Profile: Maison Camille Giroud (Beaune)

Update 15.4.2010(4.7.2004)billn

UPDATE: November 2004

Maison Camille Giroud was founded in 1865 by the man of that name.

Succeded by his son Lucien a reputation was built on wines that aged for years and years. The sons of Lucien; Bernard and Francois perpetuated this tradition, mainly buying in wines after their malolactics had finished, keeping them in cask for 18-36 months and following up with a further 3 to 4 years in bottle prior to release – but only if they were ready! There is another domaine in Gevrey (Bourrée) that still works in this way, otherwise only Robert Ampeau in Meursault came close to a similar business model.

Obviously for many, many years this was a successful way to do business, however, the last ten years were not kind to a company that tied up cash in Bourgogne Rouge for ten years prior to release! At the business’ peak well over 100,000 bottles per year went into the cellars – the problem was that not enough left – this precipitated difficulties both for the business and between the brothers. In the end Bernard and Francois decided to sell. Unusually the purchasers were from ‘another place’: a consortium including Ann Colgin and husband Joe Wender were named as the new owners in January 2002.

The well-known Beaune merchant Becky Wasserman of ‘Le Serbet’ was named as managing director – for full disclosure please note that I’ve enjoyed many a coffee with Becky and her team. Becky currently juggles the two roles and the two offices 10 minutes apart.

The New Broom

Since January 2002 the process of updating has slowly been taking place. Most of the old barrels have been made redundant, the place is generally cleaned up and the cellar has been assessed for retaining or disposing of stocks. This stock is a considerable legacy of the Giroud years, close to 300,000 bottles going back as far as 1937 – 400 different wines – it’s nice when you’re in the cellars to see the old bottles looking down on the young wines in barrel. From the outside, the premises of Maison Camille Giroud give no hint to the size of the operation, the place is a maze of room after room and cellar after cellar. Today the turnover is much reduced as the business finds a new footing, the 2003 vintage will see a production of around 40,000 bottles though this does in-part reflect the quality of the raw materials offered in 2003.

Becky feels her biggest asset at Giroud is her winemaker/technical director David Croix. Despite his ‘tender’ years, David confidently walks around Giroud and talks about the wines and his winemaking like he’s being doing it for many, many years – yet he’s only 24. Giroud was his first full-time position in 2001. While training David had experience at a number of domaines prior to Giroud, most influential was the time he spent with Ben Leroux at Clos des Epeneaux. He admits to being a little frustrated by some of the practices in his first months at Giroud but, of course, this all changed in January 2002.

The first vintage released by ‘New Giroud’ was 2001, these were pretty much all purchased in barrel after their malolactics – not 100% of the wine was bought in though as the Giroud brothers owned some 1er Cru vineyard in Beaune – whilst this land was not included in the sale the current Giroud team retain a contract for the produce. The first vintage actually to be vinified by the new team is 2002 – the majority of which were already in bottle at the time of my visit. In 2002 very little finished wine was purchased, mainly grapes and must – 20 reds and 8 whites. Likewise the 2003 vintage followed the same route, grapes and must – 21 reds and 3 whites – fewer whites as it was harder to obtain good chardonnay in 2003.

the winemaking

The grapes are 100% destemmed (though there could be some future experimentation with the right raw materials) and crushed by a hand-operated pre-1920’s wooden press that offers very fine adjustment. David likes his old press very much and thinks it a little gentler than pneumatic versions. It’s not easy to see much difference in the recent ripe tannin vintages, but the difference could be more marked with this press in a cooler vintage. Whilst there’s plenty of stainless steel to be seen on the ground floor this is mainly for assemblage, David prefers to work with wooden tanks for fermenting.

There is no set formula to David’s winemaking, the raw materials and taste of the grapes determine the method; 2003 for instance was a vintage that retained most of the lees to guard against oxidation (no worries about the cleanliness of the lees in 2003) with first racking in the early summer. Initially David expected that he might have to be quite gentle with the 2003 fruit, but once in the winery decided it could easily cope with 3 punchdowns per day for fuller extraction.

the wines

No more will you find the ‘old-style’ Giroud wines. Old reports I checked talked about finding gems in the Giroud cellars, but reading between the lines it was apparent that not every bottle met this standard, hence, the disposal of many wines by the new team. Based on the bottled 2001 & 2002’s plus the 2003 barrel samples that I tasted, the quality of winemaking is consistent and very much in the modern, quality-oriented genre. By that I mean respecting what the vintage offers by vinifying to suit the raw material, sympathetic oak treatment, little racking (so better to decant young wines) and each cuvée tastes different – there’s even a very tasty Maranges! The 2002 and 2003 are very fruit-forward, but reflect their vintages – David sees perhaps his primary role as getting the best grape contracts and working with the vignerons in the most bio way. So summarising, expect clean, fruit-forward wines from their 2002’s. Should be a good source once distribution is organised – though I’m sure they won’t turn down your unsolicited 10 case orders! Initially Becky’s company Le Serbet will distribute wines to a few markets until Giroud’s own team make their own arrangements.

2002 Bourgogne Hautes Côte de Beaune
From 40-50 year old vines. Medium, medium-plus cherry red colour. On the nose it’s pure red cherry with hint of mint. Friendly and approachable with ripe, slightly spicy fruit, nice acidity and good length. Ready now!
2002 Beaune
This villages is made from bought-in grapes from a single biodynamic plot just off the Route des Vignes close to the Pommard border. Medium-plus colour. The nose mixes ripe red and black fruits and maybe a hint of orange too. Very silky, fat texture – once more with a little spice – that really opens up in the mouth, or maybe explodes is a better word! There’s some earthyness and a slight dryness on the finish. No new oak used for this. Bottled in April but it’s just so high-spirited that it could easily be enjoyed now, but there’s no need to rush…
2002 Beaune 1er, Les Avaux
This is a vineyard with deep soil and one of the Giroud family vineyards that are now rented by ‘new Giroud’. Medium cherry red colour. The sweet nose is much higher toned than the previous wine, mixing kirsch, floral aromas and sugared fruits. The palate has fat and a primary red cherry fruit. Velvetty tannin and good acidity. An extra dimension on the finish here – once more with a slight dryness. This is a very nice wine.
2002 Maranges 1er, La Croix aux Moines
From the commune of Dezize-lès-Maranges. Medium-plus cherry red. The nose is a little subdued (what wouldn’t be after the last two) but shows sweet red fruit notes. On the palate there’s not the fat the Les Avaux and there’s a little more grain to the tannins. Still, this has nice ripe fruit, freshness and good length avoiding the rustic tag by a fair margin. A nice wine that I expect will be very good value.
2002 Volnay 1er, Les Carelles
Medium colour. Subdued but high-toned floral nose that also mixes sweet red fruits. Surprisingly the fruit on the palate is much more linear and narrow than the Maranges, but it’s a concentrated core of fruit that shows a nice creamy edge and very good length. More backward than the Maranges, but I think this should be excellent.Giroud were quite lucky to pick up a contract from one grower for some Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin. These wines were bought already in barrel, indeed on purchase David was a little concerned that the oak would overly mark the wines so immediately racked into other barrels. They’d just been racked and a little sulfur added for bottling when I visited, so no formal notes. The Chambertin whilst concentrated wasn’t playing, but the Latricières caught my eye and certainly wasn’t marked by the initial barrel.2001 Vosne-Romanée 1er, Les Malconsorts
This bottle was very cold and took some time to come round. Medium-plus colour. The nose is understated, a little spice, but takes a while for creamy red fruit to come through. The concentrated palate has fine, silky tannins and a spicy complexion to the fruit. This is a super Vosne, but is it a good Malconsorts? Revisiting an hour or so later, the nose is a little more forward with an additional black-fruit dimension. The palate remains concentrated and a little one dimensional. Certainly has the material and absolutely no hard edges, but will take some time to flower. Given the way the RSV (below) developed over longer time-frame I’d certainly expect good things.
2001 Romanée Saint-Vivant
Medium, medium-plus colour. Again like the Malconsorts a very cold bottle that also takes some time to come round. The nose whilst reticent starts with a little oak that slowly fades to reveal a classic, slightly floral RSV of many dimensions. Warm it in the mouth and you start to see a little action, tightly wound concentration and beautifully covered structure. This was a wine that continued to improve over a long period of time. Another wine to wait for, but it will surely be excellent.

Maison Camille Giroud
3 Rue Pierre Joigneaux
BP 111, 21203 Beaune Cedex
tel: +33 3 80 22 12 65
fax: +33 3 80 22 42 84

UPDATE November 2004

Only a short update after tasting a couple of older Giroud wines. A 1989 Pommard showed exactly what I might have expected from the old elevage routine; a nice enough wine, but with a palate that gives more than a passing nod to Italian wines that spend a lot of time in wood. I wouldn’t have picked it as Burgundian. Then as my own prejudice against the ‘old ways’ was gelling we had a 1988 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Beaumonts – what can I say – gorgeous in almost every way with a beautiful mid-palate. Better than 95% of all wines from the apellation – it’s a funny old world…

UPDATE November 2007

Barrel tasting of 2006’s – plus a few others…

2006 Camille Giroud Bourgogne
Old-vines located in Meursault with a dash of Beaune villages. Medium cherry-red colour. The nose is wide if not so deep – mainly understated red berry notes. Nicely ‘tense’ as it’s not too ripe, starting narrow but widening on the palate – for it’s level and price this good, though I sense it’s not giving it’s best today.

2006 Savigny 1er Les Peuillets
Medium colour. The nose is showing a little faint reduction but behind that it’s wide complex and very, very pretty. This wine also opens wider and wider on the palate, but this time with much more intensity and a sneaky length – this is a lovely Savigny.

2006 Camille Giroud Beaune 1er Cent Vignes
Deeper colour – to match the darker fruit on the nose – swirling slowly coaxes a finer, redder complexion. Dense with quite some concentration. The tannin shows only a mild grain. It’s a linear and tight showing with much less in the way of instant gratification versus the previous Savigny. There is good length with a bitter-chocolate dimension. A serious wine that will require a little cellar time.

2006 Camille Giroud, Beaune 1er Cras
A little reduced. Deep, somehow concentrated notes. The palate also seems concentrated and just a little livelier in the mouth – acidity combines with minerality – this is also a little tight. Again the nose is eventually giving up some redder aspects. Overall, concentrated, tight and very mineral.

2006 Camille Giroud Beaune 1er Les Avaux
The nose starts wide, red and just a little diffuse – improving with time and even taking on a floral aspect. The palate is quite open and complex – there’s plenty going on – some minerality again and it holds a very good length.

2006 Camille Giroud, Maranges 1er Le Croix aux Moines
Hmm, a Maranges after a beaune – let’s see. The nose shows a little diffuse but there are some fine red notes eventually showing up and eventually a little darker berry. The tannins have more ‘grab’ to them but they are not disorderly. Clean and interesting, though perhaps not better than the Beaunes.

2006 Camille Giroud, Volnay 1er Taillepieds
A wide, interesting and fine nose. The palate shows an understated entry but some width on the mid-palate. Plenty of grain to the forward-showing tannin but this will fade. Apart from the tannin, there’s less impact than the Beaunes but the trade-off is a little more complexity.

2006 Camille Giroud, Corton Chaumes
50% stems – the grapes and stems were very clean from this parcel in 2006. Medium colour. The stems are only a minor component of the aromatics; supple red fruit, fragrant and quite complex – quite super. The palate is also supple and relatively elegant – certainly no powerhouse – but there’s good length and some currently diffuse complexity to the mid-palate. Lovely aromatics and a wine to cuddle-up-to, it just needs the mid-palate to come into better focus to improve from excellent to fantastic!

2006 Camille Giroud, Corton Rognets
Here the nose is tight and darker shaded. In the mouth it’s fuller and more powerful without any hint of the unruly. The length is very understated but lingering. This wine is well put together and very well balanced but today is showing little individuality.

2006 Camille Giroud, Corton Clos du Roi
A deep nose that shows some slight reduction and a little earth but slowly becomes finer. Power and depth on the palate – very impressive – quite some dimension and personality here. Again – like many of these – an understated but impressive length. Overall, cleary the best of these Cortons even if the Chaumes offers the best aromatics.

2006 Camille Giroud, Vosne-Romanée
From a mix of 25 and 35 year-old vines. Dark fruit on a nose that brings a wide-open panorama. In the mouth it’s tasty and shows plenty of boisterous personality – grainy tannins and good, balanced acidity. The finish comes with a punch and holds quite well. Very nice – there will be a lot of fun in this bottle.

2006 Camille Giroud, Charmes-Chambertin
The nose is soft and wide with well-defined red fruit and a hint of caramel. The palate is equally wide, concentrated and rather ‘comely’. Sneaky length but comes across as a little ‘too easy’ today – it’s primary, but not hinting of more right now.

2006 Camille Giroud, Chapelle-Chambertin
Lovely colour here. The interesting nose is not so deep but offers plenty of width. In the mouth there’s plenty of punch and a slight ‘tacky’ grab to the tannins – there’s also an excellent length. I’m often underwhelmed by ‘Chapelle’ but here’s one I would buy without hesitation as it’s full of balance, dimension and personality.

2006 Camille Giroud, Latricières-Chambertin
The nose is round and primary-red with good depth. Good power and shows an excellent extra dimension in the mid-palate. There’s plenty of tannin and a long mineral-laden finish. I could still taste this after a couple of minutes – another to buy without question.

2006 Camille Giroud, Chambertin
An understated but layered nose. Lots of tannin is my first impression, my second is the explosion in the mid-palate – the only wine here that achieves that – mouthwatering in the finish too. There’s still plenty of ‘barrel’ to be seen on that finish, but this should fade. This wine will obviously require more patience but seems very well equiped for the job.

2004 Camille Giroud, Chambertin
It’s a Wide, fresh and complex red-berry nose – no cedar but plenty of detail. Nice mouthfeel and some understated power. The length and balance are excellent – much more understated and lacking the ‘punch’ of the 2006. Overall, excellent aromatics and a almost good (for Chambertin!) performance in the mouth.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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