The idea of owning your own vineyard, however small, is full of symbolism. When you undertake no manual work, it is like a second birth, as if in your unconsciousness there was but the shortest of distances between owning and working a piece of land. The owner of a vineyard, even if he does not understand much about wine, is a prisoner of this amalgam. When he offers a bottle of wine to his friends, he is at once farmer, wine grower, oenologist and consumer. It is grotesque, but that is the way it is. A city dweller’s complex of having no link with the land is broken in one go and gives him at once a new dimension, which he can not help but be proud of. I have taken note of this syndrome and have to be very careful not to attribute to myself the talent of the Seysses family. They are unlikely to hold it against me, since it is the only personality disorder which I suffer from and it is all the more homage to their worldwide success.
I am a miniscule co-owner of a parcel of Monts Luisants, which is vinified by Dujac and bottled on the domaine. Each year instead of a vulgar piece of paper representing a dividend, I go to the domaine to collect the fruit of my vines in the shape of a few marvelous bottles. This intense pleasure of returning home with a boot full of the earth’s produce after having walked through the rows of vines on the higher slopes of Morey-Saint-Denis, is a pleasure that I do not wish to share: it is an initiation, a ritual journey.
I thank Jeremy Seysses, Jacques and Rosalind’s son, for accepting to prepare a short piece on the Monts Luisants and so spare me writing an analysis beyond my competence.
The vineyard is located in Morey- Saint-Denis, at the top of the slope, in an area classified 1er Cru. The altitude is between 300 and 340 meters, in a full eastern exposure. The top soil is composed of Comblanchien limestone that was eroded into gravel during the last glacial age, with a very high active limestone content.
This location results in easy ripening conditions for the grapes while keeping a high acidity, a mark of quality in white wines. The berries are always very healthy as the soil drains very well and is not very fertile.
The vineyard leased to Domaine Dujac is entirely planted with Chardonnay and farmed organically and biodynamically.
The wines from the Monts Luisants are usually powerful, defined by strong minerality and a firm acidity. Honey, citrus fruits, anis and linden flowers are recurrent aromas. The minerality contributes to giving the wines a lot of length.
On the winemaking front, the grapes are crushed by foot before pressing. The must is settled for 24 hours and then put in barrel. Fermentation is spontaneous, with indigenous yeasts. The proportion of new oak is less than 15%. The élevage is minimal, with very little lee stirring and racking. Bottling happens about 16 months after harvest.
2008 : A cool vintage, picked late, at the very end of the month of September. The wine is elegant, restrained and concentrated, as the crop was small. A lot of citrus fruit, with a lot of energy, excellent balance, this is a very good vintage with real aging potential.
2009 : A vintage in stark contrast with the previous, sunny and warm, with a larger crop. The wine is rich, with the alcohol slightly higher than usual. Candied fruit and fennel aromas can be found in the nose, but in the mouth, the acidity and minerality are constants for this vineyard and the wine remains balanced.
Improving one’s knowledge about wine requires a progressive learning curve: if you drink a lot, you learn a lot, of course what is important is variety rather than quantity! It is possible to speed up the process by multiplying the number of tasting sessions, but your liver is bound to suffer. My choice fell on the area of Burgundy, for reasons of taste and ease, where I have elected the wonderful Domaine Dujac. Why leave the Garden of Eden when you have the fortune to have been allowed in?
The friendship between the Seysses and Chaligné families dates back sixty years to the time when Jacques Seysses, then a brilliant young skier, was gliding down the slopes with my father, Jean-Claude, 10 years his senior, under the benevolent eye of their respective parents. Nowadays I go to Morey-Saint-Denis every year with my family to pick up a few bottles from a parcel which is vinified by Domaine Dujac and to get an update on the next vintage. I also take the opportunity to catch up with the Seysses family, which has expanded considerably; Alec, Jeremy and his wife Diana work on the Domaine and Paul is developing a fast food chain.
Domaine Dujac is situated in Burgundy on the commune of Morey-Saint-Denis in between Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin. This area, called the Côte de Nuits, is one of the most prestigious subdivisions in Burgundy
Domaine Dujac was founded by Jacques Seysses in 1967. Jacques was not a model student, but he had a taste for the good life and was soon introduced to wine and the best restaurants by his father Louis, who was president of the Belin Biscuit group and even more importantly president of the prestigious gastronomic club, « le Club des Cents ». Jacques lost no time in explaining to his father that he would never make a banker and that what really interested him was wine making. In 1965, thanks to a friend of his father, Jacques became a co-partner of the wonderful Domain de la Pousse d’Or in Volnay. But Jacques was keen to run his own vineyard and the opportunity arose two years later at the end of 1967 : Jacques was able to buy the Domaine of Marcel Graillet in Morey-Saint-Denis which covered 4.5 hectares and included some of the best appellations on the commune : Clos de la Roche and Clos Saint Denis.
In less than 30 years, with the help of his wife Rosalind, Jacques has managed to join the super élite of Burgundy wine makers. No other Domaine has achieved a similar level of recognition so quickly. This is all the more astonishing given that the previous Domaine undertook neither the process of vinification, nor the bottling, on site.
Today the domaine covers about 16 hectares including the recent addition of the prestigious Vosnes-Romanée 1er cru Les Malconsorts. The Grand Cru wines benefit from 100% new barrels and the premier Cru 50%.
Jacques Seysses is a specialist and precursor of organic and bio-dynamic agricultural techniques. He uses no chemical products and fertilizers have been banned. During the harvesting the Domaine employs a large number of workers in order to optimize the highest standard of sorting. He believes that the stems absorb the hard tannins and increase the wine’s complexity. Its color becomes lighter, the degree of alcohol diminishes and the floral bouquet is increased. Fermentation lasts 10-15 days and the storage in barrels about 15 months. The wines are not filtered and are available two years after harvesting. Jacques and his team favor fruit and soft tannins over strength. His wines are elegant and complex and respect the raw product from which they are made.
We often associate wine with memorable moments. I associate Solengo with my Italian friend Gianni, who comes from an illustrious family whose history has been linked to that of the Vatican for centuries. Gianni has both unparalleled generosity and a great distance from material things. He can make magnificent gifts in the most detached way. To thank me for helping one of his young cousins find an internship, with no fuss he offered me a case of Solengo 1997, which I carefully stored in my cellar straight away.
A few days later, when my wife was concentrating on the preparing of her famous osso buco, I decided it was time to test Gianni’s local wine. As you can probably guess my knowledge in Italian wines is rather thin. The shock I had testing the Solengo was as great as my colossal ignorance: the wine combined concentration and finesse to a level I had never experienced. Amazed, I suggested to my wife that she continue cooking Italian recipes and the case of Solengo was gone in no time. I could not accept it was the end of the party and decided to search for more Solengo 1997.
After a brief search, I realized the overgenerous Gianni had no random choice. The Argiano estate is a medieval jewel standing in a spectacular rural environment near the Tuscan town of Montalcino, close to Sienna. The Villa of Argiano overlooks 48 hectares of vines dating back to the Renaissance, when it was built by the Pecci, a noble family from Sienna. Since 1500, wine has been produced for the sole consumption of their owners. Today, Countess Cinzano owns and runs the estate in a tradition always in mind but using the latest winemaking methods.
Solengo, a Toscan word meaning ‘lone wild bore’ is the combination of 3 types of grapes: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 25% Syrah. Following the harvest, the 3 grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks for 12 to 16 days. The second malolactic fermentation occurs immediately after the alcoholic fermentation to emphasize softness of fruit and tannin. The wine will then age 15 to 17 months in new French oak. It is blended in May. Solengo is bottled in July, without filtration. This should reinforce aromatic flavor.
The choice of 1997 was not random either. This year is considered to be an exceptional vintage by Italian and world experts and therefore it is not easy to find. After 7 months of frantic search all over Europe, I finally found 2 cases which I bought without hesitation. The first bottle was up to my expectations even if I could tell that it had just passed its peak. The 2 cases disappeared as quickly as the first one. Thank you Gianni!