February 10, 2016

Francois Labet: Burgundy Personified

Francois Labet is a man who gets around. If there’s anyone who clocks up more miles on the A31, I don’t know about it. His vines round Beaune and Clos de Vougeot are closer than some “flying winemakers” but Francois spends virtually all his time darting between his sites. Not that he can imagine doing anything else. His family have been making wine since the fifteenth century. He still calls this area home.

Francois Labet

From left to right: Will Hargrove, Oliver Hartley, Francois Labet

There’s no better introduction to Burgundy than with Francois Labet’s wines because he really understands the terroir. There are two very important reasons why Francois Labet turns out exceptional wine each year:
• He’s been farming organically since the early 90s.
• He only ever uses natural yeasts.

Even in an area as diverse as Burgundy, these are still reasonably unusual practices. And ones to celebrate.

Though the winery is the epitome of modern winemaking, in a nod to the past Francois only uses whole bunches. Across Domaine Pierre Labet and Chateau de la Tour, the vineyards are managed in exactly the same way. So each wine showcases the terroir perfectly.

Chateau de la Tour

SAVIGNY VERGELESSES

The walled vineyard of Clos de Vougeot is the largest Grand Cru in the Cotes de Nuits. Of the 50ha under vine, the largest owner is Chateau de la Tour. The domaine owns just under 6ha of this famed vineyard. Unusually for the area, it’s been farmed organically since 1992. Francois Labet of Domaine Pierre Labet fame is the current winemaker. He’s been single-handedly responsible for the leaps in quality from Chateau de la Tour. He’s the definition of the winemaker philosopher that abounds in this area of France.

Clos de Vougeot could do with a winemaker like Francois Labet and the area is lucky to have his considerable prowess in the form of Chateau de la Tour. As a rule he won’t green harvest, preferring instead to control yields by rubbing every other bud. It’s a sight to behold, that’s for sure. It means the vines have a well-spaced canopy with enough airflow to cope with wet days, the grapes are dried out quicker and so are less prone to rot. It’s a labour of love but one that’s proven itself with the leap in quality.

Francois Labet has such a mastery of the terroir because he’s spent his life in the vineyards. And there’s no better introduction to these areas of Burgundy than his wines.

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