Louis Jadot: producer profile

It’s unbeknown to many that Maison Louis Jadot, one of Burgundy’s most venerable négociants, is also one of the region’s major growers – and a top one at that.

Jadot owns or controls over 141 hectares of vineyards in the Côte d’Or, the majority of which are Premier and Grand Cru.

Jadot actually began as a grower in 1827 when Louis Henry Denis Jadot acquired the Clos des Ursules through marriage. Three decades later, in 1859, he founded the négociant firm.

Frédéric Barnier, who joined Jadot in 2010 and succeeded the legendary, Jacques Lardière, as Jadot’s winemaker in 2012, points out that most négociants started as growers because, as entrepreneurs, they realised they needed more than one plot.

Management remained within the family until 1962 when Louis Auguste Jadot, the grandson of the founder, died suddenly without heirs.

His widow appointed André Gagey, her husband’s longtime assistant, as managing director.

In 1985, the Jadot heirs sold the business to Americans the Kopf family, owners of the Kobrand Corporation, Jadot’s American importer. Little changed.

Upon André’s retirement in 1992, his son, Pierre-Henry, became President of Maison Louis Jadot.

How did the transformation from négociant to grower occur?

The grower side of the business has exploded over the last 35 years with a series of purchases, starting in 1985 with what was likely the most significant transfer of prized vineyards in modern Burgundy history – the acquisition of Clair-Daü.

With the parcels Jadot acquired, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Chapelle Chambertin, Bonne Mares, Musigny, and Clos Vougeot, the Clair-Daü purchase transformed them from a Côte de Beaune domaine to a major grower spanning the entire Côte d’Or.

Also included in the sale were a host of Premier Cru parcels, including a piece of Les Amoureuses in Chambolle-Musigny, and in Gevrey-Chambertin, a section of Clos St. Jacques.

Barnier lights up when describing the significance of the purchase: ‘It was a key acquisition—a great opportunity.’ Although it was widely assumed that American money helped finance the Clair-Daü purchase, Gagey emphatically reminds that all of Jadot’s acquisitions have been done with Maison Louis Jadot’s resources.

In addition to Jadot’s purchases of Maison Champy (1989) and Domaine Prieur-Brunet (2017), they acquired portions of the vineyards of Château de Chorey lès Beaune (2012), and managed to pick up parcels in Echézeaux, Meursault (Perrières and Narvaux) and other locales.

Additionally, Jadot oversees Domaine Gagey, which includes, among others, a piece of Clos St. Denis and another plot in Echézeaux.

Jadot scored more coups when they purchased a leading estate in Moulin-à-Vent, Château des Jacques in 1996, and a similar jewel in Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine J. A. Ferret (2008).

Today, with increased prestige – and prices – of wines from the lieux-dits of Beaujolais and the approval of Premier Cru vineyards in Pouilly-Fuissé, it is clear just how prescient those purchases were.

These vineyards, combined with the talents of Jacques Lardière and now, Frédéric Barnier, put Maison Louis Jadot squarely in the ranks of Burgundy’s great growers.

How has Burgundy changed over the years?

The Burgundian business model, Barnier explains, has changed enormously over the last 50 years. Previously, even the most famous growers sold wine to négociants to generate cash. But that, as he says, ‘was another time. Unbelievable, when you think about it, now.’

Sales of Premier and Grand Cru grapes to négociants have shrunken further as a younger generation returns to run family estates and bottle more wine themselves.

Gagey points out that owning vineyards assures a steady supply of top grapes. He continues; ‘you also control the farming, the harvest, and the yield, all factors contributing to quality.’

Gagey estimates that 80% of Jadot’s Premier and Grand cru wines come from their vineyards, noting, ‘our soul is in the vineyard.’

How has the viticulture and winemaking evolved?

Without fanfare, much of Jadot’s vineyards have been farmed organically for years. This year, Jadot began the obligatory, three-year transition period after which all its Côte d’Or vineyards will be certified organic.

Barnier insists that the primary motive was maintaining the land and employees’ health. Mixing philosophy and practicality, Barnier says ‘This is the way to live for tomorrow. Of course, if we make better wine, that’s good, but there are many factors in making better wine.’

The opening of a state-of-the-art winery in Beaune in 1996 and the addition of a section dedicated to white wines in 2009, marked new phases for Jadot.

At the time, Lardière was positively giddy about the winery. The functional, but architecturally beautiful, circular winery boasts varying-sized fermenting vats that reflect the size of vineyards, allowing more precise vinification.

Also, in the 1990s, Jadot and Canadell, a top French timber company, established Cadus to make barrels, assuring them of the oak’s provenance and controlling the whole process, from drying the staves to toasting the barrels.

Barnier’s winemaking philosophy remains minimally interventional, like his predecessor’s. With the changes in the vineyards and winery, the wines are more precise and focused. They still are made to evolve with bottle age. Even village and regional ones benefit from bottle age while their Premier and Grand Crus benefit from at least a decade of careful storage.

What is special about the négociant side of Jadot?

Gagey remains enormously proud of their négociant business. He emphasises that Jadot is unique among négociants because they buy grapes and vinify over 80% of their négociant bottlings, including regional wines.

Gagey notes that vinification is a key determinant of quality and style, which explains why they have six wineries: Chablis, Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais, Domaine Ferret and Beaujolais.

The labels of the négociant and domaine wines are almost identical. On closer inspection, the domaine appears in a small rectangle at the bottom of the label.

For the consumer, the plethora of names could be confusing.

Luckily, there’s a wonderful consistency whether the bottle proclaims Domaine Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot, or no domaine name at all, indicating a négociant bottling.

Indeed, Pierre-Henry Gagey once told me that one of the best wines they have made, a 1959 Romanée St. Vivant, came from someone else’s grapes.

What’s happening outside of France?

In 2013, Jadot expanded overseas, buying vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and building a winery, Résonance, there.

Carrying on the tradition, Pierre-Henry’s son, Thibault, heads-up that project. Echoing Louis Henry Denis Jadot, Gagey told me at the time ‘Maison Jadot has the DNA of an entrepreneur.’