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Clos de la Roche


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Clos de la Roche is the largest of Morey-St-Denis' Grands Crus (excepting the larger shared Grand Cru of Bonnes-Mares) and an extremely important Côte de Nuits AOC. In contrast with its famous neighbors, Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart, which have two and one producer respectively, ownership is shared between a number of producers. Only a few of these, however, produce wine of a great pedigree.

A total of 33.1 acres are in production for the scenic vineyard; this land ranges significantly from somewhat unworthy to absolutely outstanding. The vineyard yields about 5,000 cases of wine annually, which proportionally is equivalent to the other Grands Crus of the Morey village.

The wines from Clos de la Roche were nothing compared to Clos St-Denis 100 years ago, but Clos de la Roche has caught up to that vineyard in recent years, and now the two can be considered to be on a roughly equal footing. Clos de la Roche's soil-driven, earthy wines are not for all types, and often need a good amount of aging, but for lovers of robust wines Clos St-Denis' silky, light Pinots will be much less appealing.

History

Unlike Clos des Lambrays, Clos de la Roche is not a truly enclosed vineyard, and there are no walls around it. Why, then, is it called a Clos? Historians are not entirely sure, but it is likely that, like Clos des Lambrays, the vineyard was originally founded by an abbey which preferred to use the Clos term. Also, "peer pressure" arising from the fact that the other three vineyards were enclosed may have brought about this decision.

Clos de la Roche has had a long but wobbly history, and was relegated to second place when the Morey village took on the Clos St-Denis name, but it was one of the first Burgundy Grands Crus during the original Grand Cru minting of 1936. Since then, it has proven itself to be equal or better than the adjacent vineyard in quality.

Climate and Viticulture

Clos de la Roche lies to the north of rival Clos St-Denis, with some of the vineyards at the base of the slight slope that hosts these Grands Crus. To the east is the Mazoyères-Chambertin appellation. Clearly, this is a gifted area in terms of weather, but Morey-St-Denis' vineyards have something else that's very special.

In fact, even to the layman the amount of small rocks in the soil are noticeable in Clos de la Roche--after all, "roche" means rock in French! These rocks are so rich and chalky that they produce wine of amazing depth and character, and yet only in this vineyard do they make wine of such a wild, exotic character. This can be compared with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where the wines are also imparted unusual characteristics by rocks in the soil.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

There are a number of producers in Clos de la Roche now. Intriguingly, this is an area where the large négociants (Drouhin, Girardin, Jadot) seem to have less success than on average. Perhaps it is due to the difficulty of harvesting the grapes mechanically, a problem which springs from the amazing amount of rock in the soil. It is possible that big producers simply do not want to bother with this. Either way, it tends to be smaller producers that make the best cuvées in Clos de la Roche, a fact which brings prices to a fairly high level.

Subregions

When the Grand Cru was created it effectively merged some land that was formerly part of Premier Cru vineyards. So, there are several administrative lieu-dits that have the same name as Morey Premiers Crus, notably Les Chaffots and Monts-Luisants. But their names are rarely seen on the labels anymore to avoid confusion...surprising since Burgundian rules usually do all they can to confuse the consumer!