Louis Max was established in 1859, in Beaune. The move to Nuits St.Georges came only about thirty years ago when they purchased the very impressive winery of the former Maison Chauvenet. The domaine which contributed the vines in Mercurey was bought at a similar time. The office/winery building is a beauty to behold – end of the 19th century Art Nouveau design and seemingly everything remains in original condition – from the wood paneling of the offices and the Premeaux marble main staircase to the compact but magnificent tasting room.
In 2007 the Geneva-based owner (a long-time investor before taking control) brought-in Philippe Bardet to run the business – I have previously met Philippe when he represented his family (Mommessin) by pouring a few glasses of Clos de Tart.
The produce of Maison Louis Max is a mix of both domaine and négoce wines, the latter being produced only from ‘bought-in’ grapes – the exception is a large slug of Bourgogne and Macon/Pouilly-Fuissé which is bought in bulk. The ‘domaine’ vines are dominated by both red white Mercurey – despite the Nuits St.Georges location – and here, even the white Mercurey has its elevage in barrel. There is more red wine than white in the barrels, but taking into account those bulk purchases, white wine is in the ascendant. “We will have thirty cuvées in 2011” says Philippe, “and our portfolio will continue to evolve.” Since 2008 they started an ‘organic’ regime for their own vines, and became certified Organic grape producers in 2011. One of the domaine’s Mercurey vineyards (Clos la Marche) is even ploughed by a horse today.
The cellars are completely in context with the rest of the building; massively constructed, seemingly specified beyond the basic requirements of any cuverie – even the handrails of the stairs look like they could support the roof – yet Philippe mentions “Our cellars are not for show. We currently vinify about 1,000 barrels, but have the space for 3,000!” The lowest level of the cellar provides the space for bottle storage. Massively constructed or not, this producer’s assembly tanks and modern bottling line are located in a new building on the outskirts of Nuits St.Georges.
Starting with the whites, we already know that (the bulk purchases excepted) all the wines are raised in barrel – but before that, the grapes are pressed, cooled and left to settle overnight before filling those barrels. There is battonage, but Philippe mentions that there is less and less each year:
“I prefer a wine with freshness, and would say that most villages wines can be drunk within three years”.
As for the reds:
“We have no one style. We mainly destem, but this can change as we slowly learn more about our raw materials. Overall I would say that I’m looking for ‘charm’ in a wine, rather than ‘force’, and let’s not forget that we don’t need to worry about space when it comes to giving a full 12 months of elevage…!”
Tasted 11th May 2012 in Nuits St.Georges. 90% of the 2010s were already bottled.
We started with a tour of selected 2011 barrels, before looking (mainly) at a selection of 2010s from bottle. I have to say that this seems a great source of bottles – but perhaps more consistent in red, and offering really great value when you consider the Mercureys…
2011 Mercurey Les Rochelles (Blanc) East, south-east facing from steep slopes; here is a lovely depth of aroma, fresh but with a base of fruit too. 2011 Mercurey Les Caudroyes (Blanc) from more chalky ground with less soil, clearly shows more tension and density – very impressive. The 2011 Meursault is a the product of two grower’s grapes and shows wide, very Meursault aromas, whereas the 2011 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Morgeot is more about complexity of aroma – it’s lovely. Next we move to the reds and what an ebullient start from the 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, ‘Clos de La Perièrre’; sourced from near Chassagne, whose pretty pinot aromas leap from the glass. Then comes the 2011 Mercurey Clos la Marche, a monopole of the domaine that seems less intense than the Bourgogne, yet offers a direct and pleasurable experience. The 2011 Nuits St.Georges marks an real step-up in density. It’s the product of three vigneron’s work, some of the vines actually bordering Louis Max’s cuverie. The nose offers depth of dark fruit ringed with violets. Another jump in concentration comes with the 2011 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Damodes – delivered by a single vigneron. Here the aromas have a wonderful depth and freshness, the palate seemingly open and lovely. The 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin is deep, dark and chocolatey and this barrel shows a little oak – but plenty of potential lies here. 2011 Gevrey 1er Clos Prieur is the product of vines directly below Mazis and shows powerful and deep aromas but too much CO2 to say much of the flavours. We finish this tour with 2011 Charmes-Chambertin, a wine that shows both aromatic depth and layers of notes. The entry is rather narrow but the flavour profile grows and grows …
The soapily clean nose is characteristic of the vintage. Full, round and concentrated. There’s plenty of length here and a hint of caramel flavour too – impressive stuff, but maybe it would benefit from a hint more acidity?
The aromas are smoother and almost creamy. Full concentration with better freshness than the Morgeot – an impressively long line of mineral flavour in a bottle!
Here is a depth of aroma. A wide vista of flavour and very good length. I like my Porusot a bit more incisive but this drinks very well indeed.
Only in bottle for 1 month. The vines are located high in ‘En Charlemagne’ (Aloxe). Soapily clean again – plenty of aromatic interest. Here is more minerality – I really like the balance – it’s quite silky too, holding onto its flavour very well before slowly fading in the finish.
Made at only 30 hl/ha due to a combination of the tough weather conditions in Feb/March and their organic regime. The nose is deep and ‘sit up and be impressed’ impressive. The flavours are wide and ripe. Despite plenty of structure those flavours slowly leech from your gums. I’d say that the structure begs a year or two in the cellar, but it’s a very nice wine!
The seems a little developed for such a young wine, though to be fair it does improve in the glass. The creamy flavours are quite impressive, showing both width and length.
Five barrels, the produce of a single vigneron. The nose is rather tight, but the palate has width and a nicely cushioned intensity – it seems very good, likewise the finish.
It’s a very pretty, wide and floral-inflected nose. There’s decent structure from which the flavours grow and grow as your mouth waters – there’s even in little minerality in the mix. I kick myself for saying it, but rather charming…
Very deep colour. The nose is muscular and dark-shaded – no hard or sharp edges as young CV sometimes delivers. There’s clearly plenty of structure but there is very pretty fruit too – if you search! The finish is pure mineral and rather long too. Great balance – this is a very fine Clos de Vougeot!
Another Hospices wine to finish with – ‘authentic Hospices’ says Philippe, and ‘bottled by hand’. There’s a depth of dark red, faintly coconut edged fruit on the nose. Opulent, satin textured – there’s plenty of ripe tannin in the mid-palate – some licorice too. Very good length.
Maison Louis Max
6, rue de Chaux
Tel +33 (0)3 80 62 43 01
Fax +33 (0)3 80 62 43 16