We have just launched the new website for Domaine de l’Arlot: www.arlot.com. You can read and visualise far more about Domaine de l’Arlot by linking to the site than by reading anything I can say here, but as someone who looks after vineyards in several very different places, I can say that I find Domaine de l’Arlot to be very special.
Although AXA Millésimes is probably more readily associated with giant properties such as Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Château Suduiraut or Quinta do Noval, Domaine de l’Arlot is nonetheless at the heart of what we do, and quite illustrative of our approach to viticulture and winemaking. I was recently interviewed by Jane Anson for the South China Morning Post for a very interesting piece she wrote about Bordeaux and Burgundy, in which she interviewed several people who work in both places. I recommend you link to it to see her conclusions about the differences between Bordeaux and Burgundy.
I do not consider myself to be Bordelais Burgundian or indeed Portuguese for the obvious reason that I was born somewhere else, no matter how much I love working in all three places. Although of course there are huge differences, I am in fact as an outsider working on the inside more struck by the recurrent themes and points of resemblance, than by any notion that these great regions and the winemaking theories that underly their greatest wines are somehow opposed to one another.
Whether working in the Douro Valley, Pauillac or Sauternes, the vital importance of the place from which the wine comes is something that one understands as a progressive revelation as time goes by. Naturally there are points of comparison with one’s neighbours, who can make very different wines from vineyards that are sometimes just a few metres away; but it is also an observable fact that within these great vineyards certain parcels produce wines of definable characteristics that can be consistently recognised in the tasting room, allowing of course for vintage variation.
The importance of place in determining the nature of a great wine is probably the principal lesson I have drawn from my experience of the past twenty years. Of course the wine does not make itself, and the dedication of many highly skilled and hard working people is necessary to enable that particular piece of earth to express itself in a glass of wine, but I believe that without the terroir all those efforts would be in vain.
And of course Burgundy is earthly paradise for any one who believes this. I do not think there is anywhere else on earth with such extraordinary diversity of terroir, expressed in such a fascinating and individual way by so many great producers and their wines. Within our own property you have the striking example of our two Clos Monopoles: Clos de l’Arlot and Clos des Forêts St Georges. Both part of the same property, on the same hillside, separated by a hundred metres or so, planted with Pinot Noir and cultivated and vinified by the same people, these two wines have strikingly different personalities, which are observable year after year when the wines are young, and which persist as the wines age in bottle. If you want a perfect illustration of what terroir means, buy a bottle of Clos de l’Arlot and Clos des Forêts St Georges from the same year and taste and enjoy the difference. Better still: buy a case of each, if you can find them, and repeat the experience often over the next few years!