At the top of the village square in Morey-Saint-Denis and set into the stone wall of one of the domaine’s outbuildings is a grandiose marble and stone advertisement for the Clos de Tart.
Save for a sliver of Bonnes-Mares, the Clos de Tart is the most southerly of the 5 Morey Saint Denis grand crus – only a stone’s throw from Chambolle-Musigny. The other three grand crus of Morey being the Clos de la Roche, the Clos Saint Denis and, abutting the Clos de Tart, the Clos des Lambrays.
A little history
Despite a recorded history from 1141 – when it was called the climat of ‘La Forge’ – this monopole vineyard has enjoyed only three owner/exploiters. The history starts with 650 years of ecclesiastical ownership; it was Cistercian nuns of the wonderfully named order of ‘Notre Dame de Tart’ from the town of Genlis (east of Dijon) who assembled the Clos, before eventually losing it to the revolutionary government.
The Clos was subsequently purchased by part of the Marey-Monge dynasty. These owners didn’t dirty their own hands in the vineyards, so the exploitation of the vines was done on their behalf by the Beaune négociant – Maison Champy. In 1932, and during the world-wide depression, Mme. Guillemette Marey-Monge de Blic, after close to 150 years of ownership, sold to the Mommessin family of Mâcon – négociants and Beaujolais producers – the third owners. Mommessin is still the name on the label, though their distribution/négoce company was acquired by the Boisset conglomerate in 1997, Mommessin did, however, retain ownership of the Clos de Tart, and Boisset ten years of continued distribution of the Clos de Tart. “We sold our négociant business so we could care for this jewel,” said Philippe Bardet who’s grandfather it was who actually bought the Domaine.
From 1991, Guy Accad was Mommessin’s man in charge but it was a relatively short tenure, in 1996 it was Sylvain Pitiot who became the new face of the domaine. Sylvain originally trained as a surveyor but switched to wine-making after a season with Domaine Jacques Prieur in Meursault – where he met his wife Valerie Poupon. Before he moved to the Clos de Tart he racked up 13 years with the Hospices de Beaune, at the same time teaching at Beaune’s Lycée Viticole. As regisseur of the Clos de Tart it wasn’t just the vineyard work that Sylvain tackled head-on; the buildings were also, part-by-part, renewed. The next important project will be the renewal and reassembly of the clos walls – a long-term project.
in the vineyard
The clos covers just over 7.5 hectares – from around 270 metres (above sea level) at the limit of the village, moving up to an adjoining plot of Morey ‘villages’ vines, set at about 300 metres – no intermediate 1er cru here. It is a true ‘clos’, being completely within an old wall. The ground is stony with a limestone base, the clay content of the vineyard (not surprisingly) increases as you go lower down the slope – the colour of the ground is much lighter higher up. It’s quite steep in the top third of the vineyard – close to 20% incline, less so lower down. Unlike the neighbouring vineyards, the vines are planted in a north-south direction, this orientation is great for retarding the erosion that piles the soil at the bottom of the slope, but requires a modification to the tractor – otherwise it might tip over. The north-south planting provides sun to one side of the vines in the morning and the other side in the afternoon and often results in very ripe grapes. One small part of Bonnes-Mares was actually re-classified as Clos de Tart at the time of the AOC implementation – being as it was within the wall around the vineyard, this is the cadastre n°64 plot covering 0.278 hectares in the south of Clos de Tart. The rest of clos (and it’s a real, 1.2 km wall) can be found in the cadastre n°60 covering 7.255 hectares.
Today’s vineyard maintenance is described as ‘traditional’ and virtually organic – treatments against mildew being the main exception – Sylvain is not yet ready for biodynamic. The vines average ~50 years old, partially helping to keep yields low, though, in the main, this is achieved by pruning to only 5-6 buds to come to the target yield of ~30 hectolitres per hectare. The harvest is split into 6-8 cuvées, fully triaged then ~90% de-stemmed before macerating for 3 weeks. Pneumatic pressing then gravity feeding into 100% new oak barrels for ~18 months of elevage. Subtle chaptalisation is practiced here but even in vintages such as 2000 or 2003 Sylvain will not acidulate as he feels something is lost. The best cuvées are assembled (typically in 10 barrel lots) for bottling; fining and filtration are rarely necessary for an annual production of about 20,000 bottles. The cuvées not selected for the ‘grand vin’ – the quantity is different every vintage, but usually includes the grapes from vines below 25 years-old – are bottled as Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru ‘La Forge’ – in some vintages there is no La Forge. Not all markets see the second wine – typically just a little in the US and Japan, the rest for France.
The style today is often bold, concentrated and ripe – hardly understated – yet the 2004 is a model of sublime concentration and understatement. During the period of ownership by the Marey-Monge family, both the 1860 classification by Lavalle and the 1892 list of Danguy & Aubertin had the Clos de Tart as the only ‘Tête de Cuvée’ of Morey – rated above all others – including all the grand crus of today, it is interesting then that Morey decided to append the name of the Clos St.Denis to it’s own – Morey St.Denis.
Sylvain Pitiot acknowledges that the style of Clos de Tart has consciously been ‘modified’ since 1996. Their aim being to show greater ripeness and more intensity, even maybe at the risk of losing some of the silky aspect that the cru can deliver. This change apparently reflects the preferences of consumers rather than the influence of any of the ‘named critics’ – Sylvain points out that the number of people prepared to wait 15 years to drink their wine is becoming an ever smaller number, and in some major markets, there are no cellars…
2004 Mommessin, Clos de Tart Grand Cru
A wide, creamy and interesting nose. Versus ‘La Forge’ this is much silkier and has so many more facets – more intense and certainly more complex. Lovely, lingering finish. My style of wine – super.
2003 Mommessin, Clos de Tart Grand Cru
Deep colour. Thick and heavy nose of coffee edged sweet plum and herbs. Tasting provides an unctuous, and sweet mix that avoids being ponderous because there’s just so much of everything. Elegant it isn’t, but this is so jam-packed with material that you have to be impressed. Give it 15 years in the cellar and see what develops.
Link to comparitive tasting of Clos de Tart and Clos des Lambrays.
Clos de Tart
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