The story of Domaine Denis Mortet is not a long one. It does not begin in some 19th century castle in the ruins of an old family vineyard. And it continues today only because of the will of one very strong widow. And an incredible son…
Clive Coates MW, in his book entitled Cote D’Or, chronicled the Mortet story in a Domaine Profile. That Profile told us all the first tale of Mortet. Clive only produced his “Domaine Profiles” on the very best Domaines for that book. By limiting these reports to the top 60 or so Domaines in all of Burgundy – out of the thousands in existence – Clive set out to establish a “hit list” of the most desirable Domaines of our time. That list still stands as a guide for serious Burgundy connoisseurs in search of the very best.
Domaine Mortet began with 1ha of vines, owned by Denis Mortet’s father, Charles. Charles had no interest in the wine business, so he left the vines to be farmed by others until 1977 when Denis came to work with him at the age of 21. When Denis’ brother joined the team later, in 1982, a company was formed. From the time Denis joined his father until 1982, Denis had worked to increase the family holdings through rental agreements and small purchases. So, by 1982, the family company now had grown to include a total of 8ha, just about 18 acres and by 1984, they were bottling on their own.
Now, while the company may have been young, Denis Mortet had set about to secure contracts on vineyards which were quite old. Of that he was very proud. Denis was an incredible perfectionist – something that would finally, many say, be his undoing. He also went about learning the ways of wine-making from Henri Jayer, of whom Clive wrote, “The history of present-day Burgundy could not be written without him.” Indeed, Mortet knew exactly where he was going!
Domaine Denis Mortet was first exported in 1984 and by 1985, Clive Coates first tasted and reported on them. A star was born! All Denis needed was more land.
His wish came true. Around 1993 or so, a famous land owner, with parcels in some of the most prestigious Crus in Burgundy decided to retire. His name was Guyot and he had watched Denis for a few years, becoming more and more impressed with the care Denis took in the vineyards and the incredible wines coming out of the cellars. He asked Denis if Denis would like to take over the Guyot estate. With one gesture, the Domaine Denis Mortet became what we see today – nearly 30 acres.
Clive Coates described Denis Mortet, saying,
“Denis Mortet is a man of passion as well as perfectionism. Touring round his vineyard parcels shows quite plainly his commitment. You feel he knows every single vine personally. And the wines, full, generous, multi-dimensional, rich and expansive, have a lot more to them than most. This is a splendid domaine. And the wines are getting better and better.”
Clive Coates, MW, Cote D’Or, 1997
further, Remington Norman, in his book on Burgundy, added,
“The quality of the wines is remarkable. From the first skirmish with the Bourgogne Rouge, it is clear that Denis knows the technical skills of wine-making and has its art at his fingertips. The fact that he works his 8ha mostly alone makes the achievement the more extraordinary. These wines are among the best in the commune and would easily earn their place in a cellar of fine red Burgundy.”
Remington Norman, The Great Domaines of Burgundy, 1993
more recently, Bruce Sanderson of the Wine Spectator added,
“Mortet had become one of Burgundy’s stars in the 14 years since he established Domaine Denis Mortet, focusing on single vineyard wines from 28.5 acres of small plots he owned in the Côte d’Or. Dozens of his wines earned rave reviews, including a Clos de Vougeot 1996 that scored 99 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale and a Chambertin 1998 that scored 98.”
Bruce Sanderson, reporting in the Wine Spectator
finally, Burghound considered Denis,
“Nothing if not intense and he’s an open book when it comes to his wines as he loves to explain every aspect, and in detail, from bud break to the bottle. While it sometimes seems that Mortet is in search of the proverbial magic bullet to make his wines even better, very real progress is being made here even if it isn’t exactly in a straight line…And speaking of impressed, both vintages here are excellent but the 2005s should be excellent.”
Burghound – Allen Meadows
I suppose not a lot more could be added by this author except to say that the wine world truly lost a master when, last January 2006, Denis tragically passed away. His son, Arnaud, had been working alongside the master for two full vintages to include the brilliant 2005s. Denis’ wife, too, had been in the cellars and it is her strong will and faith that have lifted the Domaine and kept the work of her late husband alive for us all to continue to enjoy.
I trust you’ll find this offer comes to you with much respect for this family and their incredible – though short – and famous history…
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All the best in wine and life!