omaine Dujac in Morey-Saint-Denis has spent most of the first decade of the new millennium converting their 15 hectares of vines into organic farming. Looking back now Jeremy Seysses is very satisfied with the results.
– Certainly I find the wines different from what they used to be and the differences are consistent, he says. There really is a sense of place, terroir. More precision.
– This far, this is the best way to make wine.
By Burgundian standards Domaine Dujac is a young estate. It was in 1967 that Jacques Seysses, Jeremy's father, bought the five hectare Domaine Graillet and renamed it Domaine Dujac. By the mid-1970's the domaine had gained a solid reputation and has remained there ever since.
– In 2001 we went organic with one third of the domaine, explains Jeremy Seysses. We wanted to get some experience before we went any further, see if it was workable. We needed to know how to handle disease. We started in the grand crus because they are less sensitive.
Seven years later enough experience was gained and the whole domaine was ready to go organic. Initially they felt a certain reluctance to go as far as becoming certified.
– Certification means a lot of paperwork and I certainly don't want people to buy our wine because it's organic, says Jeremy Seysses. I want them to buy it because it's good.
But after some consideration they have decided to go all the way, with certification. One reason is that without being certified they can't say they are organic. Another is that they will not be included in any statistics for organic wine-growing.
The process has been long and to see the results will take even longer. It takes three years to see the first results, but it takes many vintages to make sure that the differences are due to the conversion to organic and not to a result of vintage variation.
– One big thing was stopping herbicides. That took us 90 per cent of the way. Once you stop the herbicides it takes a while for your soil to recover, it takes a while to eliminate everything. It takes a while for the vegetation in the vineyards to finds its balance.
It is not only the conversion to organic in itself that gives results. Working organically means that the winegrower has to be more rigorous, have a greater understanding for the ecosystem and be able anticipate more.
– So generally speaking it puts pressure on you to become a better farmer. That in itself has been very useful.
– We started experimenting with different pruning systems. We are a young estate. We have a lot of vines that are 40 years and younger, so we are trying to make young vines behave more like old vines, reducing vigour. We dabbled with traditional Guyot pruning, then the Cordon and one that was in between. The Cordon system proved to be the best one.
Jeremy Seysses describes Domaine Dujac as a low-tech estate. In the winery they have equipment for temperature control, but not much else in terms of technology.
– Having experimented with both whole clusters and de-stemming, continues Jeremy Seysses. I would not say that one is better than the other. Whole clusters are perhaps a little riskier. But we find that our taste is more in the direction of whole bunches.
Domaine Dujac's wine portfolio is strictly Côte de Nuits, with an emphasis on Morey-Saint-Denis. Of Morey-Saint-Denis' five grand crus Domaine Dujac has holdings in three – Clos Saint Denis, Clos de la Roche and Bonnes Mares. In addition to that they have another four grand crus – Chambertin and Charmes-Chambertin in Gevrey-Chambertin and Echézeaux and Romanée Saint-Vivant in Vosne-Romanée.
– Clos Saint Denis is possibly the least known grand cru in Morey-Saint-Denis. Then again, it all comes down to size. Clos Saint Denis is only six hectares and that's not much if a wine will have a chance to become well-known. There are twelve growers sharing this grand cru. Domaine Georges Lignier and us, we essentially had half of the Clos St Denis, while eleven or so producers share the rest. Domaine Dujac has 1.45 hectares. Many don't make enough so they can promote it. It's difficult to open samples when you are only making two barrels.
– We think of ourselves as a Morey estate. Our reputation has been based on the Morey wines; Clos Saint Denis, Clos de la Roche and Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes.
He adds with a smile:
– Aux Combottes is of course in Gevrey-Chambertin, but I would like to see it as an extension of Morey-Saint-Denis.
Aux Combottes is the southernmost of the Gevrey-Chambertin premier crus, just on the border to Morey-Saint-Denis. It is surrounded by grand crus on all four sides and is the only premier cru in this part of Gevrey-Chambertin.
With Gevrey-Chambertin on one side and Chambolle-Musigny on the other Morey-Saint-Denis is surrounded by famous appellations. Not that Morey-Saint-Denis is in any way unknown, but its illustrious neighbours tend to overshadow the village and its wines. A barrel of Morey-Saint-Denis wine usually sells for one third less than a barrel of Chambolle-Musigny.
– It's perhaps not a source of frustration, says Jeremy Seysses, but as a producer fromMorey we must get better at defining Morey in terms of Morey versus giving in to the ease of describing Clos Saint Denis as more Chambolle and Clos de la Roche as more Gevrey, which means nothing.
When he talks about the Morey-Saint-Denis wines he uses words like musk, nutmeg and cinnamon.
– It's the way the wines carry themselves. It's not necessarily about tannins. Morey wines has a sort of generousity, perhaps a little rusticity. The tannins, unless you go to Clos Saint Denis, are not as silky as our neighbours' down south. I feel there is a warmth to it, which I think is its main appeal. Perhaps it's a little less cerebral than some of the other villages. The Morey wines are warm-hearted.
© 2011 Ola Bergman