Jean-Marie Fourrier walks from barrel to barrel telling me that he has almost nothing to do in his cellar as he lets the wines make themselves – all his work comes in the vineyards and prior to placing the wines in barrel. It sounds simple – deceptively simple – but there must be more to it that(?)
Jean-Marie gained experience not only at the family domaine but also with Henri Jayer and for a stint with Domaine Drouhin in Oregon too. He officially took over the wine-making at the 10Ha domaine for the 1995 vintage, but the actual changeover was in 1994, though due to onerous taxation on succession the whole of the 1994 vintage was sold off to the ‘Grand Négociants’ to provide the necessary cash for payment. Jean-Marie is the 5th generation of the family to run a domaine that was called ‘Domaine Fernand Pernot’ in the 1950s – Fernand Pernot was the great uncle of Jean-Claude Fourrier who joined the domaine in 1961 – the pair worked together for 20 years. After the death of Pernot the domaine was renamed Domaine Jean-Claude Fourrier until 1992 when Jean-Claude’s son and daughter – Jean-Marie and Isabelle – joined him, the domaine was simply re-christened Domaine Fourrier.
Coming back to Jean-Marie’s wine-making philosophy, everything comes from the vineyard, not just in terms of the work throughout the year, but at harvest too. To facilitate that, there is a strong emphasis on de-budding so as to avoid green-harvesting, no herbicides and the absolute minimum of spraying. It is certainly the vogue to spend time on strict selection at the ‘table de trie’ but Jean-Marie is not so sure, he would prefer to do his selection at the vine thus avoiding the possibility of oxidation whilst picking over the fruit back in the cuvèrie. Only the fruit of vines older than 30 years is retained by the domaine. Once that fruit is selected it is destemmed and 50% is crushed. Cold maceration in predominantly concrete tanks (with a ceramic paint coating) is in the order of 6 days with around 4 (automatic) punch-downs per day and no pumping over. By intention there are no opaque purple wines here, just the domaine’s stated aim “to put into the bottle, all the integrality and complexity of Pinot Noir”.
Once in the barrel, that’s pretty much it. The new oak percentage is just sufficient to replace old barrels – so around 20% if the barrels last for 5 vintages. There is no racking as Jean-Marie looks to retain his protecting carbon dioxide which means he needs no sulphur until bottling – long, slow malolactic fermentations are his wish. No fining or filtering is needed as the wines are naturally clear after 16-20 months without racking; actually the wines have around 6-700mg/L of dissolved CO2 at bottling which is (in theory) below the limit of taste but still more than double the average – this leaves the wine in quite a reduced state and perhaps a little dumb – Jean-Marie recommends decanting when the wines are young. There is a certain creaminess to the wines, so naturally I asked the question about old vines (most turn out to be very old), but Jean-Marie is of the opinion that the lack of racking allows some yeast autolysis products to show more and he thinks that these are partly responsible for the effect.
The wines of Domaine Fourrier (if you can get an allocation) are usually quite reasonably priced, this is an important factor for Jean-Marie as he hopes that a wide cross-section of people can enjoy a good bottle from time to time. I came to the domaine’s wines for the first time with the 1999 vintage and bought the village Gevrey-Chambertin Vieille Vignes, then some 2001 Griottes at the en-primeur stage. Frankly going through the 2002’s the Griottes and Clos St Jacques stand out – as to be expected – but you could choose wines by lottery without any shade of worry – definitely wines worth searching for.
As you look at a typical map of the Griotte-Chambertin vineyard, with Clos de la Bèze above and the Route Nationale 74 below, you will find the vines of SCEA Domaine Fourrier in the bottom right-hand corner. This corner parcel of vines was planted in 1928 and are significantly the oldest vines of the three largest owners. Typically the domaine yields ~35HL/ha. It was funny recounting my impression of ‘Griotte’ as an elegant woman in a red dress to Jean-Marie – he chose Kim Basinger doing a sexy dance whilst gradually losing that dress – and why? – well for him the finish should always be the best part of the wine experience !!!
The 2001 and 2000 were double decanted 1 hour before tasting at the superBOWL’03 on 11th October 2003.
This barrel sample showed a medium/medium-plus cherry red. The nose has deep, creamy red fruit. Fat and indeed voluptuous palate shows perfect acidity and gorgeous fruit. The luxurious tannins are just a little deeper than the Clos St.Jacques (below) though perhaps the CSJ has slightly better definition. Beautiful.
This is medium/medium-plus cherry red. Quite a high toned nose, slightly floral, but despite the double decanting comes across as a little closed. The palate is anything but; lovely depth to the fruit and super balance. I’m so pleased I bought some of these after an en-primeur tasting in January this year!
Medium cherry colour. Again a high toned, slightly floral nose complimenting a red cherry base. Tasted together with Drouhin’s and Chézeaux’s 2000, this wine is less obviously fat, but it seems that there is a slightly mineral expression. Very pure with just a trace of astringency to the tannin. A beautifully pure and balanced 2000.
Their other wines
Tasted from cask in Gevrey-Chambertin 12th September 2003:
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Morey St Denis Clos Solon
Solon was the name of the original vineyard owner. Here the vines are just over 40 years old. Medium cherry red. Lovely fresh and pure pinot nose. Supple palate is quite simple compared to many of the following but shows as both concentrated and friendly. Nice acidity pushed the finish a little longer.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Gruenchers
From 75 year old vines. Deeper cherry red colour. To-die-for deep red fruity nose. Fat with a lovely creamy depth. Superb balance – an absolutely first rate wine.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echézeaux
Also from 75 year old vines. Jean-Marie has decided to separate his two parcels (this abuts Mazoyères (Charmes) Chambertin) of village wine as he decided ‘why should only people who buy 1er or Grand Cru’s have the opportunity to see the difference of terrior?’. Medium-plus cherry red colour. The nose is more floral than the Chambolle, still with an undercurrent of red fruit. The acidity is just a little more tart, but the red fruit sings well, good length too.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes
These vines are only 73 years old! Medium cherry red. The nose is nice, not floral this time with more pronounced cherry. There’s a little spritz which together with the red and black fruit has an almost ‘sorbet effect’. Quite different to the ‘Aux Echézeaux’ Lovely.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Cherbaudes
Vines planted in 1940. Medium/medium-plus cherry red colour. There’s a trace of smoke on the nose and the fruit is more reticent than any other wine in the ‘cave’. Again some spritz but lovely fat, furry tannins on the teeth and a satisfying finish.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Goulots
Vines planted in 1966 – favourite year of the English. Medium cherry red colour. Creamy red fruit nose. Fresh, with intense red fruits – raspberry and cherry. Super balance with a creamy (again) finish.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Champeaux
Vines planted in 1919. Slightly deeper colour. The nose seems wider and more complex than the last wine. Again a little spritz, hard to judge but there’s super concentration with good acidity and tannins which seem a little grainy – but this could be the spritz.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Combe aux Moines
Vines planted in 1928. Medium-plus colour. The nose is a little more diffuse then the last (super) wine. The palate shows admirable depth and perfectly balanced acidity – again creamy fruit on the finish.
2002 Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Clos St Jacques
Vines planted in 1910. Medium/medium-plus colour. The concentrated nose instantly shouts ‘Grand Cru!’ – both depth and width to the fruit. Also there’s an obvious step up in terms of concentration on the palate – fat but still excellent balance – this wine is a real beauty.