This spring, Domaine Taupenot-Merme of Morey-St-Denis joined the Martine’s Wines portfolio. At the helm of this family-run estate is the passionate and affable Romain Taupenot. He was generous enough to interrupt his hustle in preparation of the upcoming harvest to answer some questions in this three-part interview.
What is the history of Taupenot-Merme?
It is difficult to summarize in a few lines the long and passionate history of our ancestors and authenticate the exact date of the first winemakers in our family. The branches of the family tree are all immersed in the tanks and barrels and can be followed back without interruption to the early eighteenth century at least.
Several centuries of viticulture in our family can, however, be tracked with the first ancestor from the Merme side, François, born in 1650. Today, I run this fantastic estate assisted by my sister, Virginie, and we represent the ninth generation to make this our métier. The actual domaine was founded in 1963 after the marriage of Jean Taupenot and Denise Merme.
In terms of vineyard holdings, thanks in large part to the history and depth of the family, the domaine is spread across the Cote d’Or with vines in Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Nuits-St-Georges, Corton, Saint-Romain and Auxey-Duresses. This leads the domaine to cover 19 appellations in over 13ha of vineyards, including parcels of Grand Cru (Mazoyères-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Clos des Lambrays, Corton), Premier Cru (Gevrey-Chambertin Bel Air, Morey-Saint-Denis La Riotte, Chambolle-Musigny La Combe D’Orveau, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Pruliers, Auxey-Duressses Les Grands Champs and Les Duresses), village (Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Auxey-Duresses red and white, Saint-Romain red and white) and regional (Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle-Musigny).
A large portion of the plantings were done around the Second World War by the families of Rene Taupenot and Armand Merme. The plant material is a selection of the best vines of our holdings and, up until 1988, all the grafting needed for our vineyards was done at the estate from a massale selection. The vineyards are composed of some very old vines (70+) with the average age of the vines exceeding 40 years.
What is your personal story of wine and your domaine?
Everything is a matter of culture and history, and my path seemed set from the time I was born. It is may be no coincidence that the Domaine Taupenot-Merme has its address “route des grands crus” in the Côte de Nuits which produces the best Burgundies, nor that I bear this first name of Romain. My father, a native of Saint Romain–an appellation of the Côte de Beaune–wanted to mark the seal of his vineyard ancestors at my birth.
My return to the estate did not, however, happen immediately after my studies, although I had always worked in the vineyards during the school holidays and never missed a single harvest since I was very young. That being said, upon graduating from business school in Paris, I held several senior financial positions in multinational groups in France and abroad for the next 10 years, managing high profile financial case and thus accumulating significant international business experience.
It was not until 1998 that I returned to the estate per my father’s request. Since 1997, I have undertaken studies in viticulture and oenology alongside my job. One of the first major decisions I made upon my return was to practice organic farming in 2001. This was the same year where I took over the winemaking responsibilities at the domaine.
In 2006, I began to expand international sales, as the domaine was sparsely represented abroad. Today, the domaine exports about 90% of its sales, which is a large contrast with what was done in my grandfather’s time. In fact, I distinctly remember that at the age of 12, I sold my grandfather’s bottles aboard a caravan on the border of the Route National 74 to tourist clientele. My grandfather would have hardly predicted that today the wines would be spread from Tokyo to San Francisco and in all continents.
How do your wines fit into the greater story/traditions of Burgundy?
The vineyard profession is closely tied to a know-how and passion that is transmitted from generation to generation, and I feel I have a duty to honor the cultural heritage that I carry and pass it on to my children.
While being genuinely curious and open to new techniques, I’m certainly not one who changes with fashion. My philosophy is rather non-interventionist. No inoculation, no enzymes, no additives. We have a tremendous opportunity in Burgundy to offer expressions of the many different climats, and I inscribe myself in this tradition to produce authentic, refined wines while paying respect to the environment.
I aim to produce very elegant wines that are the purest reflection of their climat and vintage, expressing complex but pure flavors, with very refined tannins, and good concentration without being over extracted.
We will publish Part Two of this interview with Romain Taupenot next week.