s a teenager becoming a winegrower was not part of his plan. After the baccalaureate David Lefort studied medicine in Dijon and then continued to Paris and Sorbonne to study philosophy. Still, since 2010 he runs his own domaine in Rully in the Côte Chalonnaise.
– My parents are not winegrowers, he says. I was born in Chalon-sur-Saône and grew up in a small village near Buxy. After Sorbonne I got a master’s degree in Vigne et Terroirs, vine and terroir, in 2007. Alongside my studies I worked on and off at Domaine Lorenzon in Mercurey. I also did a one-year internship at Clos de Tart studying terroir.
It was not until after graduation that the idea of having a domaine of his own took off. David Lefort applied for several jobs, but in the end he decided to create his own business.
– In 2010 I found two parcels in Mercurey to buy, both premier cru, says David Lefort. It was 0.32 ha of Les Champs Martin and 1.76 ha of Clos l’Évêque. What turned out to be really difficult was finding a place for the winery. When it was less than a month until harvest I still didn’t have a place where I could make the wine. Eventually I found a place just outside Rully.
– My idea was to use these two hectares of vines for organic wine-growing, he continues. I didn’t want to take on an existing domaine. If you do that you also take on a heritage, something which dictates how you should work.
Two years later Domaine Lefort had grown to 3.20 hectares and in 2013 it covered a total of five hectares. All new land were village appellation Rully – 0.22 ha of chardonnay in Chaponniére, 1.70 ha of chardonnay in La Chaume, and 0.70 ha of pinot noir and 0.30 ha of chardonnay in Les Cailloux.
– Five hectares is enough if you look at the amount of work required in the vineyards, says David Lefort. Especially since I have many vines that need replacing. That is one of the reasons the two parcels of Mercurey came out on the market. They are not in good shape. Many vines were missing. In the old vines section of Clos l’Évêque it was as much a s 50 per cent missing. In Champs Martin 30 per cent. When I bought them I immediately started the process of converting from conventionally-maintained vineyards to organic. In 2013 I achieved certification.
– For me going organic was an obvious choice. Otherwise I would not have started making wine. There are several reasons. I didn’t want to invest in large machines. I do a lot of manual work. Also, having studied medicine I would not do anything that would jeopardise my health. It is all about respecting the plants and the environment. I see my vineyards a bit like my garden. The vines are part of an ecosystem.
Early 2012 he found a house inside the village. An old winegrowers’s house, complete with cellar and all the necessary space, which made his life a whole lot easier.
– We harvest by hand. The harvesters do the sorting out in the vineyards and we use 20 kg cases to bring in the grapes. Much is whole bunches, whole that go straight into the tanks. I use a minimum of 30–40 per cent whole bunches. Some cuvées are 100 per cent.
Since 2013 there is a three-week cuvasion. The first week the temperature is kept at 10°C–12°C, to avoid having the fermentation start too quickly and to gain colour and aromas. The second week temperature is allowed to rise and fermentation run its course.
– For the whites – Rully Chaponnière and Rully La Chaume – 2013 was my first vintage. I had less experience with whites than reds. In addition to that 2013 was difficult. Harvest was approaching and we had reached maturity. At the same time the weather conditions were very humid and rot was setting in quickly. We had to harvest quickly, over just two days, to avoid having too much rot. As a result the yields were low.
La Chaume is at the southern end of the Rully appellation. It is on a plateau on the Mercurey side of the village. It is well-exposed, with sun all day. At the same time it is not protected from the wind, which means it is slightly cooler there. The soil is deep, quite rich in clay.
– Chaponnière on the other hand is a small parcel at the northern end of the appellation, says David Lefort. Both La Chaume and Chaponnière come from the same owner. The vines are about 40 years old. Chaponnière is facing straight east. The slope is very gentle. There is very much clay. The soil is deep at the bottom of the parcel. Less so at the top.
From his two parcels of premier cru – Les Champs Martin and Clos l’Évêque – in Mercurey David Lefort produces three cuvées. Two of them are straight Mercurey premier cru cuvées, one Les Champs Martin and one Clos l’Évêque. The third is a cuvée called Castille, coming from old vines in Clos l’Évêque.
– The top part of Clos l’Évêque is young vines, explains David Lefort. The bottom part is old vines and the part used for the Castille cuvée. The difference between the two is not only the age of the vines. There is also a difference in soil. The top part, where the vines are 20–25 years old, is clay and limestone. In the bottom part the soil is deeper with more clay and less limestone.
– For the young vines I don’t use any new oak. For the Castille cuvée I use almost 40 per cent new oak.
© 2016 Ola Bergman