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france: burgundy

Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune

Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune

I continue to hold Jean-Pierre in the highest regard—he is the quintessential Burgundy vigneron with an innate knowledge of winemaking that makes him one of the most respected, if not high profile, in the region. His wines are a masterclass in under-statement, letting the terroir do all the talking.
—Neal Martin, December 2013

In July of 2014 Joseph Voillot died in the house he grew up in, just in front of Volnay's thirteenth-century church. Joseph was a vigneron through and through, the fourth generation of his family to manage the estate, and he represented the old breed of Burgundian growers. On the day of his funeral, Volnay overflowed with those paying homage.

Much as Joseph, son-in-law Jean-Pierre (pictured) came up steeped in Burgundian culture. His father managed grower relations and wine selections for the then family négociant firm of Bouchard Père et Fils, and it was a natural for Jean-Pierre to study enology. After his degree, he embarked on a stint as a courtier, or local broker, of wine in Beaune, and fell in love with one of the three daughters of Joseph Voillot. That marriage put him at the right hand of Joseph, and for fifteen years the two worked together until Joseph's retirement in 1995. During those years, Jean-Pierre joined the staff at Beaune's viticultural school and taught winemaking to all manner of students, both French and foreign.

In the late 1990s, shortly after becoming managing director at the domaine, he undertook a series of small steps that came to be systematic changes. In the vines, he moved to sustainable farming. In the cellar, he did away with fermenting with a percentage of stems because he liked the essence of fruit. He did trials on the length of barrel ageing, and came to bottle his premier crus after roughly sixteen months in wood followed by a month in steel (fourteen months in barrel for the Villages; twelve to fourteen for the Bourgogne—with both classes also receiving a month in steel to rest and clear before bottling). The two Meursaults moved to a roughly fourteen month barrel regimen (Joseph left the wines of both colors in barrel significantly longer).

Jean-Pierre has also shied more and more away from new oak, moving from around 30% new barrels for the premier crus to today using 10-20%. He lowered the sulfur additions. He experimented with filtration systems, and for several vintages bottled the premier crus without filtration. Eventually, he settled on one very light filtration at the mis, if necessary, because for him this gave the wine just that extra little touch of lift and purity. No fining for the reds; a light fining of the whites.

He's an old soul, Jean-Pierre, one quite committed and modest. Elegant in argument and clear in vision, he has no truck with tra-la-la. He cares deeply about Burgundy's traditions and the structure of the family domaine, and the cultural and artistic diversity that such things inspire (which is why this deeply pragmatic man won't go for strict organics in what is a wet, northern climate: the first rule is to have a harvest to survive; everything else flows from that).

He is, as Neal Martin has written, the proverbial winemakers' winemaker, known above all for purity of fruit, finesse, and clear expressions of terroir.

Today the domaine farms parcels spread across Volnay and Pommard (plus a piece in Beaune's 1er cru Coucherias, which is partially declassified into the Bourgogne). All of the Villages parcels are farmed the same, and all of the premier cru parcels are treated the same; ditto for how these wines are treated in the cellar. The differences come from the sites.

In 2001 and 2004, many of those parcels were badly hailed, and this was repeated, stunningly, in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Those last three years saw hail coming in June or July and flaying the same swath of land from Meursault to Beaune, a consecutive cataclysm never before recorded. Crop loss averaged as high as fifty percent. Recently, Jean-Pierre sold his holding in Volnay's Les Brouillards vineyard, and now his total vineyard surface is nine hectares, or just over twenty-two acres.

Les Rouges

Les Blancs

www.joseph-voillot.com or www.edouard-gordons.magix.net/website#Page d'accueil