Sunday, 7 May 2017

Visiting Beaune - Maison Louis Jadot

On this trip I was in Beaune for only a day, so selecting the wineries to visit was based on which producers could provide the greatest overview of Burgundy. I was thrilled to be able to visit Louis Jadot, a venerable business that has been operating since 1859. The founder, Louis Henry Denis Jadot initially focused on the Northern Europe market as he was from Belgium and familiar with the area. His grandson, Louis Auguste Jadot, further expanded to the Americas, Great Britain and New Zealand. In 1985, Maison Louis Jadot was purchased by the Kopf family who also own Kobrand Corporation, the sole importers of Jadot Burgundies in the United States. The company is currently run by Pierre-Henry Gagey, whose father André Gagey was Louis Auguste Jadot’s deputy.

Our guide to Louis Jadot was Pierrick Prevost, who explained to us that the company today controls roughly 225 ha in Burgundy and Beaujolais. This includes vineyards that are owned outright by Louis Jadot and those that it manages on behalf of other parties. The wine label will provide this information – Domaine Louis Jadot indicates that the vineyards belong to Louis Jadot, while Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot and Domaine Gagey are used for wines made from vineyards owned by the Jadot and Gagey family respectively. Additionally, Louis Jadot also owns Château des Jacques in Beaujolais and Domaine Ferret in Pouilly-Fuissé. If you just see Louis Jadot on the label, sometimes with a permutation of the phrase “récolté, vinifié, élevé et mis en bouteilles par” (meaning harvested, vinified, matured and bottled by), it is a wine made from purchased grapes. Yes, it’s terribly complicated and mostly of interest only to wine geeks. It’s debatable whether wines made from domaine-owned or purchased grapes are superior. Owning the vineyard may provide more control, but there is benefit to be able to diversify your sources as well, especially in poor vintages where you would want only the best grapes. In Burgundy, states Pierrick, négociants only pay for the grapes that they have sorted out. “If you give bad grapes, there is less for the grower. So it is in the interest of the grower to produce good grapes for his contract.” In turn, the growers are assured to be paid on time and at a good price, given the sound financial standing of Louis Jadot.

Keeping with the current trend to isolate each parcel as much as possible, Louis Jadot has constructed a large circular winery to house the stainless steel and wooden vats used in winemaking. These vats form the perimeter of the circle, with a long arm extending from the centre that deposits the grapes into each vat through a gravity flow system. “The idea to have all of those vats is to be able to produce 150 different wines and to reveal the nuances that you can have between the different climats in Burgundy,” explained Pierrick. He further describes the winemaking process adopted by Louis Jadot, punching down the grapes twice a day and a long maceration of 17-25 days as opposed to the more common 10-15 days. “The goal of Jadot is to produce a wine with a certain aging potential… some of our wines can be closed or difficult to drink after three years but after five, ten, fifteen years you can have fantastic wines.” After fermentation the wines are then aged in 30% new oak. A specificity of Jadot is that the white wines undergo only partial malolactic fermentation (the conversion of tart malic acid into softer lactic acid). Pierrick explains that this preserves the freshness and liveliness in the wine, and from a philosophical point of view malic acid is the original acidity of the vine and consequently represents the terroir.

My favourites among the whites tasted were the duo of Beaune Grèves le Clos blanc and Puligny-Montrachet La Garenne, both from the 2012 vintage. The wines were elegant and well-balanced, showing power and concentration without being overtly oaky. For the reds I was surprised by the Bourgogne Le Chapitre, one of the few regional appellation wines allowed to mention the name of the vineyard on the label. For an entry-level wine it certainly over-delivered and possessed an unexpected structure and sophistication.

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