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Domaine Theulot Juillot

Domaine Theulot Juillot

Lithe, Harmonious, Aspirational Mercurey

For a wine traveller, driving from the Côte d’Or to the Côte Chalonnaise can feel a little like stepping back in time. The trappings of wealth—so obvious further north—become less noticeable and without the tourists, the bars seem less chic and the restaurant menus less adventurous. For a century at least, the growers of Côte Chalonnaise have been caught in a causal nexus. Negative consumer perceptions have imposed prices that do not encourage growers to raise quality, resulting in a wave of mediocre wines that only reinforce those perceptions. Yet today, there are dozens of progressive growers who have found a way to “break the cycle”, to borrow a phrase from William Kelley. Thanks the likes of Vincent Dureuil and Aubert de Villaine (to name a couple), we are finally discovering what great vineyard sites in less-celebrated communes of the Chalonnaise can achieve when they are farmed and vinified with the same care and attention as those in the Côte d’Or. Now, you can add Nathalie Theulot to this list. 

Domaine Theulot Juillot (pronounced “tew-lo jwee-yo”) traces its roots back to the early 20th century, when Marguerite and Emile Juillot arrived in Mercurey, plucking out six parcels in the sweet spot of its ‘golden crescent’, the croissant-shaped band of hillsides directly north of the village. The pair clearly had a nose for quality, and all those vineyards would go on be classified as Premier Cru after the Mercurey AOC was created in 1936. Nathalie tells us, with some pride, that her grandparents were considered iconoclasts of their day. Not only did they recognise the benefit of improving their vineyards’ genetic material, but Domaine Emile Juillot was also one of the first in the post-war period to bottle and market the domaine wines directly.

“High-quality vine genetics and rootstocks; exigent viticulture; harvest by hand at full maturity; rigorous selection; intelligent winemaking; fastidiously chosen oak barrels; and gentle bottling—such are some of the many practices that deliver excellent wines when applied in Givry as surely as they do in Gevrey and in Montagny as surely as in Meursault.” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate

On Emile’s passing, Marguerite Juillot skilfully managed the vineyards, cellar and sales into her 80s. Winemaking skipped a generation before Nathalie Theulot inherited the family estate directly from her grandmother in 1987. With the support of her husband, Jean-Claude Theulot, an experienced winegrower of 40 years, she now manages 12 hectares of chiefly Pinot Noir vines, all within the commune of Mercurey.

Even if the modern standards of viticulture and winemaking have more widely failed to do justice to its soils, Mercurey has a terroir pedigree to match its status as the engine room of the Côte Chalonnaise. The landscape is a southerly continuation of the Côte d’Or, with the rock structure dominated by Jurassic limestone of the Bathonian and Oxfordian ages. Like her grandparents before her, Nathalie always had higher aspirations for a region which in the late 1980s was trading on a reputation as poor-man’s-Gevrey. No sooner had she taken the keys, Theulot immediately boosted the domaine’s replanting program to replace all her remaining ill-fitting clones with massale selections, even though vine genetics has never been a strong suit of the Côte Chalonnaise (especially since the 1960s when an ambitious planting program flooded Mercurey with high-yielding clones that failed to ripen their stems). 

Preferring to farm the soil, not the vines, Theulot then began to steer the domaine down the organic path, eschewing herbicides and insecticides. Although maximum yields for Mercurey are the same as village wines in the Côte d’Or (unlike the other appellations of the Côte Chalonnaise), she crops even lower to ensure the greatest intensity of flavour possible. Vineyards are ploughed, with grassing-over between rows and all harvesting is done manually. Countless other details and techniques have been refined over the years. Regarding the winemaking, all the grapes are destemmed, fermentation is wild, and the use of new oak is capped at one-quarter.  

In Inside Burgundy, Jasper Morris MW notes that “the red wines of Mercurey can be the deepest, firmest and richest reds of the Côte Chalonnaise”. You can certainly feel that intensity in Theulot’s wines. Yet all her reds carry the vibrancy, elegance and precision that clearly conveys what makes Burgundy the promised land for Pinot Noir. Respect. And all this at a fraction of the cost you pay for wines of similar quality just half an hour to the north. 

Region

Burgundy, France

Appellation

Côte Chalonnaise

Wine Maker

Nathalie and Jean-Claude Theulot

What They Are Saying

★ ★ “Nathalie and Jean-Claude Theulot took over the family estate in 1987. The patient replanting proved judicious, the wines gained in finesse and elegance. The ploughed vines, the absence of pesticides, the sorting, the whole harvest measured: everything is done to obtain pure, full and delicious juices. Their regularity made it possible to obtain the second star. We have a special admiration for reds. ” La Revue du Vin de France, Guide Vert 2023

Domaine Theulot Juillot

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