Étienne Grivot at Domaine Jean Grivot in Vosne-Romanée.
– I

f you don’t involve your heart you can’t produce interesting wine. This line of work is very complex. You need to be very passionate and very meticulous at the same time. Just following your heart is not enough. You have to be strict and professional as well.

Étienne Grivot in Vosne-Romanée has been in charge at Domaine Jean Grivot since 1990. He talks about the importance of intuition, but also about being rational.

He arrived at the domaine in 1982 to work alongside his father Jean. Three-four years later he took on some responsibility. Altogether there was a long period of transition, eight years, moving from one generation to the next. Now, with the arrival of the next generation of Grivots – Mathilde and Hubert – three years ago there are changes up ahead.

Richebourg, Vosne-Romanée.– In 2020 I’m leaving, says Étienne Grivot.

– Well, he adds, I will still be around. But I will be handing over all the responsibility for the domaine to them.

– From 0 to 30 you learn. From 30 to 60 you have the responsibility. After that you support. In 2020 I’m turning 60.

He is confident this transition will be successful.

– Mathilde learns very quickly, he says. If I passed away today I am sure she would pull it off. For the 2012 vintage I didn’t have to explain much to her. She knew exactly how to adapt the vinification to the vintage.

Étienne Grivot is the fifth generation to focus on winemaking only. There has been Grivots in Vosne-Romanée since 1556, but previous generations combined vineyards with other activities.

Clos de Vougeot, Burgundy.Back in the 1970’s the domaine was only half its present size, 7.5 hectares. Since then the domaine has grown; some vineyards have been bought, others have been returned to the family after having been rented to other growers.

– Our parcel in Clos de Vougeot was bought between the two world wars by my grandfather, says Étienne Grivot. He wanted to sell his vineyards in the Hautes-Côtes and get something that was easier to keep an eye on. Looking back, he was a wise man.

The Grivot Clos de Vougeot parcel, 1.87 hectares in total, is located at the lower part, touching the route nationale. With its gate with ”Domaine J. Grivot” in wrought iron it is easy to locate. It is surrounded by the vines of Château de la Tour on three sides.

Echezeaux, Burgundy.– When you’re standing by the gate you have a small road leading up the vineyard, says Étienne Grivot. 40 per cent of our vines are on the left and 60 per cent on the right. Within our parcel we have many different types of soil. The bottom part is very deep. At the top the soil is stony and is just a little bit more than a foot deep.

– In lesser years – my father started this and I continued – we used to remove the grapes from the lower left side. It’s more humid there and the maturity is less good. But for the past ten-twelve years we have used all grapes. It produces a cuvée with better balance. Neither my grandfather, nor my father, nor I have produced two cuvées from Clos de Vougeot, because we have all noticed that the best is always the blend.

He uses medium toast barrels for the Clos de Vougeot. The toast is lighter, but the toast time is longer and he uses three different coopers in order to avoid any ”signature” in the taste.

Chateau de Clos de Vougeot, Burgundy.– Wood is for wine what salt is for food, says Étienne Grivot. You need it. But if you notice it you have made a mistake.

– It’s true that in Clos de Vougeot we are not perfectly located, he continues, but in blind Clos de Vougeot tastings we always obtain good scores. In Echézeaux and in Richebourg we are lucky to be perfectly located. What I’m trying to say is that many generations ago, with great wisdom, they decided what would be grand cru, premier cru etc. We have to continue this. Whether or not you’re well-located in a vineyard, it’s the work of the winemaker that makes the difference.

He describes Echézeaux as a wine always very sweet and glamorous. A very relaxed wine that doesn’t need food. Clos de Vougeot, on the other hand, he describes as a wine with lots of power and energy.

Étienne Grivot at Domaine Jean Grivot in Vosne-Romanée.– For me, pinot noir needs to be glamorous at the beginning, carried by a nice energy. It needs to be vibrant, not boring. My style is very difficult to explain, but it’s combination of classic and modern. If it’s too modern I think it becomes boring. It needs to be a nice balance between energy and a more fleshy style.

– I never adapt to what’s fashionable. Right now overripeness is fashionable. I don’t like it. I prefer to keep the freshness and the energy.

Not counting the Richebourg Domaine Grivot produces eight different Vosne-Romanée wines, two village appellation wines and six premier crus – Les Rouges, Les Beaux Monts, Aux Reignots, Aux Brulées, Les Chaumes and Les Suchots.

Richebourg in Vosne-Romanée.– For me Vosne-Romanée is all about harmony and balance, says Étienne Grivot. Even at village level you have the perfect balance between spice, energy and suavity. Nuits-Saint-Georges is different. During the time of my grandfather’s Nuits-Saint-Georges was more well-known than Vosne-Romanée. Because back then the food was a little bit different, more gamey. Then with modern taste people started wanting more sweetness in the wine. The big mistake is that many producers try to give them this. To me it’s a mistake to give pleasure at any cost. I try to preserve the harmony between suavity and energy.

Being located in Vosne-Romanée, in the heart of the Côte de Nuits, Domaine Grivot is of course a predominantly red domaine. Out of the 19 wines produced only one is white, and quantities are small. In a good year there may be 2000 bottles of their Bourgogne blanc, from vines in Vosne-Romanée.

– Our production of chardonnay is very small, explains Étienne Grivot. It’s behind the restaurant here in Vosne-Romanée, La Petite Auberge, behind Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux. I decided to plant chardonnay there because the exposition is not perfect. We didn’t produce any chardonnay before 1991. It’s a nice experience for me. 80 per cent of it are in La Fontaine de Vosne and 20 per cent in Au-dessus de la Rivière. If it had been planted with pinot noir it would have been Vosne-Romanée, but since it’s chardonnay the appellation is Bourgogne.

– I don’t do this to prove that you can produce good chardonnay in Vosne-Romanée. It’s just for fun. I harvest late. There is a nice balance, with a good acidity. The bottom part has deep soil, but the top is dry.

© 2014 Ola Bergman