Gevrey-Chambertin: Domaine Fourrier
Here’s a question: what is the best domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin after Rousseau?
The answer is of course at least partly subjective: there are always going to be fans of a grower’s style, or an emotional attachment to a particular estate. Denis Bachelet? Claude Dugat? Mmm. Or what about Domaine Fourrier?
Jean-Marie Fourrier is one of Burgundy’s most interesting and loquacious characters, and a man not short on opinion. He is also one of just a few growers in Burgundy who appear to have fully realised their potential. Burgundy is always full of talk of “the next superstar” or “a domaine to watch” but who, aside from Sylvain Cathiard and the Comte Liger-Belair in Vosne-Romanée, has actually made the jump?
When Jean-Marie took the domaine over from his father in the early 1990s, the estate was not at its best. His father had been working the estate since 1961, and the wines were underwhelming. Having completed internships with Henri Jayer and Domaine Drouhin in Oregon, Jean-Marie benefitted from both the deeply Burgundian genius of the former, with the new world dynamism of the latter. The quality of the wines was on the up almost immediately after he took full control in 1994.
If one were to look for just one descriptor for Fourrier’s wines, a good bet would be “pure”. As with all great winemakers, his work in the vineyard is assiduous – this is where it all starts – and he has an innate understanding of how his wines, and vineyards, work. In the winery the grapes are completely de-stemmed before a gentle fermentation with no pumping over. The wines are then aged in approximately 20% new wood then transferred to tank, then bottled without fining or filtering: the whole ethos of the work in the cellar is that it is non-intrusive: what happens in the cellar should not be tasted in the wine.
The wines are bottled with a fair amount of dissolved carbon dioxide: seasoned Fourrier drinkers will be adept at the “Fourrier shake”, which transforms what can sometimes be a rather fizzy Pinot Noir when a bottle is first opened. The retention of this CO2 is quite deliberate: it protects the wine and lessens the need for sulphur when bottling: a good thing in Jean-Marie’s opinion.
Once the shake, if necessary, has been executed, then comes the purity of fruit that is the domaine’s signature. These are quite beautiful wines, particularly if your palate craves the pure cool fruit of Pinot Noir.
Fourrier’s most famous vineyard is Clos St Jacques, and it is fair to say that his offering is the one that runs Mr Rousseau closest in terms of quality (the Rousseau and Fourrier plots lie next to each other though this may or may not have any bearing on this). He also holds a quarter of a hectare of Griottes-Chambertin and a selection of premiers crus including the rarely seen Goulots. In 2011 he added a small “micro-negociant” arm to the business: these wines are labelled “Jean-Marie Fourrier”.