November 23, 2015

Domaine Joseph Voillot – Local Hero

R eaders will be aware that I have an immense amount of admiration for winemaker Jean-Pierre Charlot and these days, a great deal of sympathy. When I first heard of the hailstorms in the Côte de Beaune I think of Jean-Pierre, whose holdings cluster around the most affected parts, so there is no compensation in owning vines out of range of God’s malice.

On top of that, this is not an affluent domaine that can ride such calamities out; this is not a domaine with the global reputation to charge a premium on their premier crus, not that profit is Jean-Pierre’s goal. And on top of all that, last year saw the passing of his father-in-law, Joseph Voillot himself, who I was pleased to have lunched with many years ago. Still, this is a domaine that epitomizes everything to love, and I mean “love” and not just “like”, about Burgundy.

Simple, artisan, quality-driven but not extreme, a soulful and charming domaine that just gets by turning out traditional, characterful Volnay and Pommards year after year. And in Jean-Pierre, as I have written before, you have one of the unsung heroes of the Côte de Beaune, the proverbial winemakers’ winemaker. He’s taught many of the vignerons in Burgundy, put them on the right track and played his own part in elevating quality.

“We were around 50% down in 2013,” he told me, sweeping up the shards of a wine glass that had inadvertently smashed on the floor of the cuverie. “Pezerolles was wiped out by around 75%. Most of the premier crus were halved in terms of quantity and so we had to use three sorting table during the harvest [which took place between 5 and 11 October]. The good thing was that there was ventilation and so there was no rot. I’m happy to have the quality even though we have suffered hail three times.”

I asked whether netting was the solution but as he pointed out, it is too expensive to use for a Village Cru. Having said that, I still think if the manpower was available, a grower like Jean-Pierre would have been spared at least part of his suffering had he had recourse to it. As for the wines, these are the types of Pommard and Volnay that I enjoy so much. They can be a bit “stiff” and aloof in their youth but they certainly repay cellaring. For those who prefer their Burgundy more “classic” in style, for those that might have a penchant for de Montille or Michel Lafarge, Joseph Voillot will be right up your street.

—Neal Martin December 2014

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