Domaine Dujac: Red-Hot Burgundy Wines (With Tasting Notes)
by Ken Gargett
There is very little on the planet quite so red hot at the moment as Burgundy, especially the good stuff. Both prices and demand have skyrocketed. Some of us have been expecting such sad times for many years, while for others it seems to have come as a bit of a surprise.
No matter. Burgundy is now festooned with its deserved accolades (and crippling prices).
There are many exceptional domains producing scintillating wines. Domaine Dujac from the Morey-Saint-Denis region is one of them, but it is far from your typical Burgundian producer; if there can be such a thing, it is an international Burgundy producer.
Founder Jacques Seysses might be French, but his wife, Rosalind, is an American. Their son, Jeremy, who now runs things with brother Alec and wife Diana, also married across the pond.
What makes them especially international is the amazing cast of winemakers from around the world who have spent time working at this domain, especially from Australia. Indeed, at one stage if you couldn’t include a stint at Dujac on your resume, then you were not going to be taken seriously as a Pinot Noir winemaker.
None have been more closely linked with Dujac than the Farr family. First Gary, winemaker at Bannockburn, Australia and then his own By Farr, and subsequently son Nick, now holding the reins at By Farr (he did have his own label, Farr Rising – I always thought he should have called it “Best By Farr,” although that may not have gone down well with dad).
Between them they have spent many vintages working at Dujac, while back home they are responsible for many of the best Pinots made in Australia.
I well remember visiting Domaine Dujac back in 1993 during my first sojourn around Burgundy. Rosalind was wonderfully hospitable.
We looked at their 1990s and 1991s, two very different vintages: 1990 is still celebrated as one of the greats; 1991, not so much, though some producers overachieved. And Dujac was one.
The family had two large dogs, Labradors if I recall, and Rosalind, discussing the ’90s, pointed at the bemused animals and told us how conditions were such that even they could have made the wines. Nineteen ninety-one, however, was a very different matter, and without the assistance of Gary Farr they would have been in difficulties.
But I have digressed.
Dujac began back in 1967 when Seysses, from a well-known biscuit-manufacturing family, purchased a small estate called Domaine Graillet and renamed it. He had already gained experience with some of the region’s finest makers.
Nineteen sixty-eight could hardly have been a less auspicious vintage to exhibit what he hoped to achieve, but 1969 was something very different. Dujac was up and running.
Dujac has expanded over time and moved to organic vineyards, even trialing biodynamics. It boasts holdings in seven Grand Crus – Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Clos Saint Denis, Bonnes Mares, Échezeaux, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, and Clos de la Roche – making it, by any standards, one of the more impressive domains.
In addition, it has Premier Cru holdings in Vosne-Romanée – Les Malconsorts and Les Beaumonts – and most significantly, a considerable percentage of Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes. This vineyard is surrounded by Grand Cru vineyards and felt by many to be worthy of elevation to the highest rung.
Despite years of many fine wines, Dujac remains a rather controversial producer – one that falls squarely in the love-it-or-hate-it category. The reason is that it has long been a firm proponent of the use of whole bunches and stems as well as all new oak. This policy applied until 1999.
This often imbued the wines with a briary, stemmy character. Some love this extra level of complexity that the whole clusters offer, while others find it off-putting. Personally in small doses I believe it does add to the overall character and complexity of the wine, but once it goes beyond this I am not a fan.
I think that there were times when Dujac may have gone a little overboard, but under the stewardship of Jeremy Seysses this seems to have been moderated a little, and the wines have benefited.
In addition, the contribution of new oak has been much reduced, again to the advantage of the wines. The Grand Cru wines usually still see 100 percent new oak, whereas the Premier Crus are usually restricted to 60-80 percent new and Village wines just 40 percent new oak, although as we see with the 2016 Morey-Saint-Denis below that is not set in stone.
I think that these are now some of the finest wines this estate has ever produced.
Here are some recent tasting notes, including Village, Premier, and Grand Cru wines.
There are a number from the 2014 vintage, which might be termed a challenging year, though its main crime seems to be that it is not 2015. It will forever live in the shadow of that much-lauded vintage, though it probably deserves better.
We will see many wines excel from this slightly underrated year. It is worth mentioning that Nick Farr believes that 2014 is the “quintessential” Dujac vintage. Prices for these wines will vary enormously from market to market, while some of them are no longer available except perhaps through specialist retailers or the secondary market.
Domaine Dujac tasting notes
Morey-Saint-Denis 2016 – This wine was a paler color than some of the non-Dujacs surrounding it (this tasting involved more than just Dujacs). A little bit of a nettle character with spices, warm earth, and some of those alluring forest floor touches. Quite supple, though not much length here. Firm early and then faded. Ninety percent whole cluster and 20-25 percent new oak. Jeremy Seysses noted that it was more important to take note of the cooper than the forest. A little of the granular tannins typical of Morey. 88.
Morey-Saint-Denis 2014 – For me, this exhibited less sweetness than the 2016 with more dry herbs and spices. Some minerally undertones. A hint of the briary and a smoky, spicy note. Bright, fresh, and with a very light touch of the herbals. Has better length. It is a little simple but pure, fresh, and delicious. 90.
Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru 2014 – From a couple of small vineyards and a couple of larger ones in the appellation. Fifty percent new oak here. Good spice notes with red fruit characters and florals, animal hide, and forest floor hints. A tiny touch of milk chocolate if one looks hard. Good complexity here. Good concentration and slightly more weight. Bright acidity and slightly firmer tannins. Good length. 91.
Clos de la Roche 2014 – A cross section of vineyards used here from this Grand Cru appellation. Seventy-five percent new oak. Offers some earthy notes with spices, especially cinnamon and mustard seeds. Smoky warm earth, dry herbs, and a truffly note. A hint of creamy coffee. A wine with power and weight. This has good balance but there is coiled power that one expects to burst forth at some stage. Good acidity and fine tannins, even if they are a little granitic. Has both length and complexity. Jeremy Seysses prefers this to his Clos Saint Denis from 2014, but for me the extra finesse gave it to that wine. 94.
Clos Saint Denis 2014 – Again 75 percent new oak. For me, this had an extra degree of finesse, beyond that offered by the Clos de la Roche and that made it my preference. Loved it. Rose petals and lots of florals here, a hint of mint along with red fruits. Lovely perfumes. A silky finish with excellent length tied it all together. This is a wine of complexity, balance, and power while still having that elegance and finesse. 96.
Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes 2015 – Truffles, mushrooms, animal fur, ripeness, delicatessen meats, spices, forest floor – in other words, a wine already exhibiting good complexity at this young stage. It is very young but seamless, ripe, and bright. Offers plenty of grip and is slightly firm on the finish. Bright acidity while the supple texture is a highlight. Some whole bunch notes here but not overwhelming. To me, more evidence of how Dujac has moved to slightly modify its style so it is not so dependent on that whole-bunch character, something that is making the wines look better than ever. A wine with a great future. 95.
Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes 2010 – A curious one for me. From the first moment I saw ’10s in barrel I was utterly entranced by the vintage, and it is one of my very favorite Burgundy years (at the time, 2009 was being heavily hyped and, while it is an excellent year itself, for me, the ’10s have always stood head and shoulders). So I was excited to see this but I felt strangely disappointed and underwhelmed by it. My feeling is that currently it is betwixt and between, moving from the exuberance and delicacy of youth to the complexity and gravitas of maturity and can’t quite decide what it should be. All that said, I think it is more advanced than it should be. I’d have wondered if this was a poor bottle but at a tasting run by Jeremy Seysses, it is hard to use that as an excuse. There was a note of honey there with cherries, animal hide, dry herbs, and spices. It has good length and fine acidity. Savory notes. A wine that maintains the force though it did not have the life one anticipated. One hopes it all comes together and steps up soon, because this should be a star. 92.
Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes 2006 – This mini-vertical of Aux Combottes was largely a collection of the very best vintages from the last two decades, which made the inclusion of 2006 seem, initially, a curious decision (surely 2005 would have been the better choice?). It was, however, the first vintage where Jeremy Seysses had full control and so holds a special place for him. Spices, meats, mustard seeds. There are far more notes of dry herbs/herbals/whole bunch characters here than in the other wines. Very spicy, red fruits, warm earth. A slight burnt-earth character here in this mid-length wine, but it is the whole-bunch note that dominates. Some felt that this character was merely exuberance, but I am less convinced. There was also talk of a tiny bit of brett but if so, it was not sufficient to mar the wine in any way. 91.
Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes 2002 – Mature and complex. Spices, smoked meats, truffles, forest floor characters. This is subtle, balanced, and offered gorgeous aromatics. There is a great deal to like here. Seriously complex, nicely balanced, and with a supple texture, it is seamless and delicious. Those forest floor and warm earth notes are really exciting. Still has an excellent future. Some raised the specter of brett but again, it was not an issue. A beautiful wine. 96.
Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes 1999 – This is seen as a vineyard that handles warm, dry vintages very well. This is a fabulous wine – subtle, balanced, complete, and complex. Dry herbs, spices, mushrooms/truffles. There are savory notes, tertiary characters, and immaculate balance. Silky, mature, and complex. Very fine tannins. A very long finish that maintains intensity all the way through. A wine that is a wonderful combination of length, power, and elegance. 97.
For more please visit www.dujac.com.