Thu 13 May 2010
A clos is a walled or enclosed — don’t you just love cognates! — vineyard, hence Clos des Mouches is “enclosed vineyard of the flies.” How appetizing! It’s also one of the most famous clos of Burgundy, as much for the quality of the red and white wines produced by the venerable Domaine Joseph Drouhin as for the unusual name. Clos des Mouches is a Premier Cru vineyard in Beaune (“bone”) though Drouhin does not include the term “Permier Cru” on labels of Clos des Mouches because it would clutter a label that’s already pretty busy with its array of typography and images, including six little flies. The device is a tad misleading, however. In the Middle Ages, at least in this region, or perhaps just this commune, honey-bees were called mouches de miel, “honey-flies,” hence what the name of the vineyard refers to are actually bees, not flies. Clos des Mouches is not to be confused with tiny Clos-de-la-Mousse, also a Beaune Premier Cru vineyard but wholly owned by Bouchard Pere et Fils.
The domaine was founded in 1880, when Joseph Drouhin took control of a wine business that itself dated back to 1756; one is required to take the long view in Burgundy. After World War I, Joseph’s son Maurice became head of the firm and began acquiring fine vineyard land, including 12.9 hectares (31.9 acres) of Clos des Mouches, now planted almost equally with chardonnay and pinot noir. Today, Domaine Joseph Drouhin owns 182.5 acres of Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards in every commune of Burgundy. The vineyards are managed on biodynamic principles.
My first note on the Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 2007, blanc, is “the liquid equivalent of late summer sunshine,” followed by “actually perfect.” Must I continue? The wine ages about a year in barriques, of which typically 25 percent of the barrels are new. Robert Drouhin — Maurice’s nephew — who ran the domaine from 1957 to 2003, has been widely quoted for a succinct statement in relationship to oak that all the world’s winemakers should take to heart: “We are not carpenters.” This wine offers a limpid pale gold color and a bouquet of roasted lemons, honeyed grapefruit and spiced almonds; after a few minutes, a hint of honeysuckle appears. There’s a trace of buttery richness to the lemon, orange rind and quince flavors, but the effect is mitigated by taut and steely acidity and a scintillating limestone-shale minerality. The texture is a heavenly amalgam of lithe suppleness and moderately lush generosity. The entire package radiates irresistible resonance and vibrancy. Drink now through 2015 to ’18. We had it with grilled swordfish. About 600 cases imported. Excellent. About $100 to $110.
The Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 2007, rouge, is fascinating for a detail of which I was frankly unaware. The portion of Clos des Mouches that Drouhin farms for pinot noir contains a minuscule amount of pinot gris, a white grape that’s a clone of pinot noir and importantly cultivated in Alsace. Pinot gris, though almost completely disappeared from Burgundy, was widely planted generations ago. Anyway, the smidgeon of pinot gris mingled with pinot noir is allowed in the Clos des Mouches red wine, and I do mean a smidgeon, in the plus-or-minus two percent range. Does the pinot gris “do something” to the wine? I couldn’t say. I do know that this is an exemplary model of pinot noir’s potential for elegance, suavity and satiny texture, with a sense of ineffable lightness and delicacy married to interior intensity and power. It’s packed with baking spices and hints of smoky black cherry, dried cherries and currants, with touches of cranberry, lavender and potpourri. Oak and tannin provide framing and foundation for the wine’s character – it ages 15 to 20 months with only 20 percent new oak — while allowing fruit and acid to furnish personality. Drink from 2011 through 2016 to ’20. We drank this with the classic pairing of roasted lamb. About 500 cases imported. Excellent. About $80 to $85.
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., New York. Samples for review.