The famous Côte d’Or – the heart of the Burgundy wine-producing region – is an escarpment supporting a narrow band of vineyards stretching 30 miles south of Dijon, where the rock is predominantly limestone, favouring both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Viticulturally it is divided into the Côte de Nuits in the north, famous for great red wines made from Pinot Noir, and the Côte de Beaune in the south, where the reds are joined by fine white wines made from the Chardonnay grape.
Neatly sandwiched between these two famous regions is Domaine Désertaux-Ferrand, where the family have been winemakers for generations. Brother and sister duo Vincent and Christine Désertaux took over from their father, Bernard, who was responsible for the expansion of the domaine to its present size. They are both extremely talented vignerons who fashion delightfully fragrant and supple wines from the Côte de Nuits as well as from small parcels in Meursault, Pommard and Beaune itself. Along with Vincent’s wife Geneviève they also give Partners a warm welcome at the domaine.
Our exclusive red wine comes from a small parcel of vines called Les Perrières, situated right next to the famous Clos des Langres, which actually marks the boundary between the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune. The Pinot Noir grapes are picked by hand and then undergo a traditional vinification that starts with three days of cold maceration to help extract colour and tannin from the skins, before a 15-day fermentation. The wine is then matured for a minimum of eight months in oak barrels, 20% of which are new each year. The resulting wine has ripe red and black fruit flavours with nuances of liquorice, and that typical fine burgundian bouquet of damp fur and undergrowth. It ages very well and is usually ready to drink three or four years after the vintage.
Bernard Désertaux was the first winemaker in the appellation to produce white wine – and what an unusual wine it is, not only because most of the wines here are red, but also because it is a blend of 20% Pinot Blanc, 80% Chardonnay. The Pinot Blanc grape, although indigenous to Burgundy, is now more closely associated with Alsace, and only a handful of growers retain some to add character and fruitiness to the ubiquitous Chardonnay. The grapes are pressed immediately and the must is gently separated from the skins before undergoing fermentation with natural yeasts. One third of the wine is put into new oak barrels, where it gains complexity from the wood, and the rest is matured in stainless steel. The juices are then blended before bottling to produce a refreshing, full-bodied wine that combines the weight and roundness of Chardonnay with the soft fruit of Pinot Blanc and the smooth vanilla essence of oak. An excellent match for all kinds of fish, fowl or fromage.
Vincent and Christine have won many medals at the International Wine Challenge in London – but in 2009 they were finally awarded a Gold Medal, followed by a coveted Trophy in the 2010 awards. What better testimony to their undoubted skills as winemakers?