Joseph Drouhin was the founder of a renowned wine company in Burgundy that is now in its fourth generation.
Born in Yonne Department, near the village of Chablis (Burgundy), Joseph Drouhin left his homeland for Beaune, the 'capital' of Burgundy, in search of good business. Daring and enterprising, there he founded, in 1880, at the age of 22, a small company that bought and sold grapes, but also produced wines.
Despite the terrible crisis in the wine sector caused by the phylloxera epidemic that spread through the vineyards of all Europe, Joseph never ceased to believe in a bright future. One of his greatest desires was to provide his customers with quality wines. And he succeeded, overcoming difficulties, investing again in vineyards and rising even stronger in the business world.
However, the Industrial Revolution changed the social landscape and improved the standard of living of populations. New and better roads have been built, facilitating business relationships, including those of shipping companies. Through these facilities, the distribution business became increasingly attractive and well organized, also making consumers more demanding.
The birth of a brand
Maurice Drouhin, joseph's son, inherited from his father energy, dynamism and passion for wines. From 1918, when he took the reins of the family business, he acquired some vineyards on the outskirts of Beaune, starting the much desired production of quality wines (Premier and Grand Crus).
The Côte de Beaune was the first property to be purchased. This plot of land was planted with the Tinta Pinot Noir grape variety and some white grape varieties that were added to red wines, as was customary at the time. In 1925, the situation changed, with white grapes being vinified separately, giving rise to wines of fine aroma and taste. To taste the wines, several personalities were called the Côte de Beaune, including Eugène Cornuchet, director of the famous Maxim's restaurant in Paris. Being a great friend of the owner and realizing that it was a product of superior quality, Cornuchet managed, at the time, the exclusive sale of wines of the Wines of the Côte de Beaune in the luxurious restaurant space.
Quickly, the nectars of the Drouin family gained fame. After World War II, which also significantly affected the wine trade, Maurice fought for lost time and traveled the world, mainly through the United States, where he developed important distribution channels that contributed to the company's growth.
One of the people most connected to Maurice was his nephew Robert, who accompanied him on several professional occasions. Besides tasting wines since the age of fourteen, he made long walks in the vineyard with his uncle and liked to talk about wine, eager to learn more and more. Thus, in 1957, the responsibility of managing the company passed to Robert.
Desirous of further improving the quality of wines produced by the family business, it has acquired even more vineyards in the best denominations of burgundy origin, including Musigny, Griotte-Chambertin, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, Bonnes Mares and Grands Echézeaux. And before the INAO (Institut Nacional des Appellations d'Origine) extended the designations of origin, it bought a 38-hectare vineyard on the outskirts of Chablis, an unusual acquisition, since most producers in Burgundy own tiny properties. However, later, the wines produced in those vineyards proved to have great quality. In the 1970s, it adopted new biological working methods in the vineyard, through the use of fewer fertilizers and chemical treatments. He also hired a woman, the winemaker Laurence Jobard, for the company's staff, a fact also unusual for the time. His deep knowledge of oenology and his sensitivity to wines surprised the entrepreneur who, together with the winemaker, founded the first oenology laboratory in a winery.
In the late 1980s, another challenge was proposed to the Drouhin family. The acquisition of vineyards in the United States, in Oregon (south of Portland), a region dominated by the Cabernet Sauvignon variety but where Robert predicted that the Pinot Noir variety would produce excellent wines. The project proved to be a success: since the first harvest (1988), Domaine Drouhin Oregon has achieved an excellent reputation.
An inheritance to preserve
Robert transmitted to his sons – Philippe (head of viticulture) Vèronique (winemaker), Laurent (brand ambassador in the United States in New York, where he currently resides) and Fréderic (current director of the company) - the in-depth knowledge of terroirs, the sensitivity to taste wines and a demanding concept of quality. Born between 1961 and 1968, all share the passion for vines and wine, working with great enthusiasm in their respective areas, in the company founded by great-grandfather.
This family union, so unusual, helped to better define the philosophy of the company: respect for terroir and the environment. As well as the commitment to new technologies, in order to obtain better quality control, and a dynamic commercial strategy that fuels the continuous growth of the company.
At a time when the environment is one of the hottest topics in the world, Joseph Drouhin is proud to be one of the companies that invests the most in this area. Thus, its viticulture follows an organic and biodynamic approach; providing natural responses to natural problems. Respect for soils involves plowing the land on horseback, using natural compounds and letting vegetation grow among the vineyards. It also involves investing in its own nurseries, in order to ensure the genetic inheritance of vines as well as greater and more effective quality control.
In the vineyard, natural predators are used to the detriment of chemicals. The plants are densely planted in order to let them instill as deeply as possible, as with older vines. In this way, the grapes are more receptive to the messages transmitted by each type of soil. Deliberately, low yields on the vine are favored so that grape berries gain greater strength, giving rise to structured wines, full of personality. Finally the harvest, the high season of the year, when the grapes are picked and placed in small perforated boxes to protect and preserve the integrity of the fruit.
All these measures are now part of the company's routine, which is not only attentive to the environment, but also to the trends and innovations of the wine world.
Vineyards and winery
With its 78 hectares, Joseph Drouhin is one of the largest properties in the region. It has vineyards throughout Burgundy: Chablis (40 hectares), Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, (38 hectares) and Côte Chalonnaise (3 hectares). The company mostly produces Premier and Grand Cru wines, planted with the two main varieties of Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is the great grape ink of Burgundy, delicate and also complicated, as it is not an easily adaptable grape variety. Prefers cold climates, where it produces fine and elegant wines, velvety tannins of medium and long guard. Chardonnay, the queen of whites, adapts very well in various regions of the world. It gives rise to sweet and buttery wines, with excellent complexity and acidity, gaining a lot from the stage in barrica.
For some villages or regional denominations, the company also buys grapes from other owners, long-time partners, who share the same philosophy of excellence. In this case, not all grapes are organic and biodynamic agriculture.
The old winery (there is a newer one outside the city, about three kilometers) is today the headquarters of the company and also the place of visits of wine tourists. An emblematic place that overflows with culture and stories to tell.
Its underground cellars cross the town of Beaune and were owned by the Dukes of Burgundy. However acquired by the Drouhin family, most of them were built walls in some compartments to hide the wine from the German soldiers. Around the same time, Maurice Drouhin - son of the founder, Joseph Drouhin - was persecuted by the Gestapo for his links to the French resistance. It was worth him escaping through a door hidden in the cellars. Beyond this door, Maurice fled through the underground tunnels to the Hospices de Beaune, the city's iconic hospital - where the poorest and most invalidated were treated for free - located a few blocks away. It was there that the nuns at the hospital hid Maurice for a few months until the Allies freed Beaune in September 1944.
After the war, Maurice offered the Hospices de Beaune a few acres of vineyards as a thank you. Today, the Drouhin family extends this thanks by buying much of the wine made by the Beaune Hospices at the world-famous annual auction held on the third weekend of November in Beaune.
The distributor of these wines in Portugal is Portfolio. The wine tasting was held directly in the old winery of Joseph Drouhin in Beaune. Not all wines can be available in our country. Prices (PVP) were withdrawn on the net on several websites, translating the average price at which wines are sold worldwide.
Drouhin Vandon-Chablis Premier Cru – Mont de Milieu 2015
Smooth but consistent wine. Aroma of white flowers, apple, minerality, soft notes of wood. Medium structured, good acidity and unctuosity, well integrated wood. PVP: 34€
Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 2016
Floral and citrus in the aroma, with wood notes well integrated in both aroma and taste. He interned a year in new and used barrels. A classic burgundy white of good intensity and structure, round, enveloping, buttery. PVP: 71€
Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Embazées Premier Cru 2016
Made with grapes of the largest and most complex plot of montrachet, it is a white of good aromatic intensity, floral, citrus, dried fruit and spice. Wood well integrated in aroma and taste. On the palate, a Chardonnay of excellence, creamy, elegant, fresh, engaging. PVP: 104€
Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011
In relation to the previous ones, it is felt greater intensity of the wooden notes. A complex white, unctuous, already with slight tertiary aroma of dry fruit and hay, but still fruit to be evidenced in the whole, ripe plum, baked apple, butter. In the mouth it is bulky, enveloping, unctuous, complex, with excellent acidity and minerality. PVP: 180€
Joseph Drouhin Beaune-Grèves Premier Cru 2014
In the aroma red fruit, minerality, spice, mushrooms. Round and very balanced on the palate, medium structure, round and with good acidity. Very elegant and balanced. Ends persistently. PVP: 70€
Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2011
Intense and complex aroma reminiscent of violets, black cherry, wet earth, tobacco leaf, resin, slight leather note. On the paldara it is silky, medium-bodied, with round and elegant tannins. End of mouth with notes of spice. PVP: 88€
Joseph Drouhin Grand Cru Echezeaux 2002
Red fruits, balsamic, tea leaf, wet earth and mushrooms in aroma, spice, wood notes. On the rich and complex palate, enveloping, with voluminous fruit complemented by an excellent acidity. A striking wine, with well integrated wood, finishes persistent and with very elegant notes of spice. PVP: 235€
Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos de Mouche 1993
It is a complex raw premier, classic, tasty, with an impressive freshness. Red reveals tertiary aromas of dry fruit, but still evidences some fresh fruit and floral, mineral and balsamic notes. A red still with a lot to give. In the mouth complexity and well integrated wood. An elegant red that impresses. PVP: 335€
1988 Joseph Drouhin Chambertain
This wine was presented without label, a surprise from the producer who decided to put it to the test to confirm once again the great aging capacity of the Pinot Noir variety, as well as its great quality. This wine is no longer produced and therefore it is not sold. It proved to be a great wine, complex, full of tertiary aromas of dried fruit, dried flowers, tobacco leaf, mushroom and balsamic. In the mouth revealed great presence, complemented by a great acidity and elegance. An experience taste these old Burgundy wines.