he relatively unknown appellation Côte de Nuits-Villages is 95 percent red. A few producers have decided to plant chardonnay instead of pinot noir. One of them is Domaine Dubois in Prémeaux-Prissey.
– Our first vintage was 1996, says Raphaël Dubois. Some of the whites from the Côte de Nuits, from Nuits-Saint-Georges or Morey-Saint-Denis, I feel are too weak. The level of acidity is low, because the soil is better suited for reds. But in this one, the white Côte de Nuits-Villages, we have a balanced acidity.
For long the Côte de Nuits-Villages appellation has been overshadowed by the the far more illustrious villages on the Côte de Nuits. It is an appellation available for wines from five villages – Brochon and Fixin at the top of the Côte de Nuits and Premeaux-Prissey, Comblanchien and Corgoloin at the opposite end, just south of Nuits-Saint-Georges. In Domaine Dubois’ case the wine comes from a single lieu-dit, Les Monts de Boncourt in Corgoloin.
– Les Monts de Boncourt is just behind the quarry, explains Raphaël Dubois. Up towards the top of the slope we have 0.80 hectares of chardonnay. That’s 5500 bottles per year on average. The soil is clay and limestone, yellowish/brownish in colour. There is gravel in the clay. It is very good for chardonnay and we’re not the only ones to have chosen to plant it here. Further down on the slope we have pinot noir. It makes a good wine, but it is less interesting.
Domaine Dubois is run by Raphaël Dubois and his sister Béatrice. Only a generation ago it was modest in size, covering four hectares. Today they have 22 hectares, spread out over 20 appellations in both the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, from Chambolle-Musigny down to Volnay.
– We are the ninth generation of winegrowers in the Dubois family, says Raphaël Dubois. When it comes to this domaine we are the fourth generation. Before our great-grandfather it was traditional farming too, not just wine. At that time people were employed by the big négociants to take care of the vineyards.
Raphaël Dubois arrived at the domaine in 1983. Béatrice Dubois, a trained oenologue, chose a different path. Between 1995 and 2005 she were making two vintages per year, one back home in Burgundy and one in the southern hemisphere.
– It was a very interesting period, she says. I went to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Chile. I mainly worked with shiraz wines. Pinot noir wasn’t my main focus. I wanted to work with other grape varieties and I wanted to see big wineries and learn how they work there.
Half of Domaine Dubois is regional appellations like Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne rouge or Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. The remaining eleven hectares are, often small, parcels of village appellations, three premier crus and one grand cru – Clos du Vougeot.
In Beaune, at the northern end, they have a third of a hectare of Blanche Fleur. This lieu-dit is mainly known as a premier cru, but the bottom part is only village appellation and this is where you’ll find the Domaine Dubois vines.
– We are not very lucky, smiles Béatrice Dubois. It’s the same thing with Chambolle-Musigny, Les Combottes. It is also part village appellation, part premier cru. And we are in the village appellation there as well.
– In Beaune, Blanche Fleur, the premier cru part is on the slope and the village appellation part is flat. That is probably the reason why one part is classified as premier cru. This is always one of the vineyards to ripen first. Every year.
Much of the domaine’s vineyards are centred around Nuits-Saint-Georges and Premeaux-Prissey. In 2009 they got the chance to acquire a tiny parcel of village Volnay, Les Paux Bois. It is at the very top, bordering on the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune appellation.
– It is a late-ripening parcel, says Raphaël Dubois. The soil is normal Volnay-soil. The exposure is eastern. But the rootstocks that were chosen back when this was planted are not the best, so it takes time to get a good maturation. We have three or four ares that are not planted. When we take down the trees there and plant vines we will make a better choice in order to get a better complexity in the wine.
– For us this was a way to get into Volnay, we entered through the back door, he adds with a smile. It is interesting, but it takes time to fully understand a new appellation.
In Nuits-Saint-Georges the parcels are more extensive. One hectare of premier cru vines – in Les Porêts Saint Georges and in Clos des Argillières – and 3.40 hectares of village Nuits-Saint-Georges.
– We have four parcels for the village Nuits-Saint-Georges – Les Chaliots, which is just below Les Porêts Saint Georges, Les Longecourts and Plantes au Baron, below Les Cailles and Les Saint-Georges, and Les Topons below Les Forêts. Les Chaliots produces a more rustic, traditional Nuits-Saint-Georges style wine, while Plantes au Baron is more subtle.
Raphaël Dubois describes a similar difference between the two Nuits-Saint-Georges premier crus of Domaine Dubois.
– Clos des Argillières is in the centre of the village of Prémeaux-Prissey. It’s not your usual style of Nuits-Saint-Georges. It’s always more round, elegant and pleasant. Les Porêts Saint Georges is more traditional Nuits-Saint-Georges. We are not that many owners in Clos des Argillières. Patrice Rion is the biggest owner. Then there is Château de Prémeaux, Prieuré Roch, Vincent Dureuil and Christophe Buisson.
© 2014 Ola Bergman