Domaine Robert-Denogent: superb naturally made wines from southern Burgundy

Sometimes you visit producers without expectations, and come away with your mind blown. This was one such visit: exciting natural wine from two brothers in Pouilly-Fuissé in the Mâconnais

This was a very exciting visit. Profund, naturally made wines from the south of Burgundy.

The current domaine began in 1988 when Jean-Jacques Robert took over his grandfather’s (this was the Denogent) vines in the Mâconnais, in the village of Fuissé. Now the domaine is run by his sons, Nicolas and Antoine Robert, who have tightened the wines up a bit. They have 9 hectares covering several appellations: 3 hectares in Mâcon, 1 in Saint-Veran, 1 in Viré-Clessé and 4 hectares of vineyards in Pouilly-Fuissé. They have been buying from 3 hectares, but as we visit they are about to close on 4 hectares in Mâcon Villages the following day, so when this transaction goes through they’ll be all estate.

Nicolas and Antoine

The two brothers are farming organically, and are just beginning with biodynamics. They had harvest, and don’t add anything to the wines, save for a little sulphite before bottling. One of the keys to their approach is a long elevage of minimum 20 months.

They allow oxygen exposure at pressing and the juice goes brown. This is important, as the phenolics are oxidised early on and as a result the wine is more stable. ‘We have a minimum two winters for elevage,’ says Antoine. ‘It is necessary to structure the wine. For that we don’t want sulphites and we don’t use battonage.’ He adds, ‘we are in the south. We don’t have a lot of acidity, but we don’t want to add acidity.’ For that reason they also work with cement, amphora and stainless steel, and not just barrels.

‘We don’t want to make the wines with just acidity,’ says Nico. ‘We want to make the wine with good length. Here it is a warm place but with long maturation without battonage we win freshness.’

Nico started working here in 2006 and Antoine joined in 2012.  Initially, they didn’t make extensive changes, but more recently there’s been a new direction. ‘Since 2016 the wines have started to change a lot,’ says Antoine. ‘My father produced a big Chardonnay. It’s difficult to drink a powerful wine.’ They now pick a little earlier, and use different oak. ‘Since 2013 the weather has been different. It’s a powerful vintage every time. We need to start the harvest earlier to keep some acidity.’

They also make a Beaujolais village. Their father was friends with Marcel Lapierre, who was mentored by the father of natural wine, Jules Chauvet. So they have access to half a hectare of Jules Chauvet’s old vineyard, which they vinify according to Chauvet’s methods with no added sulfites.

We began by looking at barrels of 2018.

Pouilly-Fuissé La Croix: They have four parcels in La Croix, each with different exposition. This is from blue schist soils that aren’t typical of the region. Lovely complexity. Fine grained with spices and minerals, and refined citrus fruit. 92-94/100

La Croix: another parcel. Very mineral and bright with some apple notes and lively acidity. Lovely intensity. 92-94/100

La Croix: another parcel. Mineral, nutty and very long with fine spices and lovely intensity. Such a mineral texture. 93-95/100

Pouilly-Fuissé Les Reisses: half a hectare of old vines on clay soil. Astonishing aromatics. Powerful, spicy and mineral. Nice precision here. Nutty and mineral with amazing texture. 94-96/100

Pouilly-Fuissé Les Cras: 0.8 hectare plot, limestone soils, 85-90 years old. Some appley hints. Spicy and structured with some apple. Has freshness but also some breadth. Very fine. The final blend of this will be a third cement egg, a third 600 litre demi muids and a third regular barrels.

Bottled 2007 wines

Robert Denogent Mâcon Villages ‘Les Sardines’ 2017 Bourgogne, France
This is a blend of different terroirs, and about half the grapes are bought in. Textured with some richness, showing citrus, peach and pear with lovely tension. Fine spices and a mineral streak, combining freshness and depth. 93/100

Robert Denogent Mâcon-Fuissé ‘Les Tâches’ 2017 Bourgogne, France
There are only 15 hectares of Mâcon-Fuissé, and this comes from a half-hectare plot with clay/limestone soils. 80% cement egg and 20% barrels. Mineral, fresh and intense with a nice acid line. Such lovely focus with finely spiced citrus drive with fine acidity. Pure and detailed.  94/100

Robert Denogent Saint-Veran Vieilles Vignes Les Pommards 2017 Bourgogne, France
45 year old vines on clay/limestone soils. Has some peach and pear richness with nice depth and texture. Quite powerful with some nutty notes. Very fine with good texture and purity, showing a nice acid line. 94/100

Robert Denogent Viré-Clessé En Châtelaine 2017 Bourgogne, France
An old clone of Chardonnay called Muscaté, which is also grown in the Jura. This is from the north of the appellation and has high acidity. Very distinctive with notes of pineapple and fennel (all in cement tank). Bright apples and lemons with some tangerine. Very fine. Expressive stuff with good acidity and purity. 94/100

Robert Denogent Pouilly-Fuissé Les Roisses Vieilles Vignes 2017 Bourgogne, France
Barrel only. Powerful and rounded with lovely mandarin and spice and pear detail. Has a bit of apple. Fresh acid line with some depth. Fruity and broad. 93/100

Robert Denogent Pouilly-Fuissé Les Cras Vieilles Vignes 2017 Bourgogne, France
Only in barrel in 2017. Linear and bright with high acidity, showing lovely focus with tangerines and lemons and power. Such precision. Fine spicy structure, and a lime-laced finish. 95/100

Robert Denogent Pouilly-Fuissé La Croix Vieilles Vignes 2016 Bourgogne, France
They have 4 hectares here and it is the biggest production of the domaine. Complex, taut and reductive with matchstick and cabbage and herbs. Quite complex with fine citrus, apple and pear skin with a lime peel twist. Lots of structure here from the blue schist soils. Has a mineral edge. 95/100

Robert Denogent Beaujolais Villages Cuvée Jules Chauvet 2017 France
No added sulphites and 20 months in oak. From 0.5 ha of Chauvet’s old vineyard in La Chapelle de Guinchay. Carbonic maceration with one remontage by bucket, with no pumping. Fresh and smashable with minerals and spice, and fresh red fruits. Has some strawberry and cherry with fine grained structure. Delicious with a stony finish. 93/100

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