As our coverage of Burgundy 2018 comes to a close, we are delighted to offer our inaugural first tranche release of what is broadly considered the best village Gevrey Chambertin on the market, Domaine Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin Vieille Vigne. Domaine Fourrier’s meteoric rise is premised on two things; outstanding winemaking and unbeatable terroir. Exceptional wine-making as a result of generations passing down savoir-faire and training with the best. Jean-Marie Fourrier not only learned boy to man from his father Jean-Claude a master of his craft, but also trained with Henri Jayer, Burgundy’s equivalent of Michelangelo. In fact, his ability to heighten fruit flavours has more than a passing resemblance to Jayer, as do his wines. The finest terroir again on account of generations of cultivation and proliferation of the best plots in Gevrey Chambertin. The Estate competes for the best Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin and Clos St. Jacques, making some of the best bottles in the villages history. The latter two date back to 1902 and 1910 plantings.
All this disseminates into their famous Gevrey Chambertin Village Vieille Vigne, sourced from 12 of the finest plots deriving from 80 year old vines. Impressively, the minimum age of vine for the Vieille Vigne is 40 years. It shares so many of the characteristics of the Grand Crus, with purity, finesse and the minimalist hand of a master. One can understand its cult status. This is not your average village level wine, it is exceptional, the first in class. It has been scored 89-91 points from The Wine Advocate and 88-91 from Burghound. It is priced today on release at £288 an exceptional price and the table below demonstrates how highly it is prized, it trades up in value immediately, rightfully to a 1er Cru level, which it certainly represents in terms of quality. Though possible, this is not a wine people buy for investment, if you can get an allocation, it would be folly not to drink it – it is just great to secure such value on release.
Domaine Fourrier was previously known as Pernot-Fourrier and extends back four generations. It was founded in the 1930s by Fernand Pernot, who being unmarried and childless passed the reigns to his nephew Jean-Claude Fourrier, who took over in 1969. It was one of the first domaines to export to the US It also became the owner of some of the best holdings throughout the most heralded appellations. In 1994 Jean-Marie Fourrier took the reins which resulted in a rise in fame that is positively asymptotic. As aforementioned his tutelage could not have been finer.
The vineyards which consist of nine hectares spread amongst Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St.-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny and Vougeot. The vineyards are tended impeccably, paying much attention to vine age, Jean-Marie feels that vines less than 30 years old do not have the root systems to develop the incredible flavour the estate is famed for. All new cuttings are done through ‘Selection Massale’, which means cutting from their own vines, no commercial vines make the cut, cultivation is done naturally in the vineyard. No chemical fertilisers are used at all, they use insects to combat fungus when necessary. The work is done in harmony with mother nature, who peaks through in the wines and as a result of the non-intervention philosophy.
The work in the winery continues thus: a cold soak for three to four days, allowing gentle extraction of colour and aromatic phenols. Fourrier does not use sulphur dioxide, rather utilising temperature, lees contact and Co2 to preserve the wines. Paradigmatically the use of oak is minimal, no more than 20% new oak, the wine must talk, not the oak. Malolactic fermentation proceeds at its own cadence and Jean-Marie famously says that the longer this process takes, the better ageing potential the wine has. The wines stay on lees until bottling which occurs 20 months after harvest. This, as one might imagine by now is done straight from cask, without fining or filtering, instead allowing dissolved Co2 to protect the wine. Though it must be mentioned he is not biodynamic, the philosophy is one of a protagonist, knowledge built up from generations, learned under the greatest tutelage.
Is there a better winemaker in the world? Certainly in terms of respecting the genius of old while embracing modern trends, Jean-Marie must take pride of place among the greats. The wines speak of the terroir, the vintage and the vines in an enchanting way. They express a sense of place, yet with poise, balance, finesse and intense complexity. Domaine Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin Vieille Vigne is everything you want in a glass of Pinot Noir. At under £50 a bottle it is a must for any Burgundy lover. Even if money were no object and you could afford the Grand Crus as your evening tipple, one would still drink the village, for if not, you would be missing out.