Joseph Drouhin
Musigny Vineyards - Joseph Drouhin

Joseph Drouhin

History and Family: Maison Joseph Drouhin

Joseph Drouhin

Joseph Drouhin

Burgundy, France is one of the most complex winemaking regions in the world with a rich history of viticulture dating back to the first century. With the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of Catholicism as a powerful political force, vineyards fell into the hands of the church. Viticulture thrived, and by the 14th century, most of today’s great vineyards of the Cote d’Or were planted by Benedictine and Cistercian monks. Yet, following the annexation of Burgundy by France, and the subsequent French revolution, vineyards transitioned from ecclesiastical to private ownership. In 1804, the Napolenic Code, requiring inheritances to be split amongst heirs equally, greatly fractured vineyard ownership, and over time, Burgundy became what it is now: each vineyard has a mosaic of growers.
To these growers, fractured vineyard ownership meant fewer vines and higher costs of production, and inevitably lead to the rise of the negociant, who would handle the costs of making and marketing the wines. Wine production became a business. Seeing opportunity there, Joseph Drouhin, in 1880 at the youthful age of 22, founded a necogiant firm in Beaune in order to achieve his dream, offering the world wines of great quality and consistency that he was proud to put his name behind. His love of wine became a passion he passed down to each new generation of Drouhins.
Coming from Chablis, Joseph Drouhin settled in Beaune, and focused on building his reputation as an innovative negociant. When his son Maurice took over in 1918, he was able to establish a vineyard domaine for Maison Joseph Drouhin. He expanded his father’s vision by purchasing plots from many different owners; the first vineyards were plots within the famous Beaune Clos des Mouches and Clos de Vougeot. Maurice became an influential wine personality in early 20th century Burgundy, sitting on the INAO committee, acting as deputy administrator of the Hospices de Beaune during WWII and holding distribution rights for a proportion of Domaine de la Romanee Conti’s production.
It was important to the Drouhin’s to keep the company in their family name. So in 1957, the next generation took over as Maurice’s nephew and adopted heir, Robert Jeausse-Drouhin, took control of the domaine. Robert was driving force in developing the house into how we view it today. Once in control, Robert expanded rapidly, acquiring many vineyards in Chablis, introducing more sustainable farming methods, and hiring Laurence Jobard, the first woman enologist in Burgundy, to develop the domaine’s vineyards.

The Drouhin Family

The Drouhin Family

The fourth generation is now in control at the domaine; each of Robert’s children are contributing a skill that has lead to their great success. Philippe, Veronique, Laurent and Frederic are Joseph Drouhin’s grandchildren who grew up in the vineyards and cellar. Philippe, the oldest child, contributed his skills in the vineyards, and introduced a more biological and biodynamic approach. He selects vinestocks, chooses the methods of caring for the soil and cultivating the vines. Veronique Drouhin-Boss is the Head Winemaker and the “guardian” of the Joseph Drouhin style. Supervising the vinification of the wines, she works with enologist Laurence Jobard until 2005 and now with enologist Jerome Faure-Brac, focusing on continuity of style. Frederic Drouhin is President of the Executive Board and directs the development of the company and Laurent manages the development of the market and image of the brand in the United States and the Caribbean.

 

drouhin-chablis-les-clos

Maison Joseph Drouhin has 73 hectares of vineyard holdings spread across 90 distinct plots located in Chablis, the Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune and the Cote Chalonnaise and include many Premier Cru and Grand Cru sites, some are among the most famous in Burgundy, including Clos des Mouches, Musigny, and Clos de Vougeot, to name a few. Sites are exclusively planted with the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which, for wines at the village level, are bought from other vineyard owners who have been long time partners with the Drouhin family and share similar values and passion for exceptional winemaking.
With so many distinct vineyard holdings, the expression of terroir is most important to them. They accomplish unique expression through attention to the quality of the soils, by plowing by horse, allowing the grass to grow between the vines, using natural compost, and by farming organically and biodynamically. From the 2009 vintage, they will have ECOCERT organic certification.

Reputation and Winemaking Style

Maison Joseph Drouhin

Maison Joseph Drouhin

Maison Joseph Drouhin is known for their diverse offerings representing many sub-regions within Burgundy and their commitment to expressing the distinct terroir there. They are committed to purity of taste, which is expressed in their wines using a core set of 5 principles that represent their house style:

 

1) Embracing a dedication to diversity. Since the Drouhin family harvests and sources fruit from different plots all over Burgundy, the expression of each particular terroir is integral to their philosophy. To them, terroir expresses itself through the vine, and their job is to translate the messages.

2) Celebrating family heritage. Maison Joseph Drouhin founded his negociant firm at a time where generational winemaking in Burgundy was becoming fragmented with the Napoleonic Code. Now spanning four generations, Maison Joseph Drouhin plans to keep the company in the family, as every sibling contributes a fundamental skill, blending modernity with tradition and focusing on new ways of expansion.
3) Listening to nature and utilizing both biodynamic and organic principles. Because of their desire to express the character of each terroir, Maison Joseph Drouhin, employs techniques in the vineyards that focus on minimal intervention and a careful attention to the soil, vines and environment. They grow vine stocks in their own nursery to preserve the genetic heritage, use natural treatments on the vines like herb infusions and natural predators instead of synthetic products, favor low yields, and pick grapes in small perforated crates to preserve the integrity of the fruit.
4) Embracing an ideal of perfection and elegance. The Drouhin style is one that emphasizes an alliance between balance, harmony, finesse and character. They achieve this not only by careful attention in the vineyards, but also all across the winemaking process, through barrel to bottle. Mindful about the origin of each wine, they use stainless steel vats to enhance fruit and freshness in Chablis and Maconnais, and oak barrels to develop complexity and finesse in Cote d’Or. The Drouhin family purchases its own wood stock and dries it for three years before sending it to the Francois cooperage to be turned into barrels. Each barrel is marked with a barcode certifying provenance and ensuring the quality of the wine at all times. Yet barrels are used with reservation in order to preserve the character of the particular terroir. It is rare for more than 30 percent of new wood to be used on any cuvee, except some grand crus.
5) Commitment to sharing with the world. The team at Maison Joseph Drouhin is dedicated to bringing their wines to the best tables. Over the years they have expanded their production to now include 90 different appellations, and now in the new world, in Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Drouhin in the New World

© Domaine Drouhin Oregon

© Domaine Drouhin Oregon

The Willamette Valley in Oregon sits on a latitude similar to that of Burgundy, so it is not surprise that the fickle Pinot Noir grape finds a home there. Robert Drouhin first discovered the potential of Oregon to grow quality grapes on a visit in 1961. In the 1979 and 1980 blind tastings in Paris, Oregon wine shown to be elegant and balanced, and ultimately drew the Drouhin family to make wine there.
In 1986, Robert’s daughter Veronique worked harvest with three renowned Oregon winemaking families; the Letts of Eyrie Vineyard, the Casteels of Bethel Heights and the Adelsheims of Adelsheim vineyards. Oregon’s deep sense of community confirmed their decision to purchase land in the Dundee Hills and Veronique Drouhin became the head winemaker at Domaine Drouhin Oregon, while her brother Philippe became responsible for viticulture. In 1988, they produced their first vintage from purchased grapes, and in 1989 built their landmark gravity flow winery.

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