Alternatively named as the climat of Plantigone ou Issart – though only the name ‘Issarts‘ is included in the AOC documentation for Gevrey’s 26 1er crus – dating from 1936. This is a monopole of Domaine Faiveley of Nuits St.Georges, and having been struck by the quality of some of the recent vintages of this wine, I thought it appropriate to dig a little deeper into this small terroir.
A true clos & neighbour to the grand crus of Gevrey-Chambertin
It’s fair to say that the Clos des Issarts has, for many years, been an iconic location for travellers in the wine-country of the Côte d’Or – probably less-so for the wine, as it was hard to find, but rather for the seemingly unloved house with a beautifully tiled roof that sat in the middle of the vineyard, it was easily visible from the Route de Grands Crus.
‘Hard to find?‘ Indeed, and unsurprisingly so. At only 0.6237 hectares – 0.6095 planted – only Bossières and Au Closeau are smaller 1ers in Gevrey-Chambertin. Given such a small production volume, it’s a cuvée that’s not evenly distributed to all of Faiveley’s customers – the UK is one of the larger buyers.
In a search for the history of this small plot of vines, there’s a paucity of information. Practically the best I came up with was an image of a wine from the late 1980s – still with a Faiveley label despite the vintage significantly pre-dating their 2003 purchase of the plot. It seems that for the longest time, wine from here was labelled simply as Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru, whether blended or not with other premiers.
François Faiveley remembers that they bought the grapes of the Clos des Issarts each year, since about 1985. Much later, the wife of somebody who, by chance, was working at the time for Faiveley inherited the vines – but the worker was tea-total and lost his wife at a young age – there were 2 daughters but the family anyway decided to sell. François says that he hesitated to buy as the market wasn’t great at the time – and this was far from a cheap parcel, despite its modest size – but he had the experience of making the wine for many years. Eric Rousseau was also interested to buy and told François ‘If you don’t buy, I will – it’s the same soil as the Ruchottes!‘
The Clos and it’s vines
The vineyard does indeed sit at the same position on the hill and sits just 3-4 metres away from Eric Rousseau’s Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes – the two are separated only by a vineyard road – though a wide one. There’s also a small road – more of a track today – which was once a train track that began in Dijon and went up into the Hautes Côtes. The other side of this old track is woods.
The vineyard and its house are enclosed by high walls for such a relatively small place. The vines are set in two terraces, the lower of the two is slightly the larger. Jérôme Flous explains that despite the small size of this clos, the soils of the two terraces are not the same. Still, the grapes are normally assembled – they were separated only in 2008, but as maturities were practically the same they were later assembled, but Jérôme remembers that the higher part had less structure but an airier style, the more profound wine was the result of the lower terrace where the ground is stonier and the soil lighter: “The lower part was the more Gevrey-style of wine, above seemed more Chambolle – its the combination thats the nicest. It’s still not rich wine, more Lavaux than Cazetiers in style.” The top of the slope shows the mother rock, and Jérôme is sure that this was once a small quarry.
At one time the vines in front of the house – the lower terrace – were planed perpendicular to those above, allowing a straight driveway to the front door of the house. This was before phylloxera.
Despite the small size, there are three different planting dates for the vines: 1971, 2005 and 2007.
And the house?
Erwan Faiveley, December 2016: “Ah the house in Les Issarts, I’ve wanted to renovate it for such a long time. I’m really glad that we finally did it this year, because literally the house was crumbling. It was once a drinking and smoking den so we blocked-up the doors and windows – it turned out that this was really lucky as the lintels were crumbling, so it was only the fact that we’d blocked up the windows and doors that stopped the walls falling down.
“It’s going to be an artist’s atelier, actually a sculptor, the lady that did the sitting sculpture of the monk that is outside the Château de Gevrey-Chambertin – this was really a great idea, as I didn’t really want a maison d’hôte. I’m really looking forward to it!
The sculptress is indeed installed in the house, but when I visited towards the end of June 2020, she was ‘self-isolating‘ in Paris!
For this tasting, done in Nuits St.Georges with Eve Faiveley and Jérôme Flous, 30 June 2020, we went a little off-piste; taking the vintages from oldest to youngest. This is a wine that is always destemmed here.
2009 Clos des Issarts
A wine that was often quite reduced in its first 2-3 years ‘But I think that helped it hold onto the fruit on the palate,’ says Jérôme.
Here is a little age to the medium colour. That’s a deep nose, meaty, Gevrey-styled, faintly salty but slowly sweetening with air. Hmm, this is a structural wine but also one that unwinds temptingly over the palate with a certain sweetness and successive waves of finishing flavour. A little leather in there but all seems fine and clean. Really persistent – approachable, indeed enjoyable, but this is still a wine for waiting for.
Hmm, that’s a super nose – more open, higher-toned, practically floral and certainly showing a lot of maturity already. Lest strict, more mouth-filling, melting, almost juicy-flavoured – love the finishing energy – a mineral side to this wine too. Bravo – complete wine!
A much younger, more fruit-forward nose though still with the fresh airy style of the 2010 – that’s a great invitation with just a perfect hint of cushioning too. Driving, more direct than the 10, no hard edges, great energy a suggestion of tannin only, wide and mouth-watering in the finish. Good, subtle length – this has the potential to be at least as good as the 2010.
2016 Clos des Issarts
Late harvested compared to recent years – 30 September.
Medium-plus colour. More depth and weight to this nose – a small suggestion of reduction – but growing, growing, becoming more complex and more spiced. Bigger in the mouth, more silky, growing in intensity, the subtle reduction in the flavours too. Wide, lovely freshness to this finishing flavour and it’s wide too. Delicious and with tons of potential.
Of course, harvested much earlier than 2016 – nearly a month earlier!
A narrower nose but has no less depth than the previous wines – a growing floral note, mirabelles too – ooh that’s super! Fresh, driving, energetic, a drag to the tannic texture. Perfumed in the mouth too, intense, almost vibrant finishing flavour – great, approachable wine that you can as long as you like. Bravo – more intensity of finish than the 2016!
2018 Clos des Issarts
This was bottled in March, Jérôme thinks it resembles the (sold out) 2015.
More colour. A fuller nose, deep like the previous wines, clutching its complexity closer to its chest but there is plenty of young fruit to keep you occupied. Lovely freshness to the attack – open wine but with a blend of transparency and growing intensity – I like this combination of freshness and intensity. The finish is as much about width as length, here with a modest suggestion of barrel. This is super again.