Profile: Domaine Dufouleur Frères (Nuits)

Update 4.12.2012(28.11.2012)billn

This is a producer on the road to improvement – there are already good wines in the cellar, ones I’d happily drink – but for many reasons (mainly family ones) their improvements have, until now, remained incremental, but they are going in the right direction and that is to be applauded.

FX (or François-Xavier Dufouleur) is my host au Château in Nuits St.Georges. The Château is hard to miss, set at the corner by the traffic lights opposite the former Thomas-Moillard ‘Maison Mosaic’, an additional clue being the large painted sign on the wall that shouts ‘Dufouleur Frères’! The Château was purchased from the church in 1912 and at the time it was actually a girls’ school run by Belgian nuns.

Impressive as the buildings were, there were no winemaking cellars – and so it remains today, despite over the years the occasional plan to construct something. The wines are aged and bottled in Dufouleur’s cellars by the Rue de Chaux in Nuits, near those of Faiveley – though the fermentations are done at the Château (where they have cooling water etc.), before the wines are moved to the main cellar. Dufouleur’s cellars are in keeping with others in this road – they are quite cavernous inside.

How many Dufouleurs?

Dufouleur is a common name in Nuits St.Georges – and (not surprisingly) they are all related: The original family firm was S. Dufouleur (founded 1848) which became Dufouleur Père et Fils in the late 1800’s. There was a difference of opinion in the family in the 1930s (during the depression – a time of crisis for sales) after which FX’s Grandfather and his two brothers (one of whom failed to return from WWII) set up Dufouleur Frères; at this time Dufouleur Père et Fils moved elsewhere in Nuits. The ‘Père et Fils’ eventually purchased, in the 1980s, the former négoce buildings of Liger-Belair (a very important house of the early 1900s) and this is still their home today. Dufouleur Frères remained en-place in the Château, indeed FX’s grandfather still lives in the Château, and celebrated his 100th birthday this year.

You may also come across Domain Guy & Yvan Dufouleur, run by FX’s cousin Yvan (Yvan Dufouleur is the current president of the growers association of Nuits St.Georges) which was under the umbrella of Dufouleur Père et Fils until serially sold to Rodet and then Boisset. Then there is the Domain Loïs Dufouleur in Beaune (established by Philippe and Anne-Marie Dufouleur in 1978, a cousin of FX’s Father) – they also have gites in Beaune (Jardins de Lois). Finally (maybe!) there is Domaine des Monts Luisants which is run by Jean-Marc Dufouleur in Morey.

Dufouleur Frères

FX’s father, was one of four brothers, and together they have run the company for the last 30 years – though I have the impression there have been many accommodations along the way! The family story was strictly one focused on the négoce business – sell, sell, sell was the approach – perhaps a hangover from the birth of the business during the great depression, but with about 1 million bottles sold per year, this is no small affair. There are still many, many hectolitres of table-wine bottled by the family business (this part managed by one of FX’s uncles) which are handled separately (by a different commercial entity) from the ‘grand vins’. Perhaps fortunately for FX, the wines, distributed throughout France, wore up to a dozen different labels – none of them ‘Dufouleur Frères. The table-wines part is slowly reducing, but there is also a Beaujolais ‘Royal’ (non-vintage) sold to the Systembolaget in Sweden, the first Beaujolais wine the SB ever bought (in the 1960s) – over 300k bottles per year in screwcap, but FX notes that this now provides him with flexibility for markets that like screwcaps.

Although the focus has always been on merchanted wine, the Dufouleurs owned as much as 15 hectares of vines in the 1930s but these were split and some were sold. Today, Dufouleur Frères own just over 5 hectares, FX notes that

“My aim with my cousin Marc when we returned to the domaine was to do something small but beautiful with 10,000 cases of wine per year, or so – I would prefer double the hectares but we need négoce on the side as we can’t live with just those 5 hectares.”

As noted, FX joined the business with his cousin Marc in 2006, who was already trained and shared a similar vision to FX. Their focus has so-far been on the vines, because other family members still held onto responsibility for part of the elevage. But this has changed in 2012, it’s the first vintage handled from vine to bottle by Marc. I look forward to even more progression…

‘I think we should concentrate on a few appellations but do them well – we are a small domaine and winery – we have both domaine and négoce, and I’m proud of that.’

The domaine’s vines

‘We are lucky to have a lot of things, and yes, we have 0.1 ha of Musigny – just 500 bottles – but it is on the limit of the vineyard next to Les Argillières – which is just Chambolle villages. Actually this Musigny is no gift for the domaine as people have such high expectations, but maybe the plant material is not the best, or it is just its position, but our Clos de Vougeot is usually better – so it’s a bit frustrating!’

So in addition to the Musigny, there is a little Chambolle-Musigny Argillières and Les Herbues owned. Four plots of Nuits St.Georges Villages are owned – Chouillet north of the town and Belle Croix, Tribourg and Rue de Chaux (villages) south of the town. FX notes that

‘The village plots don’t offer lots of structure, but they seem to have power. NSG is an appellation where it seems to make sense to blend various plots – a bit like Gevrey.’

They own a small piece of Les St.Georges, ‘so we are happy to be part of the process in making it better known, and who knows, maybe a grand cru.’ There are two small plots in Vosne-Romanée; Les Jacquines and (almost in Nuits) Aux Ravioles. Then a small strip of Clos Vougeot in the Grand Maupertui zone. There is Gevrey-Chambertin from Les Evocelles, and from Combe Dessus which sits just below the Château de Gevrey. Côte de Nuits Le Vaucrain and Les Fourches (Vaucrain is usualy more interesting according to FX) near the Clos de Maréchale. Finally from the Côte de Nuits is a little bourgogne at the limit of Nuits (almost Hautes Côtes). Heading south there is just one vineyard in the CdB in Pommard – quite high and late ripening – 0.5 hectares of archetypal Pommard says FX, adding that a good vintage brings elegance! Finally, there’s also a little Mercurey, from two plots.

The wines

Le Fouleur means the ‘the grape crusher’ – the guy on the label – it is also the name they give their basic Bourgogne cuvées. ‘My aim is to do about one dozen Côte d’Or ‘standards’ rather than many small cuvées with questionable control over the wines’ says FX. There are also some wines here that are sourced through the Hospices de Beaune for customers.

Tasted with François-Xavier Dufouleur, 22nd June 2012. The 2010s were bottled in early April onwards to June. Everything is currently 100% de-stemmed – looking forward, FX thinks the Les St.Georges could be made with some whole clusters and he sees a new destemmer and a vertical press as future purchases. The 2010s are rather polished wines here.

2010 Dufouleur Frères, Côte de Nuits Villages Le Vaucrain
The nose is quite wide, perhaps it’s a little ill-defined to start with but there’s also a measure of elegance. In the mouth there is ripe sweetness and a fine overall balance. Good lingering, mouthwatering flavour in the finish. Fine enough for the label.
2010 Dufouleur Frères, Nuits St.Georges
From four parcels of vines.
There’s a little extra colour here. Open, quite spicy nose that slowly builds depth. Again some sweetness and fine balance. A good fruit-driven finish – an elegant Nuits.
2010 Dufouleur Frères, Nuits St.Georges 1er Chaboeufs
A ‘maison’ wine.
Medium, medium-plus colour. Deep but with high-toned fruit too. Definitely fuller than the villages wine, but with a good sweetness and more intensity. There is a little barrel flavour – coconut, mainly – but it’s on a ‘moderate’ level, so remains relatively interesting.
2010 Dufouleur Frères, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les St.Georges
Darker in colour. The nose offers dark fruit in a long line of aroma that plums ever-more depth. Linear, muscular and with slowly building intensity. A wine with clean lines and some polish – I like it.
2009 Dufouleur Frères, Côte de Nuits Villages Le Vaucrain
Wide an interesting on the nose, with a slight spice. Really tasty, sweet fruit and good structure – though after the polish of the ‘Les St-Georges’ that structure is a little harder. But oh-so drinkable…
2009 Dufouleur Frères, Nuits St.Georges
A good nose which is both interesting and open. Again it’s quite an elegant Nuits villages. There seems to be ‘more of everything’ after the 2010. Faint tannic grain, good balance – plenty to hold my interest.
2009 Dufouleur Frères, Nuits St.Georges 1er Les St.Georges
Here the nose is a little tighter though still fine. Really intense yet still rounder than the 2010. Very well balanced – I see lots of potential here.

Dufouleur Frères
Au Château – Nuits-Saint-Georges
1 rue de Dijon – BP5
21700 Nuits-Saint-Georges
Tel : +33 (0)3 80 61 00 26
Fax : +33 (0)3 80 61 36 33

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