france: burgundy

Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune

Domaine Joseph Voillot, Côte de Beaune

This venerable fifth-generation domaine has holdings in the top vineyards of both Volnay and Pommard. Chez Voillot is quite conscientious with their 23 acres of vines. Yields average 36-38 hectoliters per hectare; harvesting is by hand with small bins after a selection in the vineyard, and further selection is made on a sorting table (the selection was especially severe in 2000, 2001, and 2004). It’s worth noting that their team of experienced harvesters has remained virtually unchanged for well over a decade. Vinification is done without stems and afterwards the wine is moved by gravity into barrel. In good years, no more than 30% new oak barrels are used for aging the premier crus, and SO2 is kept to a minimum.

Son-in-law Jean Pierre Charlot is now the managing director. He worked closely with Joseph from 1980 to 1995, when the elder man retired. For many years, Jean-Pierre was a professor at the Lycée Viticole in Beaune, where he taught several of Burgundy’s rising stars. He’s a meticulous man, and what interests him is handling the challenging years when the sum of the parts—the vineyard work, triage at harvest, and careful cellar practices—really pay off.

It’s immediately evident when tasting through the domaine's range that these are true vins de terroir (this is a grower who doesn’t like big oak or big extraction; this man likes fruit and soil). Each wine at every level reflects its origin. It is in Voillot’s cellar that the differences between the highly perfumed Fremiets, the earthy, dense, age-worthy Champans, and the elegant yet firmly structured Caillerets become crystal clear. Similarly, the differences among his Pommards are clearly delineated. Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, in their 2004 Classification of the Best Wines of France, write of Charlot’s non-interventionist methods: "For many years, Jean Pierre Charlot has vinified some of the finest and most balanced wines of Volnay and Pommard…aging reveals with a high degree of accuracy the type of the year and soil." Anyone who wants to grasp the essence of Volnay and Pommard needs to look no further than Domaine Joseph Voillot.

The purity of Charlot’s winemaking inspired restaurant Alain Ducasse in Manhattan to buy six of Voillot's 2000s for a horizontal. That was an honor, for Ducasse had just opened shop in NYC and in those days offered only one horizontal at any given time.

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