Visit: Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet

fixin
Fixin by the fireside

Is there a more under-rated commune in the Côte de Nuits than Fixin? One of the many pleasures of spending a full two months in Burgundy in 2016 was the opportunity to dig a little deeper, and my discoveries in Fixin were among the most rewarding. One was the Domaine Berthaut—which is hardly news to those who have been quietly following their classic, age-worthy wines for decades. There have, however, been some interesting developments at this stalwart address in the last few years. Denis Berthaut of Fixin married Marie-Andrée Gerbet of Vosne-Romanée; and when their daughter Amélie took over the management of the Domaine in 2013, she inherited her mother’s share of the Domaine Gerbet as well as her father’s Domaine Berthaut. The Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet was born, and to an enviable portfolio of crus in Fixin and Gevrey-Chambertin were added vines in Vosne-Romanée, Flagey-Echézeaux and Chambolle-Musigny.

When I visited this summer, harvest had begun a few days before with the Domaine’s Fixin blanc, but it was a moment of calm before the storm, as the Pinot Noir was still several days away from maturity. Amélie and I tasted the 2015s in the spacious new cellar and cuverie which, in 2005, superseded a warren of unconnected caves dotted around the village.

Winemaking is pretty straightforward: the grapes are sorted (a vibrating table de trie just made its debut here) and transferred to concrete tanks. After a short cold pre-fermentation maceration and fermentation by ambient yeasts, the wines are basket-pressed and returned to cuve where they complete their malolactic fermentations before descending to the cellar for aging. Levels of new oak are restrained: none for the Bourgogne Rouge; and a modest 20-30% for the other appellations.

We began with the lovely Fixin Les Crais, which is reliably one of the top village bottlings of Fixin produced in any given year. The 2015 showed beautifully, with an attractive bouquet of deep red fruit, spice and orange rind, leading into a full-bodied, comparatively rich palate impression with the characteristic volume and density of the vintage. This lieu-dit lies just below the village, and the soils are presumably pretty deep, but there is no sense of undue heaviness here. A 2013, tasted a few days later, confirmed that Amélie has mastered this site from the beginning.

The Fixin En Combe Roy is a very different terroir, situated just below the 1er Cru of Les Arvelets, and it is also lovely 2015. A deeper-pitched bouquet of dark berry fruit and wood smoke introduces a pure, focussed and deep wine, again with some of the amplitude of the vintage, but with real energy too.

The Fixin 1er Cru Les Arvelets is a very fine bottle indeed in 2015, with a dark, plumy bouquet marked by lovely chalky soil tones and spice. This is typically the most elegant of the village’s 1er crus but the wine had been recently sulphured so it was a bit closed-down and difficult to read on the palate: its vibrancy and balance were already obvious, however.

The Chambolles-Musigny Les Plantes, the Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots and the Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Petit Monts (all new additions from the Gerbet side of the family) were all quite reticent and reduced, so it was hard to get a read on them this time: I hope I’ll get to encounter them again next year. But the Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers was beautiful: brooding and dark, with aromas of black cherry, rich soil, woodsmoke and venison, and a fine-grained, detailed and complete palate impression—an elegant rendition of this lovely climat.

While the other Gerbet wines were not happy to be disturbed, the expressiveness and quality of the Echézeaux Grand Cru was ample compensation. From old vines, planted before the time of Amélie’s grand-father (likely in the 1930s but no one knows exactly) in the lieu-dits of Les Treux and Les Quartiers de Nuits, I was really struck by just how good this was: dense, rich and expansive, with real old-vine concentration and a deep core of tannin, acidity and fruit. This is still very primary but if it is an indication of what Amélie can do in Echézeaux then this is going to be a very, very exciting new rendition of this grand cru to follow over the coming decades.

All in all, a real pleasure to discover this compelling domaine.

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