Some of the first great red Burgundies I ever tasted bore the name Faiveley.
I recall wines from the 1960s and ‘70s and even one from the ‘40s that blew my head off back in the early ‘80s – in the nicest possible way. The Australian agent was Adelaide’s B.H. McLachlan, whose wineman was Brenton Fry (now with Negociants Australia), and McLachlan’s seemed to have inexhaustible supplies of 1971 Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, 1967 Latricières-Chambertin and 1947 Musigny, among others. These were all spell-binding wines.
But, for many years, young Faiveley wines (previous tastings) were often tannic to the point of hardness and remained closed-up for years. They seemed to take 15 to 20 years to become approachable. In recent years, there’s been talk that the wines have changed, that they’re more accessible, showing more fruit and less tannin in youth.*
We had some proof of this during the recent Burgundy Celebration in Sydney, which was attended by several Burgundy producers including a member of the current generation of the Faiveley family, Erwan Faiveley – son of the previous boss, François. The 2012 Faiveley Corton grand cru ‘Clos des Cortons Faiveley’ was one of the top wines at a masterclass I attended. This is a magnificent young grand cru, packed with fruit and charm and yet it has the structure to age and develop for decades. I rated it 97 and gave it a (conservative) 30-year lifespan.
The story of the wine’s name is interesting. Said Erwan: “It is the vineyard we are most proud of. We have some great grand crus, but we are very proud of the Clos des Cortons Faiveley, and it’s the only grand cru in Burgundy with the name of the family attached. If we sold a piece of it to Domaine Dujac, for example, they would have to label their wine Domaine Dujac Corton ‘Clos des Cortons Faiveley’. But we’re not selling it!”
Apparently, the name came about as the result of a court case, in which Erwan’s grandfather challenged a ruling that the family stop using the name ‘Corton Clos des Cortons’. The judge apparently acknowledged the family was using this name in good faith, so they could continue, but they would have to add the name Faiveley to it. “We’ve been using the name for 60 years,” said Erwan. As an indication of how highly the family regards this wine, they serve it after all the other wines, when visitors are given tastings in the cellar. Expect to pay about $300 a bottle.
*Importer Negociants Australia’s price-list says of Domaine Faiveley: “Once notorious for being austere. There has been less emphasis on extraction over the last 10 years and the wines show increased freshness, purity of fruit and more judicious use of oak. A contender for one of the most improved domaines in Burgundy over the last decade.” Amen.