. This wine is quite open and complete and can be enjoyed at this early stage.
Gevrey Chambertin “Vieilles Vignes”
The majority of this cuvée comes from Fourrier’s three-hectare holding in “Champerrier”, located in the northern part of Gevrey. The vines for this cuvée were planted between 1928 and 1955. Complex for a village Gevrey, showing ripe black cherry fruit and a beautiful sweet texture, with noticeable structure and a firm mineral core.
Gevrey Chambertin “Aux Echezeaux”
“Aux Echezeux” is situated on the southern fringe of Gevrey, fortuitously nestled besides the Grand Cru “Mazoyéres”. Fourrier owns a half-hectare parcel that he habitually bottles separately to preserve the unique character of this excellent lieu-dit. Compared to the more powerful and earthier “Vieilles Vignes”, this wine shows elegance and restraint consistent with wines from the southern edge of the appellation.
Vougeot Premier Cru “Les Petits Vougeot”
This rare Premier Cru is nestled amongst Vougeot, Les Musigny, and Les Amoureuses. It is Fourrier’s southernmost holding and measures 3/4ths of a hectare. The fruit is pure with intense, sweet strawberry and cherry fruit, spiced with hints of lavender and smoke. There are some firm tannins and acidity making for a quite noble wine.
Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru “Les Gruenchers”
This .29-hectare parcel planted in 1928 is one of two Premier Crus that Domaine Fourrier owns within Chambolle-Musigny, located roughly in the center of the village, just beneath “Les Fuées”. The penetrating minerality creates a clarity that contrasts with the surprisingly firm tannins underneath.
Morey Saint Denis Premier Cru “Clos Sorbes”
Fourrier works a miniscule parcel in this Premier Cru, located in the center of Morey St. Denis. The wine is quite rich with a dynamic range of red and black fruit tones intermingling throughout. Not too tannic, this wine does have a warmer and more generous character when compared to his other Premier Crus, more precocious we would say.
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Cherbaudes”
Fourrier’s two-thirds of a hectare of “Cherbaudes” was planted in 1940, and it is typically the most open of his Gevrey Premier Crus. The 2016 reinforces this description with pure blackberry and sweet raspberry-jam-tinted fruit underscored by a subtle animal earthiness.
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Les Goulots”
The half-hectare parcel of this rare Premier Cru (squeezed between “Combe aux Moines” and “Champeaux”) in the most northern reaches of Gevrey Chambertin, is much firmer and closed than the “Cherbaudes”. It has a wilder dark-berry fruit and hints of dried herbs and flowers. It will benefit from a year or two in bottle.
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Champeaux”
The “Champeaux” is perhaps the most forceful of Fourrier’s 2016 Premier Crus (the tiny .21-hectare parcel was planted in 1919). It has a ripe and dense fruit character that leans toward blackberry and licorice, is robust and round on the palate, with gripping tannins through the finish. One of the most highly regarded of sites within this appellation.
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Combe Aux Moines”
One of our perpetual favorite bottlings from Fourrier comes from his sizable .87-hectare holding in “Combe Aux Moines”. Sharing the same northern sector of Gevrey as “Les Goulots” and “Champeaux”, “Combe Aux Moines” is typically more pure and restrained than its neighbors. The sappy, red-berry fruit shows excellent depth and complexity. Its admirable purity and profound minerality lend this wine considerable persistence on the palate.
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Clos Saint-Jacques”
The crown jewel of Fourrier’s Gevrey holdings, this .89-hectare parcel is well over 100 years old and does it all: it magically transmits the power and force of the Champeaux while retaining the elegance and purity of the Combe Aux Moines. Layers of fruit unfold from pure cherry to black cherry, while a firm mineral structure holds everything in place. Concentrated and firm in every vintage, this wine deserves significant time in the cellar.
Griotte Chambertin Grand Cru
Domaine Fourrier’s only Grand Cru holding is a .26-hectare parcel, planted in 1928. The Griotte is elegant and regal. It has plenty of mineral lift, with slightly herbaceous undertones and pleasant tannins in the finish.