Drouhin's medieval cellars in Burgundy
If you’re looking for a mind-blowing wine for a special holiday dinner, look no further. If you’re a white wine lover, get ready to be transported to Mecca. I’ll be writing in a separate article in this blog about the best wines of our recent Wine-Knows tour to France, but I couldn’t wait to share this one from our stop in Burgundy.
If you’re a history buff, the appeal of Clos de Mouches makes it an even more compelling choice. First let me share that I tasted this in the medieval underground cellar of Drouhin….but his isn’t just any cellar by a long shot. There are 2.5 acres of illustrious caves tunneled underneath Burgundy’s capital city, Beaune, during the 13th-18th centuries. These are the very cellars in which the Drouhin family (as well as many other Burgundian winemakers) successfully hid their premier wines from the Nazi’s in WW II. Drinking even bottled water here is a magical experience, let alone a Clos de Mouches blanc.
The story of how the blanc (white) Clos de Mouches came to be is also a little treasure of history. The birth of the wine occurred in the 1920’s as France was struggling to recover from the first World War. At this time, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were planted in the Clos de Mouches vineyard and often mixed together in the blend, but 90% of the Clos de Mouches parcel was Pinot. One year, the Chardonnay did not ripen, so the Pinot was picked and vinified alone. Then, a very unusual hot spell descended on Burgundy and the white grapes ripened…but it was too late to add them to the Pinot. As it was a very small volume, Drouhin decided to try something unique and made a small batch just of the Chardonnay---it was too small of an amount to sell on the marketplace, so Drouhin intended to keep it for his family’s personal consumption. If it hadn’t been for the winemaker taking a bottle to a friend, I wouldn’t be writing this article, as this white wine would never have been made again.
His friend lived in Paris…and just happened to own the wildly popular Maxim’s Restaurant (3 Michelin stars). The proprietor of Maxim’s took one taste of the Clos de Mouche blanc and told Drouhin he would buy every bottle available. It was here in Maxim’s that the famous actor Maurice Chevalier fell in love with the wine and proclaimed it his favorite.
For all of you ABC’s out there (anything-but-chardonnay) hold on! If anything will change your mind, this Premier Cru Clos de Mouche white is the one. The 2010 vintage that I tasted in the magnificent cellars was complex and elegant, with notes of citrus intermingling with floral, almond, nutmeg and mineral. This one had me at “hello.” Thankfully, it’s widely available in the US and its price tag of $70-90 (depending on the vintage) makes it the perfect wine for a special occasion holiday event.
FYI…there is also a Clos de Mouches red by Drouhin made from Pinot. While we’ve tasted it during the visit to Drouhin as well, it was the white version that made the earth of the cellars move for me…and I’m a red wine gal.