Clos des Mouches is one of the mythical walled vineyards in Burgundy with the influential Maison Joseph Drouhin owning half of it. Restored back from ill health, the vineyards are now at the peak of their powers as chef and wine expert Roger Jones discovered when he was invited by Frédérick Drouhin to join him for an exclusive lunch to celebrate the centenary of their ownership.
“On the mid-palate there is perfect Medjool dates, juicy figs balanced by a deep strawberry perfume, bright clean and focused on the finish,” writes Jones about the Clos des Mouches rouge 1990.
This tasting lunch was to celebrate a hundred years of Domaine Drouhin’s association with Burgundy’s mythical walled vineyard of Clos des Mouches. Because of Covid we were actually celebrating 101 years of this vineyard that lies between Corton Charlemagne, Pommard and Puligny Montrachet. The lunch was hosted by Frédéric Drouhin who is president of the estate and, along with his sister and two brothers, are the fourth generation of the Drouhin family and current guardians of Clos des Mouches.
Maison Joseph Drouhin has in total 80 hectares across Burgundy, including 38 hectares in Chablis, and Domaine Drouhin in Oregon, established by Robert Drouhin in 1988. However, we were gathered together today to celebrate the unique site Beaune Clos des Mouches, first brought into the Drouhin family in 1921 by Maurice Drouhin, son of the founder Joseph, who continued to purchase more parcels of vines (41 in total) in the following 10 years from eight different owners to establish what they have now which is 50% of the Clos des Mouches with 14 hectares.
To fully understand why the Clos des Mouches is the Drouhin’s ‘beating heart’ and the work that had to be done to ‘save’ the vineyard click here.
The family affair
Despite being listed as Premier Cru the grapes are treated like Grand Cru, with each parcel vinified separately, as Frédéricsays “it is like having children” with each parcel needing their individual care prior to joining ‘the family’ as a whole, picking can take up to 10 days in total, giving a white and red wine that are some of the most sought after and majestic in Burgundy.
Frédéric explained that Clos des Mouches is called “mouches” reflected the “flies” in the Clos, although the actual flies were “honey bees”, which went there to collect pollen, but unfortunately in the local dialect they were called honey flies mouches a miel, so possibly the direct translation should be ignored or adjusted.
Drouhin’s vineyards have been biodynamic since the 1990s, and fertilised by manure. Interestingly Frédéric noted that in some of their other vineyards (notably in Chablis) they use seabird manure… not a job I would fancy much ‘scraping sea gull droppings off the white cliffs of Dover’. The soil is still ploughed by horses in part, and the vines are treated by bio-tea infusions.
Frédéric himself is a keen gastronome and was fully involved in the day’s superlative lunch at Upstairs Trinity, he also wanted to showcase the ability of mixing both white and red with each course, and highlighting how opposites do attract especially with food and wine. How many of you would think that a Côte de Beaune rouge would go with oysters? Well they did with a dash of wild garlic oil giving the oysters an extra silky feel that matched so well with the purity and red berry freshness of the Beaune, whilst au naturel the oysters were perfectly matched to the white wine.
The first two wines were labelled as Côte de Beaune, made from both the young declassified vines of Clos des Mouches, and grapes from a recently-purchased vineyard on the Côte de Beaune. These wines offer exceptional value for wines that are made to the same exacting standard as the Clos des Mouches, at moderate prices.
So how were the wines tasting?
Côte de Beaune Blanc 2020
Delicate, refined, pears, lemon pith, restrained stone fruit, clean and focused, citrus peel on the mid-palate, bright citrus finish, clean and moreish
Côte de Beaune Rouge 2019
Focused, clean cut raspberries, gently perfumed, hints of spice, sweet fruited tannin, hint of tobacco and dried cep powder, uplifted by the fresh saline of the oysters with wild garlic oil.
Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc 2019
Lovely intensity, ripe unwaxed citrus, white peeled stone fruit (peaches), nutmeg and acacia honey, beeswax, textured, layered and complex. On the mid-palate it evolves beautifully, with perfectly balanced acidity, perfect with the oysters served au naturel.
We were then treated to a selection of dishes each in themselves set to enhance our experience of enjoying two aged Clos des Mouches: new season asparagus with seaweed hollandaise, the salty seaweed giving the hollandaise an uplifted saline and sea fresh hit; La latteria burrata with aubergine and mint, the confit of aubergine and mint giving an umami feel and balance against the wonderful creamy burrata; comté croquettes offering depth and that perfect foil and uplift to Burgundy (both white and red); and finally a salad of smoked mackerel, jersey royals and spring onions, lots of flavours here when combined giving a perfect yin and yang to the Clos des Mouches Rouge 2008.
Clos des Mouches Blanc 2014
Restrained stone fruit (apricots) with a honeyed feel, Perigord truffles evolving on the mid-palate, lime curd, white pepper, peeled white nectarines, lovely purity, complex and awaiting food, fabulous match with the asparagus and salty seaweed butter sauce. This wine is drinking well now but will age beautifully.
Clos des Mouches Rouge 2008
Silky, perfumed, fresh and focussed, brambles, pepper, forest floor, summer truffles, and what a great match to the smoked mackerel, the darker red berries being a lovely foil to the smokiness of the fish, balanced by the waxy jersey potatoes.
The main course was a perfectly cooked tranche of wild turbot, braised in oxidised white Burgundy (no one guessed the exact name) with sublime mashed potatoes. The two wines served with this were:
Clos des Mouches Blanc 2006
The purity and refinement of this wine is immense, hints of spices tingling on the palate with peeled Provence stone fruit, white nuts, ginger biscuits, hints of delicate white truffles. This is layered and textured, hints of candied pineapple at the end giving it a bright, focused, and tropical feel. The match with the turbot was spot on, cutting through the richness of the meaty fish and rich sauce.
Clos des Mouches Rouge 1999
Ripe raspberries, hints of aged, quality balsamic vinegar, toasty, meaty, bacon, lamb juices inter-mingled with powerful dark red fruits, juicy cherries, tobacco spice. The mid-palate has sweetness and truffled savoury nuances, quite outstanding and a brilliant match to the vibrant rich turbot dish, this has the nod over the Blanc 2006 as a food match…turbot and Pinot – a match made in heaven. This wine will continue to excel for up to a decade.
Finally with cheese (a beautiful rich and creamy blue cheese called Beauvale from the Cropwell Bishop Stilton bastions) we approached two rare treats.
Clos des Mouches Blanc 2000
The length, depth and purity of this 22-year-old Burgundy is perfect, think Batard, apricots, white truffle, hazelnuts, acacia honey, hints of beeswax, droplets of white stone fruit essence, peeled ripe Pear William (my notes kept stating ‘purity’). A real treat, no food match needed this was a wine to drink by itself and by yourself.
Clos des Mouches Rouge 1990
Morello cherry on the nose, sweet tobacco and garnet. This is spicy, with great purity of fruit, is drinking so well at the moment and was a lovely match to the salty creamy blue cheese. On the mid-palate there is perfect Medjool dates, juicy figs balanced by a deep strawberry perfume, bright clean and focused on the finish.