last visit on this Burgundy trip was one that I’d particularly
been looking forward to: Clos du Tart. I’d met Syvain Pitiot, who
manages the domain, at a vertical tasting in London a couple of
months prior to my visit. So I knew just how good the wines were.
Now I wanted to see the patch of earth that produced them.
du Tart is a monopole: a Grand Cru vineyard with a single owner.
There are just five Grand Cru monopoles in Burgundy, and this is the
largest (for the record, they are: La Romanée, 0.8 ha; La Grand
Rue, 1.2 ha; La Romanée Conti, 1.8 ha; La Tache, 6 ha; Clos du
Tart, 7.5 ha). And since the middle ages it has had just three
owners, which is perhaps one reason why a sizeable patch of land
like this hasn’t ended up with the sort of fragmented ownership
that most of Burgundy’s other high-end vineyards enjoy.
Clos du Vougeot was owned by monks, Clos du Tart was owned by nuns.
In 1142 a group of Cistercian nuns called the Bernadines of Notre
Dame de Tart purchased an established vineyard in Morey, which then
became part of the Abbaye Clos du Tart. This stayed in
ecclesiastical hands until the revolution. From 1789 to 1932 the
Marey-Monge family were the owners, and then in the economic crisis
of the 1930s the family sold at auction to the Mommesssin family.
[For a fuller history, I recommend reading this piece
by Clive Coates.]
vineyard is surrounded by a wall, and when this was last rebuilt it
took four years to complete. After all, it is 1.2 km long. The 7.5
hectare plot is a rectangle 300 metres wide and 250 metres high, and
the exposition is homogeneous: it’s gently sloping, with vine rows
planted north–south. This row orientation isn’t usual in
Burgundy, but it helps prevent erosion (with the contours) and
allows maximum sun exposure on both sides of the vine, which helps
the soil and subsoil are not homogeneous, with different types of
limestone and ‘marne’, although the main theme is still the
Burgundy one of clay and limestone (agrocalcaire).
The vineyard is divided into six plots on this basis, each of which
is harvested and vinified separately.
du Tart was underperforming when Sylvain was hired in 1996. Since
then, he has turned this incredible estate around. ‘We changed a
lot of things, across the vineyard, winemaking and ageing,’ he
states. Before he worked at Clos du Tart, Sylvain, who is now 60,
spent 12 years at the Hospice de Beaune. He’s not from a
viticultural family, but instead began his career as a topographic
engineer, but shifted to wine in 1976. He met his wife while he was
working at Domaine Jacques Prieur (she’s from the family). Sylvain
continues to work on topography and cartography, and is responsible
for an amazing map of the Burgundy wine region that is now in its
Syvain took over, he immediately began farming using culture
raisonée, before moving things an organic direction. The
vineyard has been managed organically over the last eight years by
ploughing and cutting grass, with no pesticides, chemical
fertilizers or herbicides. The only treatment used is sulfur and
copper against oidium and mildew. ‘We are lucky because this
terroir is wonderful and not fragile for diseases,’ he says.
vines are not planted clonally, but the vineyard instead represents
a massale selection, with new plants produced from cuttings taken
from selected vines in the vineyard in Clos du Tart’s own nursery.
‘The Pinot Noir here is not the same as in [neighbouring] Clos de
Lambrays,’ explains Sylvain.
aim at five bunches per vine. ‘In my opinion, yield is the most
important thing,’ Sylvain maintains. The size of the berries and
size of the bunch matter a good deal. ‘We want only a small bunch,
pineapple shaped, with small berries that give a good proportion of
skin to juice. During green harvest when we have to cut some grapes
we get rid of the biggest bunches. Maturity is easy to come with
here takes place in a new facility built in 1999. It’s tiny. But
there’s still an old press room, containing an ancient parrot
press, which was built in situ
and used from 1570 to 1924. Two or three people would climb on it,
and it was necessary to use straw with the grapes for pressing,
because there was no cage as with a basket press.
level of destemming depends on the year, but typically there will be
20% whole bunches in the ferments. There are six larger vats – one
for each of the vineyard parcels – plus two smaller ones for the
younger vines. Everything is made for the grand vin, but since 2005
there has been a second wine, La Forge du Tart, and there is also
some wine sold as Morey St Denis if necessary.
temperature is controlled, with gradual increases from 12 to 33 °C.
Every day it increases by 2 °C. There is one week’s cool
maceration before fermentation starts, and yeast is not added. After
1 week fermentation starts, and this takes a week and is then
followed by a week’s post ferment maceration. In all, the
maceration is from 3 weeks to a month. ‘Long and slow,’ is
Sylvain’s philosophy. An important aspect of the house style here
is late malolactic fermentation. ‘Late malo is our philosophy to
get the flesh,’ says Sylvain. ‘We use the lees to bring the wine
fatness.’ Sulfur dioxide isn’t used to control malolactic, just
all, there is a minimum 18 month élevage, and no filtration is
used. All new oak is used each year, and they work with five
different coopers. These coopers store wood specifically for Clos du
Tart, who control the origin, drying and toasting. Most of the wood
is Tronçais, with 36 month’s drying and medium toasting.
2000 cases are produced each year, and the wine is bottled by hand
in the cellar. 70% is exported, and now the Clos du Tart, while
still owned by the Mommesin family, is completely separate from the
Mommesin negociant business.
de Tart 2005 ‘This was the easiest wine to make,’ says Sylvain Pitiot.
‘The grapes were perfect and we had nothing to do.’ Wonderfully
pure, focused nose is dense, spicy and earthy with some roasted oak
notes as well as pure raspberry and cherry fruit. The palate is
intense with lovely pure, bright berry fruit ad amazingly complex
minerally, subtly earthy structure. Great concentration and depth.
Almost perfect. 97/100
du Tart 2002 Pure, bright aromatic sweet cherry fruit nose is almost ethereal
with focused pure, dark cherry and spice notes, as well as hints of
meat. The palate is fleshy and elegant with defined sweet pure
cherry and plum fruit. Smooth structure. Just beautiful. Sweet,
elegant and perfectly balanced. 96/100
du Tart 2001 Beautiful nose: a fusion of sweet cherry and plum fruit with
spice and earth savouriness. The palate is dense and focused with
earthy mineral notes under the smooth, pure berry fruit. Really long
and spicy with a persistent finish. Beautifully expressive and
nicely structured. 95/100
du Tart 1999 Beginning to show some evolution on the nose: herbs, earthy,
spices and lovely sweet cherry fruit aromatics. The palate is dense
and quite rich with earthy, mineral structure. Warm, rounded and
rich textured. Just beautiful and evolving in a linear fashion.
du Tart 2007 This, the only wine tasted at the Domaine, was bottled two
months earlier. Wonderfully dark, intense nose with sweet dark
cherry and plum fruit, as well as some spice. The palate has depth
but is quite open with nice intensity and lovely spicy depth. Good
structure, some wood. Quite open and broad even at this early stage,
with wonderful depth to it. 94/100
Forge du Tart 2007 Beautifully perfumed nose with fragrant aromatic cherry fruit
and sweet raspberry, as well as hints of spice. The palate shows
lovely concentration of sweet fruit with a dense, minerally, spicy
tannic core and well integrated oak. Vibrant, finishing toasty.
Expressive stuff. 93/100