hen Hervé Murat set up his own domaine in 2005 all he had was a hectare and a half of Hautes-Côtes de Nuits vines. If your plan is to make a living off your vines this is far from enough.
– Well, smiles Hervé Murat, that is not the way to do it. Still, for me it was an opportunity. It was a start, so I could start making my own wine. Then again, if you really want it, anything is possible.
As it turned out, anything in this case had its limitations. Reality set in and buying land in Burgundy is difficult. If you are able to find anything for sale the price tag usually puts an end to your dreams if you are a young winegrower with limited funds.
For Hervé Murat the solution was to add a small scale négociant business to his domaine in Concoeur, specialising in old vines.
– But even buying grapes proved to be difficult at first, says Hervé Murat. I tried to go through courtiers, wine brokers, but the response I got was that it was impossible. All I needed was grapes enough to make two or three barrels of village appellation wine. But no.
Instead he asked for help from his friends, and friends of his friends. That turned out to be a better way. Initially he divided his time between his own domaine and taking care of the vinyards for Corton-André in Aloxe-Corton, but for the 2007 vintage he managed to put his hands on some Chambolle-Musigny, Les Echézeaux.
– It’s a pleasure to vinify, he says. LesEchézeaux is just outside the villlage, on the south side. It’s a bit like an amphitheatre there and Les Echézeaux is on the east-facing slope. If you continue past Domaine Roumier you have it on your left. The soil is clay-limestone.
The following year he was able to add both village and premier cru Morey-Saint-Denis.
– I only buy grapes from old parcels, explains Hervé Murat. Usually they are small as well. The village Morey-Saint-Denis for example is only two barrels. Quantities like this are too small to be of interest for others. This parcel is located just behind the church. It is actually the garden of the winegrower.
– The Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru is a Les Charrières. That is on the the other side of the village, between Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis. It is just next to Clos des Ormes. The vines are old and the yield is always very low. One of my favourite parcels.
In 2009 things really took off. Hervé Murat found sources for both Nuits-Saint-Georges, La Petite Charmotte and Vosne-Romanée. This was also the year when his father retired, so there were more vineyards coming from him - Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, both red and white, and Beaune premier cru Les Tuvilains.
Les Tuvilains is one of the more obscure Beaune premier crus. Located at the bottom of the slope between Beaune and Pommard it covers 8.94 hectares and is split between nine different owners.
– The vines in Les Tuvilains were planted in 1947, just after World War II, says Hervé Murat. I have 0.50 hectares. In this wine you have that characteristic Beaune terroir. It is very round, sweet. Even if it is on the Pommard side of Beaune it is still closer to Beaune. The soil is rich and deep. It is clay and limestone. Not particularly stony.
– Together all the Beaune premier crus cover more than 300 hectares. It is a large appellation. You have four or five very well-known premier crus, which are bottled separately. Les Tuvilains is not particularly well-known, so most of the time it is blended with other parcels and labelled just as Beaune premier cru. Since I only have Les Tuvilains I don’t have a choice, but thanks to the age of the vines I am able to make a very good wine.
From the 2012 vintage there is also the addition of 0.40 hectares of village Beaune located in Blanches Fleurs, right next to the premier cru of the same name on the Savigny-lès-Beaune side of Beaune.
– For me Beaune is a very interesting appellation, says Hervé Murat. It is the best price/quality ratio you can get. Possibly with some competition from Savigny-lès-Beaune and Chorey-lès-Beaune.
A large part of the vines of Domaine Hervé Murat are located up in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. The main parcel, covering 1.52 hectares, is located between Concoeur and Villars-Fontaine, above Nuits-Saint-Georges. It is called Les Herbues and produces about 9000 bottles of red Hautes-Côtes de Nuits annually. These were the vines that in 2005 formed the foundation of the domaine.
– When my father was 20 he planted the vines together with my grandfather. That makes the vines 43 years old. The future for the Hautes-Côtes looks very promising. There is some very interesting terroir here, but there is also a lot of work to be done by the winegrowers. The area is vast, but parts of it is really interesting.
The other red Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Le Clos Duc, comes from older vines, 55 years. Hervé Murat describes Les Herbues as slightly more sauvage and more fruity, with tougher tannins. Le Clos Duc has more complexity and is closer to a village wine in character.
– Le Clos Duc is the name of the plot, but it is not surrounded by walls as the name suggests. In the past there probably were walls though. The exposure is perfect, the slope is facing south. The wind conditions are ideal and the vines are of good quality.
The white Hautes-Côtes de Nuits comes from a small parcel of only 0.23 hectares. In a good year that means between 1500 and 2000 bottles. You will find the vineyard just outside Concoeur.
– But it is not chardonnay, says Hervé Murat. This wine is 100 per cent pinot blanc. The age of the vines is between 55 and 60 years. We are allowed to make Hautes-Côtes de Nuits from pinot blanc for historical reasons, but when we replant in the future we will have to do it with chardonnay.
– The pinot blanc produces a wine with different character than the chardonnay. It is more crispy. Not the same fruit or bouquet. My father did not make this cuvée. He had chardonnay as well, so he would blend the two.
© 2013 Ola Bergman