Burgundy’s vineyards represent only a small fraction of France’s viticultural surface, but it has more negociants than the production warrants.
First, thanks to France’s Napoleonic inheritance laws, vineyards are economically too small to be profitable. On occasion, an individual may have one or two rows of vines in a famous single vineyard, as is the case in the Clos de Vougeot.
For all these reasons, negociants in Burgundy play a very important role in buying wines from growers, or making wine from their own vineyards, bottling, marketing and exporting.
Some are small and buy bottled wine to market.
Midsize negociants buy wine from farmers, blend, bottle, or cellar to maturity, and own vineyards
Large negociants are active in all the above functions.
They are large enough to maintain fully staffed export departments and engage sending their sales representatives to important markets, and to tap on potentially important markets as is now the case with Russia, and China.
Joseph Drouhin is one of the most respected Burgundian negociants and producers founded in 1880 with head offices located in Beaune.
Maurice, the founder’s son, took over the management in 1918 and established a worldwide reputation including a contract to market Marquis de la Guiche’s famed Montrachet (2.66 hectare property producing 500 – 600 bottles a year).
Robert Drouhin took over the already famous winery in 1957 and expanded the company to include an estate in Oregon, U S A.
Under his stewardship, the company acquired vineyards or parts of grad cru classified vineyards in Musigny, Grand Echezaux, Bonnes Mares, and Griotte Chambertin.
Jaffelin, another fine Burgundy winery, was acquired in 1969, but sold in 1993.
Today, Drouhin owns 60 hectares of valuable Burgundy vineyards, owns a number of brands and exports to four continents.
This 30 000 case winery negociant adheres to the highest wine making standards, and occasionally declassifies wines that fail to meet Mr. Drouhin’s exacting standards.
Clos des Mouches a premier cru south-facing single vineyard in the Beaune appellation, with its history tracing back to 1550’s, was entirely planted to pinot noir after the phylloxera epidemic in 1875, but historical documents indicate that this vineyard produced excellent chardonnay wines from the beginning. In 1925 Maurice Drouhin replanted half of the vineyard (6.5 hectares) to chardonnay.
Today, Clos de Mouches produces fine red and white wines. Generally, pinot noir is distinguished by its cherry, spice, and smoke aromas, silky mouth feel, and low tannins.
In good vintages the wine is worth cellaring up to five to seven years for more refinement and elegance, but when buying, the consumer, must be aware of the quality and rating of the vintage.
Charmes Chambertin is another world famous single vineyard for red wines, located just below Le Chambertin, grand cru. Drouhin owns a parcel and produces fine wines by restricting yield even further than the law requires.
Drouhin realizes that Burgundy wines have become too expensive for the average consumer and tries to discover lesser-known and affordable appellations.
The management of the company is now turned over to Robert Drouhin’s off springs. One manages the Oregon property; others are involved in the everyday management.
Drouhin wines are carefully made adhering to exact standards given vintage quality, reliable and competitively priced.