Clos des Cortons Faiveley, Monopole – A Vineyard Profile

Update 30.9.2021(17.9.2021)billn

The northern wall of the Clos des Cortons Faiveley above the village of Ladoix
The northern wall of the Clos des Cortons Faiveley above the village of Ladoix, May 2021.

Pierre Faiveley founded Maison Joseph Faiveley in 1825 – Joseph was the name of his 2-year-old son at the time. Pierre piloted the company for over 50 years and his last major purchase of vines came on the 3rd March 1874 on the hill of Corton. The purchase was for over 3 hectares of vines, high on the hill in the commune of Ladoix, called at the time the Clos des Cortons.

This was a real ‘Clos’ and most of the walls are still in evidence today (see the image above) and it was a monopoly too. Outside of Faiveley’s Mercureys, this is the second-largest parcel that Faiveley own in the Côte d’Or after their 4-hectare slice of Gevrey’s 1er cru Cazetiers, and certainly their largest grand cru parcel.

The seller of the vines was the Geisweiler family – who for a long time were large owners of vines in the Côte d’Or and were established as a négociant by François Geisweiler in Nuits St.Georges in *1804, some 20 years before the foundation of Faiveley. The Geisweiler label still exists today as a sub-brand of the Picard family company of Chassagne-Montrachet.

Clos des Cortons Faiveley 2021Whilst Faiveley bought and have the properly documented legal provenance of the name of the Clos des Cortons, this brought them into a dispute with the, then, and still today, largest owners of vines on the hill of Corton – the Latour family. The argument of the Latours was simple – ‘There is more than one Clos on the hill of Corton, so for the Faiveley family to a) use the name and b) to claim a ‘Corton Monopoly’ would be unacceptable.‘ This came to a head during the establishment of the AOC in the 1930s – and Jean Latour was the head of the AOC committee for Corton! The legal road was long and complicated and with multiple appeals. The Latour team were certainly very happy that the eventual result sided with them but almost certainly less happy that the ruling opened the door for the Faiveley family to append their name to the AOC/climat to properly identify and add precision to the actual climate and resulting wine. In doing so, the Clos became only the second grand cru to bear the name of its owner – of course, Romanée-Conti being the other. Faiveley’s technical director smiles as he says “So, if we sell the vines to Jadot, they still have to label it Clos des Cortons Faiveley – if they use the climate name!
Above, right. Clos des Cortons Faiveley – 2021 harvest – picture from the domaine.

*François-Adolphe Geisweiler (b.1781), started his Maison du Vin in Nuits St.Georges in 1804, when he was just 23-years-old. He was succeeded in the family business by his son Pierre in 1813. In the late 1800s, Geisweiler was a major supplier of the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits, supplying burgundy wine for the Orient Express trains. The domaine was not just the owner of the ‘Clos des Cortons’ but also the majority owner of Nuits St.Georges Clos des Corvées – the 1er cru in Premeaux that is owned today by Domaine Prieuré-Roch. The Clos des Cortons was sold to Faiveley just a few years before the death of François-Adolphe. The Geisweiler brand was bought by the Picard family of Chassagne in the 1990s and you can still find wines with this label today.

The vineyard…

As noted this large, just over 3 hectare, parcel of vines is sited high on the hill of Corton above the village of Ladoix with a view to the north of the cliffs of the quarry at the limit of Ladoix. The vines start about the mid-slope and then extend all the way to the forest above in the larger climat that you may better know as Le Rognet et Corton. This is far from a homogenous block of vines, rather it is bisected by pathways, steps into higher parts, and has walls, rocks and woodland for borders. Faiveley’s vineyard was originally planted only with pinot noir but today there three parcels of chardonnay planted here too – mainly the higher part near the woods – which like the rest is directly east-facing. “The Clos des Cortons Faiveley is an area matures well,” says Jérôme, “But to make a good Corton from here you need rain too – particularly in July. The high part and the middle are harvested together the lower part a couple of days later as there’s usually a little more fruit in the lower part, so takes longer to mature. Sometimes the parts are vinified separately, other times together.

The soil has a different colour in the areas planted to white – marne blanches over limestone – though one of the three parcels is redder in colour. There’s much more iron and so a redder soil in the part planted with pinot. The sections planted to red have shallower soil so the roots hit the mother-rock much sooner – the soil in the higher white part can, counterintuitively, be as much as 3 metres deep. The white from the higher part could also be called Clos des Cortons Faiveley but the domaine prefer to use these new parcels to augment their well-known cuvée of Corton-Charlemagne. “The parcels are blended,” says Jérôme, “There’s richness in the Clos but still the minerality – they blend well together with the freshness of the higher parts – saline and cool.

There are old vines in here too: Some of the chardonnay may have been planted just 2 years ago and in 2013 but the oldest pinot vines date from 1936, 65, 67, 71 and 81 plus a small corner from 2002.

The wines…

There’s been a formidable consistency of achievement for this cuvée in recent years; there’s richness but also enviable complexity wrapped in the mineral style, the tension, that is so recognisably Corton and that you don’t find in the grand crus of the Côte de Nuits. A complex wine despite being completely destemmed, one with a spatial character – as opposed to one-dimensional. The change of winemaking style in 2007, of course, may have some impact on the longevity of the wine but the average lifespan of the buyer will reveal little in this respect, rather the greatest change is that this is a wine that can now be drunk young too. This is a great Corton and even an approachable one, today.

Today the wines evolve quite quickly for 4-5 years but then plateau,” says Jérôme, so particularly with the maturity in recent vintages, he prefers to start with older wines in a vertical tasting such as this one – so that’s what we did. Only the oldest wine was reserved until the end as this came from the pre-Jérôme and Erwan era. Before I start with the notes it’s worth reflecting on the differences between those wine-making eras:

Today there is a gentler pressing of this primary material. Erwan Faiveley’s father, François, tended to be a later harvester in the Clos and liked to extract plenty of material from those grapes too. This resulted in tannic wines that usually lacked charm in their youth – indeed they were often rather brutal – they aged brilliantly but you could expect a certain amount of pain if approaching them younger. My 1999s were completely undrinkable in their first dozen years after release – I’m still not planning to open my next bottle before its 25th anniversary. The 1998, by comparison, is drinking surprisingly well, even from magnum.

The winemaking pre-2007 was not just about later harvesting and more pronounced extraction, there was the question of the choice of barrels too – the current team suggesting that previous choices delivered extra tannins, green tannins, into the wines. Since 2007 the production of the Clos has seen just François Frères barrels, roughly half of which are new. Jérôme believes there is much more finesse and purity to the fruit today by virtue of harvesting earlier than the previous generation at the domaine – often earlier than their neighbours too – but Jérôme says “Not early per-se, rather what we determine to be the optimum time.

Tasted in Nuits St.Georges with Jérôme Flous and Eve Faiveley:

Medium colour, a little bricking. Ooh, that’s open; iron, comfort and sweetness. Round, a supple character but there’s a bubbling minerality at the base of these flavours too. Rather a perfumed wine and so broad in the finish. This is drinking beautifully today – but there’s no rush… The floral character is atypical – we are definitely not in Chambolle!

Harvested 14 September. ‘200mm of rain in July – that’s the key here. We had to go and we were virtually the only people in the vines at this early harvest date.’
More depth of colour, less brown too. A nice freshness but also a little higher intensity of dried leaves, mocha, almost tobacco. Vibrant, a fine intensity here, that tannin is grainless but versus the 2007, still shows a hint of dryness – this is still a baby but a very approachable one – not quite strict finishing but there’s a caress of dryness from the tannin. Close to a complete wine…

Harvested 22 September.
A depth of colour that resembles the 2009. Less width but more depth – a clean freshness that is quite exciting. Extra freshness in the mouth – with energy too. Mouth-filling, beautiful acidity – for me this is a greater wine than the 2009 – it has finesse it has complexity it has a great ‘drink me’ invitation and a tannin that you will only find if go searching for it – together with a little white mushroom in the finish – if the last wine was ‘close’ then this is, without doubt, a completely great wine!
Harvested 02 October
Lots of colour here – almost a younger colour. A nose that’s large – waxy – not just the impression of texture, but also the smell of beeswax – becoming more and more floral too – a deep fragrance – not high-toned to start but becoming more and more so. Extra freshness – above that of the 2010 – lots of acidity a very faint tannin, practically grainless, there’s tension but also a little tightness. Potential to be a great wine if it relaxes and opens on the palate – the nose is already that of a great wine…

Harvested 15 September. ‘We harvested early mainly because of Suzuki but we had a spring that was more like a summer, and a summer more like the spring’
Plenty of colour again. A smaller touch of the beeswax – a nose that both broad and fresh – quite saline in the depth, accented with some fine herb too. Mouth-filling – a wine of tension and energy – quite silky – the tannin more present but bound with the young minerality – the wine that’s the most Corton today of this selection the middle and finish, showing a modest austerity – fresh, lip-smacking finishing. Whilst I would happily drink this today, it is the wine the most for keeping so far…

Now we enter the world of Clos des Cortons Faiveley 2.0 – a different world with lower yields, higher maturities – “But that’s the climate not us!” says Jérôme:

Harvested 04 September. ‘This was a tannic wine to start – it’s a cousin of 2005 which was rather tight after bottling’
Plenty of, still young-looking colour. The beeswax nose – three in a row, here with a growing vibrancy of red fruit. Depth of flavour but also a super fresh energy – there’s no lack of acidity here – mineral and very, very long. Not really a wine of austerity though a strictness tempers the width of finishing flavour – but clearly not the length. I find it very sophisticated in shape but a little simple today in the flavours vs the other wines – but it’s clearly still a baby.

Harvested 25 September.
Fresh, young colour here. A fresh and vibrant young nose too – there’s acidity and an almost agrume, blood-orange, aroma – very slowly adding a floral frame above and a little graphite below. A simply superb young nose. Ooh – a freshness that reminds me of the 2013/2014 but with more sophistication of texture. Long, mineral/graphite finishing – drinkable but so, so young… that’s a great wine, just so long…

Harvested 07 September. ‘The vintage for restauranteurs who are impatient to open a Corton’
A little less intensity of colour but there’s still plenty of young colour. I didn’t find the beeswax aroma in the 2016 but here it makes a return – the nose starts tighter than the others but slowly grows and grows. Extra mouth-filling. I love the freshness, the frankness, the generosity – the fruit dominating the structure – but the latter is properly present. The first wine where the oak is still present in the finishing flavours – accessible, deliciously tasty wine – but correct Corton too…

Harvested 28 August.
There’s certainly more colour here than in the 2017. There’s the beeswax, there’s some floral accents but here is still the very faintly toasted, barrel too. Large-scaled wine in the mouth – complex, fresh, more complexity again, then a slowly growing tannin – far, far from austere yet still Corton. So mouth-watering, the finish tightens quickly but stays long, long in view – more mineral mouthing… Baby wine but potentially great wine too.
Harvested 10 September. This in bottle 2 months…
Extra-open, extra-wide, this nose is almost spiced – but that’s probably part of the still present barrel notes – but a little growing floral – rose note – but not of stems. Ooh – that’s special over the palate – yes there’s fineness of tannin but here is a palette of flavour that floods the senses and fills every available space. A wine with a presence on the palate – and you could easily drink it today – only the finish still has some oak bitters – but they will largely be gone in 12 months.

Always destemmed and recent years always with 50% new oak and 50% one-year-old oak

Plenty of colour here – some modest browning at the rim. A caramel brownness frames the fruit – a faint pineapple ripeness, almost aniseed, eventually licorice too – super complexity here. This still strict in the mouth but with fresh energy too. A grain of tannin, an old but still energetic Corton – like a 60-year-old on his bicycle who overtakes you doing 60 kph! – I’m shocked by how good but still probably a bit too young this wine is. Risotto with ceps – together I would devour this! I still have plenty of 95s at home – this resembles them but very often they have a faint brett – here I’m waiting for it too – but it never arrives. A strict pleasure.

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