kilometres/8.08 miles south of Dijon and 30 kilometres/18.64 miles north of Beaune is Fixin, Brochon's neighbour to the immediate north. Fixin is one of the oldest villages along the Côte d'Or, with traces back to 830. Since 1860 the commune is a fusion of two villages, Fixin and Fixey. Fixey lies a few hundred metres to the northwest of Fixin. And remember, since we are in Burgundy Fixin is pronounced "Fissin".
During the 8th century Fixin was called Fiscinum and Fiscinus. Some claim that Fissi-Vicus, village de combes, is the origin of the name. But already Césaire Huot rejected this theory in his 1898 book on Fixin. Since several of the villages along the Côte d'Or have valleys leading up into the Hautes-Côtes this would obvoiusly not be characteristic enough to influence the name of the village. Instead he put forward the idea that it refers to the owner of a gallo-roman domaine, or fundus.
The valley up behind the village is nevertheless impressive. Among rock-climbers throughout Europe it is a well-known spot and for the kids growing up in the village it is a giant playground. When Félix Batier published his guide to rock-climbing in Fixin in 1948 he wrote "If you want to get an idea of the beauty of this valley, make sure to arrive here during the early hours of the morning, when the sun filters through the trees. Or in the evenings during the winter, when the snow has turned the ground below the cliffs white and the last rays of light give the rock face a wonderful dark blue shade".
There even used to be a silk-worm industry here, but already in 1845 all inhabitants were vignerons.
In Fixin you will find Le Musée Noisot, a museum created by Claude Noisot (1787-1861), an officer of Napoléon I's Imperial Guard, and solely devoted to the French emperor. In Le Parc Noisot you will find a statue of Napoléon by Dijon-born sculptor François Rude – "Le réveil de Napoléon" (1847). The museum is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from mid-April to mid-October.
The church in Fixin dates back to 1172 and was reconstructed in 1453. This may seem old enough, but St Antoine's church in Fixey goes back close to another three centuries. It dates back to 902 and is one of the oldest Roman churches in the region.
There are some 80 hectares of Fixin AOC and another 20 hectares of Fixin premier cru. Fixin is mainly a red wine village, only around three percent is white. In 1898 Césaire Huot wrote that the production of white wine was too minimal to be mentioned in his book. Anyone reading the literature on Burgundy's wines will notice that the most frequently used description is sauvage, a word referring to the somewhat austere character of the wines. This is not only present in the Fixin wines, but also all the way through the neighbouring Brochon down to the northern parts of Gevrey-Chambertin.
– I have two parcels of Fixin, Champs des Charmes, says Jérôme Galeyrand at Domaine Galeyrand. One planted in 1947, one in the 1960's. This is always a more rustic wine, plump and with good colour. The soil in Fixin is very deep, with a lot of clay. It is they clay that gives the wine its rustic character. But it is also the clay that brings the tannins and the colour.
The premier crus are unusually monopolised, for Burgundy that is. Fixin has a total of three premier cru monopoles – Clos de la Perrière (En Suchot and Queue-de-Hareng are included here), Clos-du-Chapitre and Clos Napoléon.
Clos de la Perrière is owned by Domaine de la Perrière, located at the top of the village in the Manoir de la Perrière. This impressive building, built with stone from the quarry just behind it, has a very long history. In his book on Fixin Césaire Huot says that some believe that the most recent part of the building is from 1102 and that the rest was built sometime before the twelfth century, while others believe that both parts were built during the 13th century – one part at the beginning of the century and one towards the end.
The Manoir de la Perrière and its clos was donated to Citeaux by Eudes II, Duke of Burgundy, in 1162 and remained their property until 1622, when it was sold to Jean Bouhier from Dijon. 90 years later it changed hands again, first to a Monsieur de Frazan and then later to M. Lopin de Montmort. It stayed in the family until 1853 when Denis Serrigny bought it. His son-in-law and great-great-grandfather of today's proprietor Bénigne Joliet, Henri Joliet later took over the domaine.
– We have always said that the Clos de la Perrière has been owned by one family, says Bénigne Joliet. But I know that very small parts of the clos has owned by other families. I don't know exactly which parts and when. I only know that my grandfather bought back a small part in 1950's (three ouvrées, 4,285 ares) in order to have the whole clos. What I am sure of is that the owners of the manor have always been the owners of the clos.
There was a time when the wine from the Clos de la Perrière had a much higher profile. In his day M. Lopin de Montmort sold it for the same price as Chambertin and in 1855 Dr Lavalle noted that it had been among top wines in Burgundy for a long time. In his book on the Côte d'Or he wrote ”when ageing it acquires, like all great wines from around Gevrey-Chambertin, a bouquet which is the charm of the Burgundy wines and places them among the top wines of the world”.
Before that, when Denis Morelot wrote his "Le Vigne et le Vin en Côte d'Or" in 1831 he singled out the Clos de la Perrière and the Clos-du-Chapitre as being the top vineyards in Fixin, saying that "The former is a clos belonging to a wealthy landowner, who for many years, has not rejuvenated his vineyard. The vines are exceptional and are becoming better and better; and since they are protected they ripen better. Part of the clos is planted with noirien blanc and the wine that it produces is excellent when cellared for a long time".
But over the years things changed. When Jean-François Bazin wrote his "Chambertin – La Côte de Nuits de Dijon à Chambolle-Musigny" in 1991 he said "Philippe (Joliet) began in the vineyards in 1972. He had the good sense to restore the Clos de la Perrière after it had been neglected for a long time; part of it had been classed as Côte de Nuits and part of it had been used for growing barley and oat. In other words, the Clos was only a shadow of its former self".
– Yes, there has been times when not all of the Clos has been planted, explains Bénigne Joliet. I don't know exactly when and how. When my father took on the Clos there were only 2,5 hectares planted. My grandfather started with 15 hectares, mainly in Gevrey-Chambertin and Fixin, which he got from his father, so 2,5 hectares of Clos de la Perrière was enough work for him. And I think at that time a good part of Burgundy was not planted with vines. Instead they chose other crops, with better profitability. Unfortunately, my grandfather was not a very good manager; in 1980 all my uncles and my father had to share was the Clos. My father took on the fermage already in 1974, and from that date to 1980 he managed to plant the whole Clos. The biggest part was "Les 4 Peupliers", 1.1 hectare in 1976.
"Les 4 Peupliers" is the western part at the top of the Clos, just below the forest.
– The Clos has almost the same soil everywhere, continues Bénigne Joliet. Claude Bourguignon made an analysis and distinguished four "different" soil types, with different active calcareous soil and different kinds of clay. With Philippe Charlopin, we make three or four different cuvees, with different harvest dates, different vinification and different barrels. And, as always, the best cuvée is the blend of all barrels; it gives a harmony we cannot find in each of the separate cuvées. For example, the best cuvée of the four is the one from the northern part, with old vines and very fine calcareous soil, but not as good as the final blend of all cuvées. The monks knew how to find this harmony! And we just follow this creativity.
Clos-du-Chapitre used to be the property of Domaine Marion, but looked after by Domaine Pierre Gelin. It was then sold to Domaine Guy Dufouleur, which in early 2007 signed a contract to supply the new Rodet-Dufouleur Group that was formed when Mercurey-based Antonin Rodet acquired Maison Dufouleur Père et Fils. But despite being a monopole there are two bottlings of the Clos-du-Chapitre. One by Dufouleur in Nuits-Saint-Georges and one by Méo-Camuzet Frère et Sœurs, the négociant branch of Domaine Méo-Camuzet in Vosne-Romanée.
– They choose to sell us some grapes that we green-harvest, harvest, vinify etc, explains Jean-Nicolas Méo.
Clos Napoléon has been the monopole of Domaine Pierre Gelin since May 15, 1954. Before that Charles Millot owned it from 1892 and it was René Cretin who bought it from Claude Noisot in 1860. Noisot had then farmed it for about 40 years. It was originally known as Aux Cheusots, but the name was changed by Noisot.
Dr Lavalle placed Clos Napoléon in the second category – the Première Cuvée, on step down from the Tête de Cuvée – together with Clos du Chapitre, Les Arvelets and Le Tremble. At this time about three quarters were planted with pinot noir, with two or three percent of pinot blanc in the mix. The remaining quarter was planted with gamay.
The two premier crus Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets are at the top of the slope, side by side, between Fixin and Fixey. Les Arvelets can be labelled as Les Hervelets, but not the other way around. The two names are basically the same; Arvelets being Hervelets in the local dialect, meaning a place where maple trees grow.
– My Hervelets is a parcel at the top of the slope, says Jérôme Galeyrand at Domaine Galeyrand. It is very sandy. Very light soil. It is the most subtle of the Fixin wines. Fixin wines can be heavy, but the soil at the top of the slope is light. Not all the premier crus are like this. Clos du Chapitre, Clos Napoléon and Clos de la Perrière all have more structure; they are more rustic. Les Hervelets is the most subtle of the Fixin premier crus.
A curiosity in Fixin is the mason company Ducherpozat. It has been in the same family for fourteen generations, from father to son since 1590, an achievement included in the Guinness World Records book.
© 2013 Ola Bergman