Amélie Berthaut at Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet in Fixin, Burgundy.

hen Amélie Berthaut returned to her native Fixin at the top of the Côte de Nuits she had not one but two family domaines to take on, brought together under the Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet label. She wants to move away from rustic character often associated with the wines from the village and she has high hopes for the appellation.

– We may not be able to produce a Chambolle-Musigny or a Vosne-Romanée, but I think we have some great terroir here in Fixin with lots of potential.

Today Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet stretches over 14 hectares. The result is some twenty different cuvées.

Les Arvelets in Fixey, Burgundy.– I was very lucky to have two domaines to take on. It keeps me from getting bored, she smiles.

– The vineyards of my mother were added to the domaine here in Fixin. Domaine Denis Berthaut is my father’s estate. He used to work with my uncle. At that time it was Domaine Vincent & Denis Berthaut. I am also lucky that my mother’s domaine was in Vosne-Romanée. She used to work there with her sister.

Initially there was some confusion when it came to label design. Some wines were sold under the Domaine Denis Berthaut label, others under the Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet label. But from the 2015 vintage only Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet is used.

En Combe Roy, Fixin.– I want to keep my maternal grandfather’s name, Amélie Berthaut says.

She arrived at the domaine in 2013, after having graduated from the University of Bordeaux. Since then her father has handed over the responsibility for the winemaking to her.

– My father is really nice, she says. ”Do as you want, I’m here to help”, he tells me. He just continues to do what he likes, dealing with the tractors etc, leaving the winemaking to me.

– I don’t want to change the philosophy of the domaine. I'm the seventh generation here. So, no revolution.

Instead Amélie Berthaut is focusing on details, fine-tuning the whole process, from vineyard to bottle.

– When you think about Fixin you think rustic, she says. Big tannins and wines which need to be laid down for many years. I think we can make finer wines. Less of big tannins, but still wines that can be aged.

Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy.– In a few years time we will be able to tell if the changes have had the desired effect. We have reduced the number of punch-downs during vinification. We mainly do pump-overs today. There used to be a lot of punching down here, lots of extraction. Now we try to go easier on extraction. We use longer maceration in order to have better length and finer tannins. We have reduced the time in barrel. It’s perhaps not the case with grand crus, but if you keep a village appellation wine too long in barrel you will have dry tannins.

Amélie Berthaut talks about the importance of experimenting to find new solutions. New ideas need to be tested before they can be put into practice. Often new ideas are tried out on one half of a cuvée. The results are then evaluated before bottling and the experimental half is blended with the unchanged half.

Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy.– We have been trying out a new barrel-maker. We are still evaluating the results. We used to do the malolactic fermentation in tanks, but my idea is that it is better to do it in barrel. You get a better exchange with the lees and there is some contact with oxygen which you don't get in tank.

– For the 2014s we did half the malolactic fermentation in tank and half in barrel. It worked better in barrel because the fermentation was longer. There is one racking less, so the wine is moved less. The wine is not sulphured until as late as possible. So from 2015 all the malos, except for the Bourgogne rouge, are done in barrel and I think the wines have improved.

The Bourgogne rouge of Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet comes from a single parcel called Les Prielles below the village of Fixin. In the past the wine was kept in barrels for as long as 24 months. That has been reduced considerably. The wine sees no new oak is the only one at the domaine that is filtered.

– We filter this cuvée because we bottle it quite early. We are looking for something easy-drinking, so we bottle early in order to keep the fruit.

Fixin, Burgundy.There is very little white at the domaine. The only one is the white village appellation Fixin, a wine from chardonnay vines planted in Champ des Charmes, a lieu-dit in the southeastern corner of the appellation, in 2009.

– The vines are still young, so one shouldn't expect much complexity, says Amélie Berthaut. The first crop was in 2014. Champ des Charmes used to be planted with pinot noir, but my father wanted some chardonnay. Half was planted in 2009, the rest in 2015. So at this point we only make two barrels, a very small cuvée. It is fermented in barrels. No new oak.

In red the domaine produces four different village Fixin cuvées. There is the standard cuvée, a blend of Aux Prés, Fixey, Le Village and La Vionne that sees no new oak, as well as three single vineyard cuvées – Les Crais, En Combe Roy and Les Clos.

– Les Crais sees 20 per cent new oak, says Amélie Berthaut. It is a big parcel – 1.3 ha – and my father has always been bottling it separately. It is kind of the flagship of the domaine. Being at the bottom of the village one would think that Les Crais is less good soil, but you have sediments from the alluvial cone. The soil is quite deep, with lots of stones. Very well-drained. It is a very good terroir.

Amélie Berthaut at Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet in Fixin, Burgundy.When Amélie Berthaut arrived at the domaine she decided to single out another lieu-dit – En Combe Roy. It is a very small lieu-dit, just below the two premier crus Les Hervelets and Les Arvelets, surrounded by Entre-Deux-Velles on three sides.

– I wanted to understand every parcel of the domaine, she says. The idea was to each year vinify one of the parcels in the Fixin blend separately. In 2013 we did En Combe Roy. The vines are old and there is always millerandage. It turned out great in 2013, so it has remained a separate cuvée. It’s my baby. In 2015 I used 40 per cent whole bunches. My dad used to de-stem everything.

There is a handful of premier crus in Fixin. Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet has almost one hectare – 0.96 ha – in Les Arvelets. The vines are old and part of the parcel was replanted in 2013.

Fixin, Burgundy.– You don’t have any grand crus in Fixin, but there are five premier crus. It used to be two villages – Fixin and Fixey – with Les Hervelets and Les Arvelets in-between. Les Arvelets was the premier cru of Fixey and Les Hervelets of Fixin. For me they are the same. There are more differences between the bottom and the top parts. I would have put the limit that way instead, separating the top from the bottom.

In Les Arvelets the domaine has vines in both the bottom part and the top part. The soil is not very deep and the wine sees about 30 per cent new oak.

Outside the village Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet has holdings in Gevrey-Chambertin, Flagey-Echézeaux and Vosne-Romanée. The Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos des Chezeaux, is a village appellation plot just below the premier cru Les Cazetiers, next to the chateau. 50 per cent whole bunches are used for the Clos des Chezeaux. The domaine also has a tiny parcel in Les Cazetiers which produces just two barrels.

Amélie Berthaut at Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet in Fixin, Burgundy.– It’s not the easiest cuvée to make, explains Amélie Berthaut. We need to use a small tank and therefore the temperature is difficult to control. There is no modern way of doing it. We just use blankets and stuff. Maceration and extraction are more difficult. One pigeage in a small tank like this is like two in a big tank, so you have to be very careful.

Les Cazetiers is not owned by the domaine. The two parcels are farmed under a métayage, a sharecropping arrangement. One parcel is located mid-slope, the other one at the bottom of the slope. In the latter the soil is deeper and the vines younger, around 30 years old.

The village appellation Vosne-Romanée is a blend of three parcels – two in Les Réas and one in La Rivière – all at the southern of the appellation and planted by Amélie Berthaut’s grandfather.

– Our premier cru in Vosne-Romanée – Les Petits Monts – is very special for us. It comes from my mother’s side. It’s above Richebourg and Romanée-Conti, so the location is great. It’s quite steep, so we can’t use a tractor there. Everything is done by hand. So it’s a lot of work and we spend a lot time up there. Everything is difficult. One part is ploughed by horse. The other can’t be reached by horse, so there we use a winch.

The Echézeaux is the only grand cru of Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet. 50 per cent whole bunches are used and the wine sees 50 per cent new oak. Each year just two barrels are produced.

– We have two parcels in Echézeaux, says Amélie Berthaut. One in Les Treux and one in Les Quartiers de Nuits, both in the southeastern part of Echézeaux. I don’t know the exact age of the vines, but they are old in both parcels. Treux means hole, so the soil is deeper there.

© 2018 Ola Bergman