Clos de Vougeot, Burgundy's largest Grand Cru site, stands both revered and debated among wine many enthusiasts. Its allure lies in its rich history and expansive 125-acre spread that plays host to a remarkable tapestry of eighty-two vignerons. While many pundits are directed towards the northwest section as the cradle of Vougeot's finest wines, it is crucial to recognize that a vigneron's artistry and philosophy wield the true power over the wine's destiny in this storied terrain.
The roots of Clos de Vougeot, also known as Clos Vougeot, dig deep into the 9th century, tended by the monks of Vergy. Among these devoted monks, a sect emerged and created the Cistercian order. Over two centuries, the Cistercians meticulously stitched their vineyards birthing the legendary Clos de Vougeot. By 1336, the vineyard stretched across 125 acres and has mirrored its modern-day borders for centuries. The stonewall enclosing the vineyard, also known as a clos, is believed to have been constructed during the 13th or 14th century.
For hundreds of years, this vast vineyard was a monopole exclusively under the Abbey's domain, until the tides of the French Revolution reshaped its destiny. In 1791, it was sold as one contiguous parcel, passing through various hands until it landed in the possession of Julien-Jules Ouvrard, son of Napoleon's financier. The Ouvrard legacy held until 1889, when the vineyard was sold off to six negociants. Over time, parcels changed hands, resulting in fifteen owners by the turn of the century and a staggering forty by 1920.
The Chateau's Timeless Echo
The historic Chateau du Clos de Vougeot, nestled in the heart of Clos de Vougeot's renowned upper third (coincidence?), traces its origins to the 12th century. During this era, Cistercian monks erected key winemaking facilities, including an above-ground cellar and a production house. By 1551, a Renaissance-style Chateau emerged under the guidance of Dom Loisier, the forty-eighth Abbot of Citeaux. Today, this Chateau remains largely unchanged and preserved by a few renovations. It now rests in the hands of the noble wine fraternity, Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
A Tapestry of Heritage and Quality
Clos de Vougeot's rich history influences its extensive reach and quality nuances. In the Cistercian era, the vineyard's fruit was likely blended into a single wine, a stark contrast to the present. Yields were modest, estimated at 300 to 350 barrels. Today, production has nearly doubled, yielding up to 200,000 bottles of wine.
Currently, the majority of the vineyard's eighty-two vignerons tend to small parcels within Clos de Vougeot. Consequently, they face the choice of blending their harvest into a single wine or selling their grapes to negociants. This dynamic significantly contributes to the kaleidoscope of quality that defines Clos de Vougeot's wines.
The coveted northwest section touches the borders of the Grand Crus Musigny and Echezeaux. Here, the vines thrive on higher elevation, fanned by cool breezes cascading from the Combe d'Orveau, a neighboring ravine. The soil here features a thin layer of clay blanketing ancient limestone. The midsection boasts a more generous clay presence atop slightly younger limestone, while the lower section contains higher proportions of clay and sand, that are slowing draining compared to their counterparts.
Prominent names in Clos de Vougeot's upper third include Domaine Leroy, Meo-Camuzet, Chateau de la Tour, and Anne Gros. The vineyard conceals intricate sites that shape and influence the wines' quality. Chateau de la Tour and Anne Gros tend to two different century-old parcels, yielding captivating Clos de Vougeot wines. Domaine Leroy and Meo-Camuzet own plots tethered to the most coveted location, lying close to the Chateau de Clos de Vougeot. In select vintages, Meo-Camuzet crafts the "Pres Le Cellier" label, sourced exclusively from this captivating parcel. Yet, it is vital to note not all of Domaine Leroy's vines reside in this section, thus revealing that Clos de Vougeot's prized wines aren't exclusively born in this coveted third.
The Grand Cru Symphony
While experts continue to debate Clos de Vougeot's hierarchy, one fact endures: all these wines emerge from Grand Cru soil and, in the hands of the right custodian, they bloom into Grand Cru masterpieces. This expansive vineyard, with its diverse list of producers, yields wines of varying quality. Yet, in the hands of esteemed producers, select parcels become coveted treasures for collectors and connoisseurs worldwide. For those seeking the pinnacle of Clos de Vougeot, Domaine Leroy, Meo-Camuzet, Chateau de la Tour, Gros Frere et Soeur, and Anne Gros shine brightest, embroidered into the vineyard's intricate mosaic. For those who seek the pinnacle, here lies a treasure trove of some of the finest Clos de Vougeot bottles, ready to grace your cellar.