Pierre Gelin Fixin Premier Cru Clos Napoleon 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Domaine Pierre Gelin is the leading wine producer in the small village of Fixin (pronounced “Fees-an”). The domaine has 32 acres within Fixin and in nearby Gevrey-Chambertin, including holdings in five of Fixin’s eight premier crus. They are the monopole owner of one of the very best Fixin premier crus, the Clos Napoléon. The family domaine was founded in 1925 by its namesake Pierre Gelin and is currently in the hands of Pierre’s grandson, Pierre-Emmanuel. Pierre-Emmanuel farms organically and works to minimize the impact on the environment in both vineyard and cellar. Domaine Pierre Gelin endeavors to produce wines that are “pure and honest.” Fixin is a quiet village sitting at the northern end of the Côte de Nuits, just a short half-hour drive from the center of Dijon. Fixin became an AOC in 1936 with 222 acres of vines and eight premier crus. Almost all the village’s production is red, and the wines tend to be robust, structured, and earthy. Domaine Pierre Gelin owns 32 acres in total, including parcels in five of the Fixin premier crus and the monopole Clos Napoléon. In 1961 Pierre also purchased vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin, including the monopole Clos de Meixvelle, Clos Prieur 1er cru, and the Grand Cru Clos de Bèze. The Gelin family invested in a larger, more efficient winery, which was upgraded and ready for the 2011 harvest. “The new winery allows us more flexibility during harvest, as well as the technology to increase wine quality,” says Pierre-Emmanuel. The wines of Domaine Pierre Gelin have always been de-stemmed with a long cuvaison of 8-10 days and a judicious use of oak. Only indigenous yeasts are used for fermentation which takes place in stainless-steel and oak tanks. Malolactic fermentation occurs in barrel and the wines are aged for 20-24 months in varying percentages of new oak: up to 80% new oak for the Grand Cru, and 25% new for the premier crus. They use older barrels for village wines.
Inhabiting the northern reaches of the Côte de Nuits, the Pinot noir vineyards of Fixin abut Gevrey-Chambertin and produce wines of similar character. The appellation is full of well-reputed Premier Crus that offer some very fine Pinot noir, even if not quite delivering the exact precision and elegance—nor price tag—of a Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru. These are Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets, Clos de la Perrière, Clos Napoléon and Clos du Chapître. A classic Pinot noir from Fixin will be rich in dark fruit, underbrush and exhibit good structure and minerality.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.