The 2017 Vintage from Domaine Fourrier

Posted on Posted in Articles, Domaine Fourrier, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News, RWM Contributor

Over the past two decades, Jean-Marie Fourrier has justifiably ascended to the upper ranks of Burgundy’s pantheon, and his thrillingly pure and articulate wines are among the most coveted in our entire portfolio. A former protégé of the legendary Henri Jayer, fourth-generation Jean-Marie assumed control of his family domaine with the 1994 vintage, and today he controls nine hectares spread among Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, and Vougeot. His preternatural vineyard management skills allow him to work with the barest minimum of intervention in the cellar, and he always seems to be several steps ahead of any problems that a particular vintage might throw his way. He employs only selection massale in propagating vines; he prefers severe winter pruning to green harvesting; he retains ampler-than-typical leaf cover to combat sunburn and evaporation; and he drops unhealthy fruit in the vineyards at harvest rather than through excessive table-sorting; thus, the quality of fruit entering his cellar is uniformly impeccable. Additionally, he uses only older vines in his domaine bottlings, selling off everything from plants under 30 years of age. Jean-Marie is an ardent proponent of 100% destemming (à la Jayer), and his fermentations proceed naturally without excess punch-downs. He works reductively during the élévage, never racking and encouraging carbon dioxide as a preserving agent; this allows him to use far less sulfur dioxide than is commonly employed in the Côte d’Or and lends his fruit striking immediacy. Furthermore, he employs a modest 20% new barrels across the range, avoiding the common practice of scaling up oak presence as one climbs the classification ranks. Vintage in and vintage out, Jean-Marie’s wines are pure-fruited, precise, and ethereally aromatic, yet with true authority on the palate and an almost unbelievable transparency to their sites of origin. They tend to be relatively accessible in their youth, lacking as they are in excessive structure or oppressive sulfur, but they age as gracefully as any of the region’s greatest offerings.

We stand prepared to receive Fourrier’s 2017s in early September. Jean-Marie stated that the vintage’s biggest challenge was that of controlling yields, since the vines that were frost-affected in 2016 were liable to be over-productive after missing out on a growth cycle the previous year. He began picking on September 7th, and his massive crew of 65 people pulled in the entire crop in four and a half days; this precision of harvest timing plays a large role in the ultimate equilibrium of his wines as well. Jean-Marie’s 2017s are indeed stunning, with gorgeous red fruit and exuberant aromatics, as well as a concentration that many less-prescient growers failed to achieve in this sometimes-high-yielding vintage. His wines always display great verve, but these 2017s have perhaps an even higher level of pure energy than normal, and they will be a delight to drink both in their youth and with some cellaring.

2017 Bourgogne Blanc
In 1995, shortly after taking the reins of the domaine, Jean-Marie planted a hectare’s worth of Chardonnay, spread among three small parcels in Chambolle-Musigny. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation occur in barrel, and he employs only used casks for this cuvée, as well as next to no sulfur dioxide. The result is a sprightly, mineral-driven white Burgundy displaying the breadth typical of Chardonnay from the Côte de Nuits, yet with excellent drive and purity.

2017 Chambolle-Musigny
Produced from a 0.39-hectare parcel planted in 1936 in the lieu-dit of Les Mombies, this cuvée is classic Chambolle: light on its feet, and more a marvel of minerality than sheer fruit. Still, this is suffused with vibrant red fruits, and its subtle and well-balanced tannins emerge on the long, bright finish.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis “Clos Solon”
This parcel, just over a half-hectare, lies within both the villages-level and premier-cru section of Clos Solon. The vines were planted in 1961, in a plot right below the notable premier cru La Riotte. The lavender-spiced blackberry fruit displays a darker tone than the Chambolle-Musigny, with slightly firmer and more overt tannins.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin “Vieille Vigne”
The majority of this cuvée comes from Fourrier’s three-hectare holding in Champerrier, located in the northern sector of Gevrey, from vines planted between 1928 and 1955. Displaying notable complexity for a villages-level Gevrey, this offers ripe black-cherry fruit and a beautifully silken texture, yet with an underlying mineral thrust and plenty of structure to evolve well in bottle.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin “Aux Echezeaux”
Aux Echezeaux is situated on the southern fringe of Gevrey, fortuitously nestled beside the grand cru Mazoyères-Chambertin. Fourrier owns a half-hectare parcel that he habitually bottles separately to preserve the unique character of this excellent site. Compared to the more powerful and earthier “Vieille Vigne” above, this wine shows the elegance and restraint typical of wines from the southern edge of the appellation.

2017 Vougeot 1er Cru “Les Petits Vougeot”
This rare premier cru is flanked by some seriously exclusive real estate: Clos de Vougeot to its south, Les Amoureuses to its north, and Les Musigny immediately above it on the slope. It is Fourrier’s southernmost holding in the Côte de Nuits, comprising one-third of a hectare of vines planted between 1930 and 1955. This cuvée always displays intoxicating spice, firm minerality, and great lift and drive, and it is typically among the racier and more purely stony of the lineup.

2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Gruenchers”
This 0.29-hectare parcel, planted in 1928, is one of two premier crus Fourrier owns within Chambolle-Musigny, located roughly in the center of the appellation just beneath Les Fuées on the slope. With its profound and penetrating minerality, intense spice, and ethereal lilt, it is quintessential Chambolle with a dazzling level of complexity.

2017 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru “Clos Sorbés”
Fourrier works a miniscule parcel in this cru, located in the center of Morey-Saint-Denis just below premier cru Clos Baulet. The wine sourced from here is typically quite rich, with a wide spectrum of fruit ranging from red to black, and a less forceful structure than some wines in the range. It tends to drink well on the early side, though it certainly rewards cellaring as well.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Cherbaudes”
Fourrier’s two-thirds of a hectare in Les Cherbaudes, situated just below grand cru Mazis-Chambertin on the slope, was planted in 1940. Typically the most elegant and open-knit of his Gevrey premier crus, it offers an impression of coolness and a subtlety of structure that allows the spice and mineral elements to take center stage.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Goulots”
Fourrier owns a half-hectare parcel in this little-seen premier cru, situated between Combe aux Moines and Champeaux in the northernmost reaches of Gevrey-Chambertin. It is typically firmer in structure than “Les Cherbaudes,” with a stern minerality owing to its scant topsoil—a mere five centimeters atop the mother rock—and a thrilling sense of drive.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Champeaux”
Jean-Marie owns a miniscule 0.21-hectare parcel of century-old vines in this far-northern Gevrey premier cru. The wine he produces here always displays intense concentration—a result of the ancient vines and the sheer stoniness of the site—and its structure is typically more obvious than with the previous cuvées, making it a great candidate for cellaring.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Combe aux Moines”
Fourrier works a sizable 0.87-hectare parcel of 90-year-old vines in this great cru, situated in the northern sector of Gevrey just south of Les Goulots. With its deep black fruits, pronounced earthiness, and brooding spice, it is among the more sauvage of the domaine’s offerings, offering a visceral expression of this poor-soiled vineyard.

2017 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Clos Saint-Jacques”
The crown jewel of Fourrier’s holdings in Gevrey-Chambertin, this 0.89-hectare parcel is over a hundred years old. It combines the power and force of “Champeaux” with the elegance and purity of the “Combe Aux Moines,” with all elements dialed up in intensity. Its fruit is exuberant and multifaceted, ranging from pure red cherry to blackberry, while its firm and mineral-dominated structure keeps everything in tight focus. Ultra-concentrated and layered in every vintage, this wine deserves significant time in the cellar. Fourrier is one of only five producers who own land in this legendary cru.

2017 Griotte-Chambertin
Jean-Marie owns a quarter of a hectare of 90-year-old vines in this highly sought-after grand cru. Though dazzling in its complexity every vintage, this is neither weightier nor more structured than “Clos Saint-Jacques,” and its tannins are always buffered by rich, succulent red fruits. It manages to be both lovely and profound, with great presence and intensity but with a pretty, lilting character as well.

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