ver two generations the Mercurey-based Domaine Michel Juillot has grown from covering six hectares to a total of 32.5 hectares. Two thirds of the vines are in Mercurey. The remaining third is distributed elsewhere on the Côte Chalonnaise and around the Corton hill, where the domaine has both Corton-Charlemagne and Corton-Perrières.
But this is not really where this interview takes its beginning. It all began out in the Mercurey vineyards with what simply could be described as a kidnapping. I'm out with my camera shooting the vines of the "Vignes de Maillonge" when a car pulls up behind me. The man behind the wheel hands me a corkscrew and begins talking about winetasting. Since it is just a few minutes before noon my immediate plans include lunch. But the man in front of me, who turns out to be Michel Juillot, has other plans and he will not take no for an answer. So off we go.
We park our cars across the street from Domaine Michel Juillot. This is the main street of Mercurey, a street that was once the Roman road Via Agrippa. Michel Juillot delivers me to the office, to a slightly surprised Laurent Juillot, his son.
When I later tell Laurent Juillot about what's been happening earlier he just smiles.
– There's my dad for you. There is only one Michel Juillot!
The domaine goes back several generations. Right now Laurent Juillot is in charge. His father Michel is semi-retired and no longer involved in the production. When he is not out kidnapping people he is doing some work on the sales side of the business.
– The domaine started to grow in the 1960's when my father arrived here, explains Laurent Juillot. The wine was selling well and he needed more wine to sell, so he chose to buy more land. That was the first phase. When I arrived at the end of the 1980's the estate grew more. It has never been cheap to buy land. But today the price for a very nice vineyard in Mercurey is around 200 000 Euros per hectare.
When Laurent Juillot's grandfather was running the domaine it consisted of six hectares distributed over three different climats – "Vignes de Maillonge" and "La Pillotte", both village appellation, and the premier cru "Clos Tonnerre". Since then the portfolio has grown considerably. There are five different Mercurey premiers crus in red and three in white. On village level there are two different Mercureys in each colour. In addition to this there are various regional appellations, some white Rully and the land holdings up around Aloxe-Corton – the two grands crus Corton-Charlemagne and Corton-Perrières, and the red village Aloxe-Corton "Les Caillettes". Working the vines on the Corton hill requires a 45 km drive from Mercurey.
– It's easier to work in or close to Mercurey when you have the entire infrastructure here; your cellar, your tractor etc, says Laurent Juillot. It costs less money to have the vineyards in Mercurey, when you don't have to drive several kilometres to another appellation. Since it is Corton that we have we can afford it. If it was Bourgogne Aligoté it wouldn't be worth it.
Domaine Michel Juillot is run along the principles of lutte raisonnée, which means that chemicals are only used when necessary.
– We harvest all by hand, says Laurent Juillot. For a domaine of this size I would say that we are the only one that harvests the whole domaine by hand.
Mercurey is the largest red wine appellation in Burgundy. It covers a total of 847 hectares and possesses 30 premiers crus. Part of the vignoble spills over into the commune of Saint Martin sous Montaigu.
– My favourite is the Clos des Barraults, says Laurent Juillot. For me it is the best exposition in Mercurey and in the Côte Chalonnaise. It faces south and the soil is rich in marnes and there are some stones too. This terroir produces a beautiful red wine with mineral. You will feel the smoky character from the terroir and you will also have red fruit. It's very complex and it's charming. Every vintage the maturity is very good here. The soil is well drained, so the water doesn't stay when it's raining. It is mid-slope and it's like a grand cru in the Côte d'Or.
During vinification and ageing the different premiers crus get treated differently.
– Some premiers crus need more extraction than others, explains Laurent Juillot. A Clos des Barraults you can leave in a tank for three weeks. The finish is so mineral, fresh and fruity that you don't feel the tannins. A Clos Tonnerre needs to have some softness added to it, because the terroir gives it some very strong tannins.
There is also a white Clos des Barraults, as well as two other white Mercurey premiers crus – Les Champs Martin and En Sazenay.
– White Mercurey represents less than 15 per cent of the surface area in the village, says Laurent Juillot. But white Mercurey is becoming more and more well known. We have a beautiful terroir for the white. Much of the soil is marnes and this adds minerality to the wine. The minreality is one of the characteristics of a white Mercurey. When the wine is young this minerality supports the fruit and makes the wine very nice to drink. Thanks to the minerality this is also a nice wine to keep. The way it develops is very interesting. Over time it adds notes of leaves, mushrooms and petrol.
This domaine also has a special relationship with magnums. In the cellars of Domaine Michel Juillot there are 20 000 magnum bottles resting peacefully. To begin with the Mercurey premier cru Clos du Roi is only bottled in magnums. Then there are a large number of magnums that are bottled and then not put on the market until the wine is ready for drinking.
– Clos du Roi is our smallest vineyard, says Laurent Juillot. It's 0.15 hectares, so it's three barrels and because of that we have decided to only sell it in magnum. The annual production is about 450 magnums.
– As for the other magnums we sell them when the wine is mature, usually after six or seven years. Magnum is a good size for ageing wine. If I don't do this nobody will. It is of course like storing the money in the cellar instead of keeping it in the bank. But it is also good publicity.
© 2009 Ola Bergman