Joseph Drouhin is one of the largest and most famous producers in Burgundy, making both domaine and négociant wines. It remains family-owned and run, now in the hands of the fourth generation.
The company was founded in 1880 by Joseph Drouhin at the age of 22. Originally from Chablis, he moved south to Beaune to found the company. He handed the operation to his son Maurice who started buying vineyards, including the family’s monopole Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches and a plot in Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot.
In 1957, Robert took over from his father Maurice and expanded the operation, significantly building up its reputation. He was on the INAO committee (which helped classifiy the vineyards of Burgundy) and involved in the Hospices de Beaune, as well as having distribution rights for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (indeed, he was offered the chance to become a shareholder during the same period as Leroy). He also bought swathes of vineyard, especially in Chablis, an area where he saw great potential.
Today the company is run by his son Frédéric, with Robert’s three other children all involved: Véronique as winemaker, Philippe in the vineyards and Laurent handling exports.
The company owns 80 hectares across the region, from Chablis to the Côte Chalonnaise (38 hectares in Chablis, 38.5 in the Côte d’Or and 3.5 in the Côte Chalonnaise), over two-thirds of which is classified as Premier or Grand Cru. Its finest holdings are plots in the Grands Crus of Montrachet, Grands Echezeaux, Musigny, Clos de Vougeot and Corton-Charlemagne, as well as its monopole Beaune Premier Cru Clos des Mouches.
The monopole Premier Cru was originally planted only with Pinot Noir, but Maurice Drouhin replanted almost half of the site with Chardonnay in 1921. The firm also purchases grapes to supplement its production, working with almost 90 different appellations in total.
Since 1993, the vineyards have been farmed organically and biodynamically (certified organic since the 2009 vintage), and Drouhin has its own nursery to guarantee the quality and heritage of its vine material. The vineyards are planted at high densities (between 12,500 and 15,000 vines per hectare) and yields kept low to encourage concentration in the fruit.
Apart from the Chablis wines which are made at the Vaudon property, the wines are made at a 13th century cuverie in Beaune, where the company also has extensive, historic cellars. Winemaking is traditional with indigenous yeast, gentle extraction, relatively low levels of new oak (normally a maximum 30%) and a proportion of whole-bunch depending on the cuvée and vintage. Wines from Chablis and the Mâconnais only see stainless steel, while those from the Côte d’Or are matured in varying percentages of oak.
Some négociant wines bear the name of Marquis de Laguiche, and these are effectively domaine in all but name. Maurice Drouhin became friends with the Marquis de Laguiche during the Second World War and first made wine with the Marquis’s plot of Montrachet Grand Cru in 1943. Since 1947, the Drouhin family has had exclusive control over the Marquis de Laguiche vineyards – a particular boon given the Laguiche family is the single largest owner of Montrachet, with just under a third of the site. This 2.06-hectare plot has been in the Laguiche family since 1363.
From 2008, the Chablis wines have been labelled under the Drouhin Vaudon name, after the 18th-century Moulin de Vaudon, a watermill on the Serein River in Chablis purchased by Joseph Drouhin.
The family has expanded beyond Burgundy, establishing Domaine Drouhin in Oregon’s Dundee Hills in 1987 – the first Burgundy estate to do so.