The very high reputation of the estate is a testament to the late Denis Mortet. He was, quite simply, a genius but one who earned the respect of all Burgundian vignerons, leading by example and working harder than anyone in the vineyards..Excess buds would be picked off to maximise light and ventilation and prevent fungal diseases. Foliage would be painstakingly managed, to suit the needs of each vineyard. His aim was to achieve low yields of very ripe grapes to produce an opulent and concentrated style, not only from his portfolio of premier-cru holdings, which include Lavaux-Saint-Jacques and Champeaux in Gevrey, and Beaux-Bruns in Chambolle-Musigny, but also at village and AC Bourgogne levels, and in lighter crus like Marsanay. He was able to increase the size of his domaine as retiring vignerons would offer him the opportunity to buy their vines first, knowing their vines would be well looked after by a safe pair of hands. Tragically, despite his success and the esteem in which he was held both locally and internationally, depression led him to take his own life in 2006 at the age of just 51.
2006 was the first vintage of Arnaud Mortet, Denis’s son who found himself taking the reins at the tender age of 26. Arnaud has nothing but respect for his late father but is also very much his own man, with his own ideas. He has followed Denis’s example in the vineyard while making a few changes in the cellar, including a very sophisticated series of sorting tables (tables de tri) which allow only the best and ripest grapes into the vats. Mortet wines were always recognisable by a high level of extraction, and Arnaud’s view is that this could be reduced to make the wines less forbidding in their youth. Given the level of concentration in the grapes, thanks to very low yields, this has been an effective tactic which has improved the balance of the wines. Arnaud has also cut down the amount of new oak in the village wines, with only the premiers and grands crus seeing 100%. Judging by the quality of Arnaud’s vintages to date, the domaine is not only in safe hands but winning new fans, who like the new, more accessible style. It remains to be seen how the new-generation Mortet wines fare with time, for in this respect too Denis is a tough act to follow. A fully mature bottle of one of his classic Gevreys will amply and thrillingly reward the fair amount of patience required for it.