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Archive for the ‘Domaines’ Category

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Denis Bachelet is one of those singular winemakers in Burgundy whose skills are most often spoken of in hushed, respectful tones and whose wines have achieved iconic status .  His Gevrey-Chambertin  and Charmes-Chambertin are so rarely seen on the market that the oft-heard comparisons to unicorns are only half in jest.

This status is palpably incongruous for a man who is himself soft-spoken, gracious and invariably polite.  A portion of his cult-like renown may be due to the scarcity of wines produced by such a diminutive estate:  at 4.28 hectares, it is only about one-third the size of Domaine Armand Rousseau, Bachelet’s co-regent of Gevrey.  But the greater reason for the Bachelet prominence is the incomparable quality of his wine.  As Clive Coates has written: “The Denis Bachelet style produces wines of intensity, great elegance, and subtlety, feminine in the best sense. They are concentrated, harmonious, pure and understated.”

The teenage Denis Bachelet must have been both a quick learner and an intuitive winemaker.  Born in 1963, he produced his first vintage in 1981, a notoriously difficult and largely uncelebrated year  in Burgundy, and drew rave reviews for his efforts. Taking full charge in 1983, Bachelet  quickly rocketed to stardom where he has remained.

As befits a great domaine, there is a solid base in superb vineyards, which are well-situated, prudently farmed, and are comprised of remarkably old vines: all together  4.28 hectares.   Bachelet’s  signature wines, the Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin (.43 ha.) and the Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corbeaux (.42 ha.), both come from vines dating back to 1907-1917. The lieux-dit  Les Evocelles, acquired in 2011, consists of 17 ares of vines planted between  1961 and 1969. The villages-level Gevrey-Chambertin (1.43 ha.) comes from vineyards planted between 1932 and 1937, and situated in lieux-dits En Dérée, Sylvie, Les Jeunes Rois, La Burie and La Justice. The Côte-de-Nuits villages (1.04 ha.) vines mostly dates back to 1952, but also include a 9 are parcel in the  lieux-dit Créole in Brochon, which was planted in the early 1900’s.  Remarkably, even Bachelet’s Bougogne Rouge (.61 ha.) and his Aligoté (.19 ha.) are old vine, being planted, respectively, in 1977 and 1987.

Bachelet follows the precepts of lutte raisonée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist. Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced management of the vineyard, with primary focus on the microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée  will occasionally permit limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed.  The yields are, of course, naturally low due to the advanced age of the vines. In addition, there is green harvesting if any vines appear to be overly productive.  At harvest,  there is strict triage in the vineyards following by a scrupulous sorting again in the cuverie.

IMG_0745Bachelet adheres to a noninterventionsist philosophy in his winemaking, choosing to allow the vintage to express itself through the Pinot Noir. Accordingly, he eschews modernist techniques and takes a decidedly traditional approach to winemaking. After meticulous triage on a vibrating sorting table, the grapes are completely de-stemmed, lightly crushed, and then cold macerated in cement vats at 15°C. for 5 or 6 days.  Natural yeasts then ferment the must for up to two weeks, with the temperature regulated below 32°C.  Bachelet generally punches down once or twice daily, but only rarely pumps over. After fermentation, and pressing (pneumatic press), the juice is placed into stainless tanks to settle out the gross lees for up to a week, racked into barrels and  then cooled to 13°C. The intent of this cooling is to delay malolactic fermentation for as long as possible, as late as the following August, thereby maintaining high levels of CO₂ and preserving freshness.

The oak regimen is light, with generally only 25% new oak for the villages Gevrey and up to 35% for the Premier and Grand Crus. The tonnellerie Meyrieux crafts the barrels, using  Allier oak for the Charmes-Chambertin and Vosges for the villages and Premer Cru. After a total of 15-18 months, the wine is hand bottled without filtration.

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Gerbais also   Jockovino has previously written (A New Dawn Rises Over the Aube) how       and why some of today’s most compelling and seductive Champagnes come      from the hitherto obscure Aube region of Champagne. At the forefront of the    excitement in the Aube is Domaine Pierre Gerbais, an 18-hectare estate  situated in the Côte des Bars, the southernmost vignoble in Champagne.  The  Domaine’s vineyards lie on slopes of the Ource Valley in the village of Celles –sur-Ource, and benefit from a microclimate created by the convergence of the Laignes, Seine,  Ource and Arce river valleys.  The vineyards lie on the famous Kimmeridgian Ridge, a geological  formation of limestone marl that runs through the vineyards of Champagne, the Loire Valley and Burgundy. More than a few oenophiles are convinced that many of the finest vineyards in the world lie on the  Kimmeridgian Ridge, whose distinctive limestone clay, rich in fossilized ammonites, give rise to uniquely profound wines.

Domaine Gerbais has 10 hectares of Pinot Noir, 4 hectares of Chardonnay, and 4 hectares of Pinot Blanc. The vines themselves are quite old, some planted over a century ago (average age over 30 years), so the roots reach deeply into the Kimmeridgian soil. The Domaine is devoted to the principles of organic viticulture and fulfilled the rigorous certification standards of AMPELOS since 1996. They produce about 20,000 cases per year.

Gerbais is a family affair and there are three generations now pulling together to fashion their remarkable Champagnes.IMG_1466   The winemaker, 23-year old Aurélien Gerbais who spearheads the efforts, was trained in Burgundy and passionately embraces their terroir-driven philosophy, together with many of the innovations adopted by the young generation.

The conventional wisdom is that Champagne must come from three grapes only:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  This is largely accurate in practice, insofar as only 100 acres out of Champagne’s total of 30,000 acres are planted in other than the “big three”.  But it is not true in fact.  As of 2010, Champagne can be produced from four grapes beyond the “big three”: Petit MeslierPinot BlancArbanne and Pinot Gris.

One of the most compelling and seductive attractions of Domaine Pierre Gerbais is their cultivation and use of  a rare type of Pinot Blanc (“Pinot Blanc Vrai”) in some of their Champagnes. In this regard, Pinot Blanc was once widely planted in the Aube as the vines are more resistant to the region’s frost. But the development of more frost-resistant clones and, more importantly, the vicissitudes of fashion have all but extinguished  the availability of this charming alternative.

Gerbais employs seléction parcelaire, that is to say the Domaine carefully identifies particular parcels of vines within the vineyards and then picks and vinifies separately the fruit within each such plot before composing the final blends.  The grapes are harvested carefully by hand and crushed in a traditional Champagne press. After a brief period of débourbage at a controlled, cool 12° C.,  alcoholic fermentation is induced in stainless steel tank through select organic yeasts. The wine then, also in tank,  naturally passes through malolactic fermentation.  Each of the Domaine’s  bottling expresses a unique approach to Champagne and includes variable techniques and blends.

The Domaine’s offerings include the Cuvée de Réserve,  Extra Brut.  This wine is a blend comprised of 5% Pinot Blanc, and 47.5% each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. All the fruit comes from low-yield old vines (average 35 years).  At present (2013), the base wine is from the 2007 vintage, with a low dosage of 5g/L. The Cuvée de Réserve is aged on its lees in bottle for 30 months and disgorged 6 months before release. Total sulphur dioxide is less than 30mg/L. The pH is measured at 3.06.

Gerbais’ Prestige, Extra Brut is a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) derived from two quite distinct parcels of Chardonnay. The predominant constituent derives from a special lieu-dit called Les Côtes, a north-facing parcel planted in 1983. The complementary parcel is an old vine parcel with a more typical southern exposition. The fruit from each parcel is separately crushed and vinified in thermo-regulated stainless steel vessels. The current (2013) bottling has a base wine from the 2008 vintage, and a dosage of 5g/L. The  Prestige, Extra Brut is aged on its lees in bottle for 36 months and disgorged 6 months before release. Total sulfur dioxide is less than 36mg/L. The pH is measured at 3.08.

L’Audace Brut Nature is a 100% Pinot Noir-based Champagne from a special lieu-dit, Les Saintes Maries. The vineyard includes vines developed through selection massale and from a rare variety of  Pinot Noir called Pinot Droit, in which the fruit-bearing shoots grown straight up instead of at right angles to the main plant. Accordingly, the resulting juice offers unique flavor profiles, and produces very distinctive Champagne.  Although the current (2013) offering derives entirely from the 2010 vintage, the Domaine has decided not to designate it a vintage Champagne.  There is no (0 g/L) dosage and the wine is accordingly labeled Brut Nature. L’Audace Brut Nature is aged on its lees in bottle for 24 months and disgorged 6 months before release. Total sulfur dioxide is less than 8 mg/L. and can thus be legally labeled “sulfur free.”

The Domaine’s most singular offering is its L’Originale Extra Brut, made 100% from selected parcels of Pinot Blanc Vrai. The dominant parcel is in a special lieu-dit called Les Proies, comprised  of very old vines that were grafted in 1904 onto the then-extant rootstock. This parcel, with already low yields due to the age of the vines, suffers additionally from millerandage, a condition causing undersized berries and reduced yields.  Fortunately, both old vines and millerandage produce intense, profoundly compelling fruit for Aurélian Gerbais to use in this flagship, prestige cuvee. The current (2013) offering of L’Originale Extra Brut is crafted from base wine made the 2008 vintage and a dosage of 5-6g/L.  This very special Champagne is aged on its lees in bottle for 36 months and disgorged 6 months before release. Total sulfur dioxide is less than 31mg/L. The pH is measured at 3.01.

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Imagining White Burgundy as Major League Baseball, each appellation a competing  team, and the winemakers cast as starting pitchers, Meursault would doubtless boast the deepest starting rotation. One needs only to reflect that this appellation includes such outstanding talent as the widely-celebrated Dominique Lafon, the supremely-gifted Jean-Marc Roulot, and the eagerly-pursued Jean-François Coche. Not to mention superstars Pierre Morey, François Mikulski and Alix de Montille.

Making comparative evaluations among such a galaxy of brilliant winemakers is at the best highly subjective, and at the worst beside-the-point. Nonetheless, given the embarrassment of riches in Meursault, it is striking that at least two of today’s most influential wine writers, were an election held for  primus inter pares,  might well send up the white smoke for Patrick Javillier. The always perspicacious Clive Coates, who calls Javillier “the King of Meursault,”  recently compiled a list of the 10 Top Burgundy Domaines of All Time, awarding  one of the coveted spots to Domaine Patrick Javillier.  Along the same lines, today’s most influential commentator on Burgundy, Allen Meadows, recently praised Javillier’s 2008 wines as “genuinely brilliant,” then went on to enthuse: “In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is quite simply no one in Burgundy producing better regional or villages level wines across the board.”

Although the Javillier family has resided in Meursault for centuries, they did not make wine until Patrick’s father, Raymond, came back from World War II in 1945. By the time that Patrick took the pipette from his father in 1974, Domaine Javillier comprised a mere 3 hectares, including 2 hecatres of village level Meursault and one of Aligoté.

Currently,  Domaine Patrick Javillier  consists of 9.5 hectares in the Côte de Beaune, principally in Meursault but also in Savigny-lès Beaune, with additional small plots in Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton and  Puligny-Montrachet.The heart of Domaine Javillier lies in Meursault where the Domaine has holdings in six different villages-level climats.

The Domaine’s largest such holding is a 1.5-hectare plot in Les Tillets ,a 12-hectare climat situated uphill and southwest of the village of Meursault toward Puligny-Montrachet. Lying at an elevation averaging 350 meters and enjoying a southeast exposition,with a limestone-based soil,  the vineyard manifests a stylistic similarity to the elegantly racy wines of Puligny.  Javillier’s  oldest vines in Les Tillets were planted in 1937, and the youngest ones in 1977.

The Domaine also holds a 1-hectare parcel of Clos du Cromin, another village-level climat in Meursault that is part of 9.27-hectare Le Cromin that lies in the clay-rich Volnay side of Meursault, adjacent to the Volnay-producing Les Plures.

 

Intriguingly, Javiller’s most compelling Meursaults are actually each blends of different climats. Contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy in Burgundy, which insists that single vineyard wines are de rigeur, Javillier is a highly articulate proponent of the philosophy that the whole can exceed the sum of its parts. He vinifies each parcel separately and then carefully evaluates and adjusts the elevage of the individual cask before assembling the final cuvées.  Each constituent cask is scrupulously selected for its own characteristics and for its capacity to contribute to the blend. Javillier coaxes complexity into his wines using a combination of batonnage and extended lees contact. 

Javillier’s Cuvée Les Clousots is a blend derived from .36-hectare of parcel of Les Clous Dessus and a .23-hectare parcel of Les CrototsLes Clous Dessus is an east-facing 9.76-hectare climat of Meursault situated at the top of the hill, just to the north of Les Tillets on an east facing slope Javiller’s plot of Les Clous Dessus was planted in 1957 and enjoys deep (1meter) clay-limestone soil over a limestone base.  Les Crotots is 4.61 hectare climat of Meursault situated midslope, south of the village, just downhill and to the east of Premier Cru Les Poruzots. Javillier’s parcel of Les Crotots was planted in 1975 on clay-limestone soil with an eastern exposition.

Javiller’s Cuvée Tête de Murger is a rich and complex Meursault blend derived from .62 hectares of vines planted in 1979, partially from Les Casses-Têtes, and partially from Au Murger de Monthelie.  The 4.64-hectare Les Casses-Têtes is classic Meusault terroir, east-facing and with very thin soil. The vineyard lies mid-slope in the center of the appellation, just downslope to the east of Les Clous Dessous.  The 6.94-hectare climat Au Murger de Monthelie is situated in the northwestern corner of Meursault, toward Volnay,  along the border with Monthelie. The climat faces west on a deep (80cm) clay rich soil over a base of volcanic rock.  Javillier believes that Les Casses-Têtes contributes minerality and tension on the attack while the Au Murger de Monthelie provides balance, length and opulence on the palate.

Patrick Javillier is particularly renowned for producing what several critics contend is the most remarkable and compelling example of Corton-Charlemagne, surpassing that of even the better known and much larger Bonneau du Martray.  Javillier’s tiny .17-hectare south-facing parcel is located in the Grand Cru lieu-dit Les Pougets. Javillier’s  vines were planted in 1984.

 Perhaps Javillier’s most emblematic wine is his Cuvée des Forgets, which is technically a modestly-classified Bougogne blanc but seems for all intents and purposes (save price!) a full bodied Meursault. Cuvée des Forgets derives from 2.25 hectares of vines within the lieux-dits of Les Herbeux,  situated the the northernmost section of Meursault, and  Les Vaux, which is located just across the border in Volnay (but nonetheless entitled to the Meursault appellation).  The vineyards were planted in the early 1970s and the soils are alluvial limestone over silt.

A similarly celebrated wine is Javillier’s Cuvée Oligocene, which derives from the Meursault climat Les Pellans, which is located in the southernmost section of Meursault adjacent to Puligny-Montrachet. The vineyard lies just south of Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes-Dessous, but curiously only one-half (6.84 hectares) of the vineyard was legally classified as Meursault after the Great War, despite the fact that the entire vineyard enjoys the same geology, altitude and exposition. Javillier’s .75 hectare parcel of Les Pellans, planted in 1977, is infortuitously situated in the section robbed of its birthright in the original classification. While this obliges Domaine Javillier to label Cuvée Oligocene as Bourgogne Blanc instead of Meursault, the flip-side is that Allen Meadows perennially describes the Cuvée as “genuinely brilliant” and as a “best buy”.

 

Significantly, Patrick Javillier  accords the same care and treatment to his  Bourgognes Blancs as he does to his Meursault.  That is, he vinifies his Cuvée des Forgets and Cuvée Oligocene and then ages them on lees just as he does his prized Meursault.  

 

Domaine Javillier also produces a very small quantity of Puligny-Montrachet from an .18-hectare parcel of a village-level  climat Les Levrons (6.56 hectares), which is located just downhill to the east of Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts. In addition, Javillier makes a miniscule amount of Meursault Premier Cru, Les Charmes, from a tiny plot of .06 hectars Finally, Javillier produces excellent wines from 2 village-level lieux-dits in Savigny-lès-Beaune, a .54 hectare parcel of Les Grands Liards, and a .7 hectare parcel of Les Montchevenoy.

Javillier picks each climat of Chardonnay separately, carefully sorts through the fruit and then presses each separately in Vaslin open tank presses (as opposed to closed tank pneumatic presses that are more common today). . As Remington Norman observes, this eccentric system results in more oxidative winemaking since not only is the tank more open to the atmosphere than with a pneumatic bladder press, but also the must is more fully exposed to oxygen as it runs along the length of the press. Javillier is willing to sacrifice some of the primary fruit aromas in exchange for the more rapid development of secondary and tertiary aromas in bottle. It may also be that this process helps guard against the premature oxidation that seems to afflict may winemakers who use more anaerobic presses. Javillier’s wines, for whatever reason, do not exhibit the premature oxidation that curses too many contemporary white Burgundies.

After a 24-hour débourbage (“settling”), the must is racked into barrels (25% new oak) where the wines undergo alcoholic and malolactic fermention, and age on their lees for 11-12 months. Unlike many of today’s best winemakers, Patrick is a proponent of batonnage (“stirring the lees”), which he believes enriches the wine and adds complexity. On the other hand, batonnage is presumably be oxidative for two reasons. First, merely removing the bung allows air (and thus oxygen) to enter the barrel and fill up any empty space caused by evaporation. Secondly, the actual stirring physically stimulates the release of free SO₂  and CO₂ , which gasses, trapped in solution in the wine, are believed to retard oxidation.

The white wines rest in the barriques until just before they are needed for the subsequent vintage (usually 11-12 months) at which time each cask is evaluated. Javillier then makes selections based on the characteristics of each cask and assembles his cuvées and decants them into cement vats where they rest for an additional 3-5 months. Javillier believes that the porosity of the cement allows a gentle exchange of air through the walls of the vat, thereby enriching the wines. Again, Javillier is rejecting the prevailing preference for stainless in favor of a the presumably more oxidative cement. Following light fining and (if necessary) filtration, the wines are bottled 14-18 months after harvest.

Thus, Javillier’s open tank pressing, his batonnage, and the final élevage in cement  run counter to prevailing practices in Burgundy which tend to reject practices thought to be oxidative. Nevertheless, either because of or inspite of these disfavored practices, it remains noteworthy that Javillier wines have been entirely free of premature oxidation.

Although best known for his white wines, Patrick Javillier also makes superb Pinot Noir, most characteristically a Premier Cru Savigny-lès-Beaune, Les Sepentières. Javillier’s parcel is comprised of .71 hectares of vines planted in 1979 with full south exposure. The soil is limestone-based and very stony. The reds are 100% de-stemmed and then cold macerated for 5 or 6 days. They are vinified in oak barrels, of which 50% are new, and then aged for 11-15 months.  The press wine is separated, vinified and aged separately, and added to the final blend if appropriate to the vintage. The reds are neither fined not filtered before bottling. Increasingly, Patrick’s daughter Marion is assisting in the winemaking of the reds.

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Successor to Henri Jayer?

Ben Leroux, it is whispered in reverent tones, may well succeed to the mantle of Henri Jayer as Burgundy’s emblematic winemaker.  Still only 35, Ben is, in the words of Allen Meadows, “extremely thoughtful . . . positively brilliant . . . one of, if not the, most gifted young winemaker in all of Burgundy.” While continuing as the régisseur at Domaine des Epeneaux (Comte Armand),  Ben Leroux now also operates a boutique négociant operation in Beaune near Maison Bichot, just off the  périphérique, in a rented facility that he shares with Dominique Lafon.

Much as Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, Leroux determined to become a vigneron at any early age, and despite not coming from a winemaking family, enrolled in Beaune’s Lycée Viticole when he was 13. Upon graduation, he took a Diploma in Oenology at Dijon University, and in 1990-1992 apprenticed to the brilliant and charismatic Pascal Marchand, who was at that time a 29 year-old wunderkind at the Domaine des Epeneaux (Comte Armand).  Leroux rounded out his practical training in Bordeaux at Cos d’Estournel, subsequently with universally-respected Jacques Lardière at Maison Louis Jadot, and, finally, with Marcel Geisen in New Zealand. In 1999, when Pascal Marchand accepted new challenges at Domaine de la Vougeraie, Pascal selected Ben as his successor at Domaine des Epeneaux.

Ben intends to keep Maison Benjamin Leroux as a small, niche operation, producing fine wines from interesting or under-appreciated terroirs, working only with grapes (not must or young wine) that he carefully selects for quality. He has invested in top-of-the-line equipment and  exerts maximum control over his growers, converting them as possible to organic and biodynamic practices. Focusing currently on around a dozen wines, reds and whites.  Ben is already producing Burgundy of enormous character and remarkable quality.

Maison Leroux’s flagship wine is   Auxey-Duresses (blanc). The Chardonnay grapes are sourced  from three lieux-dits

Ben reviews technical notes with MW candidate Amy Christine of Veritas.

(La Macabrée, Les Hautés, and Les Boutonniers) situated in the Mont Melian section of Auxey, near the border with Meursault. The sourced parcels aggregate 2 hectares, and face east/southeast from an altitude of about 350meters. About half the vines are 25 years old; the other half 35 years old. The stony soil is white marl and limestone (22%) over a limestone base.

These parcels have heretofore been exploited by Comte Armand  and transformed by Ben Leroux into reference-standard Auxey-Duresses blanc.  Comte Armand has, however,  generously given over the rights to these parcels to aison Leroux.  The wine is a lean and racy analogue to Meursault, aromas of lime-blossom and hazelnut , and a fruit-forward and round mid-palate framed by crisp acidity.

Another of Maison Leroux’s noteworthy white wines is the village-level Puligny-Montrachet, which bears the unmistakable breeding of more exalted vineyards in Puligny.

One more fine wine from Maison Leroux is the Nuits-St-Georges, Aux Allots. Coming as it does from the section of Nuits closest to Vosne-Romanée, Leroux’s Aux Allots exhibits a measure of exotic spiciness together with elegant black and red fruit on the palate. Leroux also produces a spectacular Premier Cru Volnay from the tiny .64-hecatre monopole Clos-de-la-Cave-des-Ducs.

Although Ben Leroux is acknowledged as a technical master of scientific winemaking, he actually follows a very intuitive approach, which flows directly from his perception of biodynamics.  “For me,” Ben observes, “biodynamie is not a technique but a philosophy.”  In Ben’s weltanschauung, man has become disconnected more and more from nature of which he forms an integral part.   Rather than trying to impose our own rhythms on the outside physical world, Ben contends that it is just “common sense” to work harmoniously with the forces of nature, to attune ourselves with gravity, with the sun, with the cycles of the moon. Nevertheless, because  biodynamie is a philosophy and not a religion, Ben retains an open mind toward biodynamic techniques, and will, for example, abstain from “biodynamic treatments”, such as copper sulfate,  that he feels disrupt natural rhythms.

In the final analysis, the wines of Ben Leroux are so appealing precisely because his objective focuses on the human perspective. “For me,” he declares, “the goal is not a bottle of fine wine or exultant tasting notes. What interests me, instead, is to create memories of good times, of shared joy and happiness . .  . of what the French call bonhomie.”  Wine is ephemeral; memories abide.

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Sylvain Cathiard. with his wife and son Sebastian

As Jockovino has pointed out elsewhere, one of the most durable images of the Burgundian vigneron is the laconic peasant, face deeply etched by long exposure to the elements and hands callused by years of manual labor in the vineyards.  His education has been acquired for the most part by working alongside his father and he is even now passing along the accumulated wisdom of generations to his son.  While the reality is most often strikingly different, there are at least a few instances where this compelling and beguiling image is surprisingly accurate.    

Sylvain Cathiard, who has been selected by Clive Coates as one of the few three-star superstars in Burgundy, is just such a man of the soil: a  vigneron whose personal ties to the terroir naturally imbue him with a remarkable talent to give transparent expression to the  wines he so carefully crafts.    

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils now comprises almost 7 hectares of vineyards in the Côte de Nuits, principally in Vosne-Romanée, but also in Nuits-St-Georges and Chambolle-Musigny. The Domaine was founded by Sylvain’s grandfather in the 1930’s and taken over by his father in 1969.  Sylvain himself, a graduate of the Ecole Viticole in Beaune, began working with his father, André, in the 1980’s and gradually assumed control in the 1990’s. Since taking over, Sylvain has raised the quality level of the Domaine to the topmost echelon of Burgundy. Sylvain has now been joined by his son Sébastian, who is being trained and groomed to take over in the future.    

The heart of Domaine Cathiard lies in Vosne-Romanée (and Flagey-Echézeaux) , where the Domaine has prize holdings in four remarkable Premier Cru vineyards as well as a small, spectacular parcel (.167 hectare) in Grand Cru Romanée-St-Vivant. To the south, between the village of Vosne and the border with Nuits-St-Georges, and adjacent to La Tâche, lies the Domaine’s .74 hectare parcel of Aux Malconsorts, a remarkable Premier Cru climat that rivals the best in the appellation.  Cathiard’s Malconsorts vines were planted in 1972. A bit north, and just above Grands Crus La Romanée and La Romanée-Conti, lies the Domaine’s .24 hectare parcel of Les Reignots. Further north, and adjacent to Grand Cru Romanée-St-Vivant, the Domaine holds a small .164 hectare parcel of Premier Cru Les Suchots, planted in 1969.  Lastly, within the Flagey-Echézeaux section of the appellation, lies Cathiard’s .293 hectares of Premier Cru En Orveaux, planted in 1953. En Orveaux is a particularly interesting vineyard in a portion of it actually falls within Grand Cru Echézeaux. In addition, the Domaine includes three parcels of village-level Vosne-Romanée, planted in the early 1970’s and aggregating .79 hectares.      

Domaine Sylvain Cathiard also enjoys a small .456 hectare parcel, planted in 1951, of Les Clos de l’Orme, a lieu-dit in Chambolle-Musigny situated just southeast of Premier Cru Les Charmes. In Nuits-St-Georges, the Domaine has a sliver (.128 hectare) of village-level vineyards planted in 1949, as well as a .475 hectare parcel of Premier Cru Les Murgers planted in 1945,  and a .43 hectare piece of Premier Cru Aux Thorey planted in 1953. This latter holding has an interesting history, it having been acquired by the Domaine in 2005 in consideration for the work that Sylvain Cathiard had put into the parcels of Aux Malconsorts and Romanée-St-Vivant acquired from Moillard by Domaines Dujac and de Montille.     

Sylvain Cathiard is a practitioner of lutte raisonnée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist. Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced viticultural management with primary focus on microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée will occasionally permit limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed; and, more importantly,  when chemicals are viewed as less harmful to the soil than alternative biodynamic treatments.   As a practical matter, lutte raisonnée can be distinguished from biodynamie in that the former implies the application of treatments only as a necessary response, and the use of chemicals as a less harmful alternative. In contrast,  biodynamie implements treatments systematically as prevention and employs biodynamic remedies like sulphur and copper that many vignerons believe are more harmful to the vineyard than chemical alternatives.   Lutte raisonnée, in the judgment of its practitioners, thus results in less intervention and a more flexible approach that elevates the long term health of the vineyard above organic and biodynamic orthodoxy.      

Following meticulous sorting in the vineyards and then again in the winery, Cathiard completely destems the fruit and employs cold maceration for 4-8 days, depending on the vintage. With neither yeasting nor enzyming, fermentation is permitted to reach fairly high temperatures (31°-32° C.) for 16-22 days, with the frequency of pigéage and length of cuvaison adapted to the vintage.   The young wine is then racked into Allier barrels (30-40% new oak for village-level, and 60-70% for the Premier Cru) and aged 18-20 months. After assemblage, the wines are bottled without fining or filtration.    

The wines of Sylvain Cathiard, especially his Vosne-Romanée, are reference-standards. Tasting through his village-level and then his Premier Cru Vosne, the subtle differences among the crus are readily apparent, and illustrate both the authority and the magic of terroir. Cathiard wines are lush and opulent, to be certain, and without the slightest hint of forced extraction or excess sweetness; and they are harmonious and balanced and delicate. But the overriding impression that Cathiard wines give is one of absolute precision: striking each prescribed note perfectly in pitch and tone, without ever a hint of excess or discordance.

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English critic Clive Coates, never one to be effusive in his praise, has designated Bonneau du Martray as one of the Top 10 Burgundy Domaines of all time and states unambiguously that the Domaine is the “best source” for Corton-Charlemagne.

Family-owned for almost two centuries, Domaine Bonneau du Martray, is the only estate in Burgundy that produces exclusively Grand Cru wines.   The Domaine is not only the largest single owner of Corton-Charlemagne but also the largest single owner of any one Grand Cru in Burgundy. With 11 hectares of vineyards situated on the legendary Hill of Corton, within the heart of the original Corton-Charlemagne, the Domaine safeguards and indeed refines the iconic wines with direct lineage to Charlemagne.

Although the entire 11 hectare estate is contiguous, it is bisected by the communal border between Pernand-Vergelesses and Aloxe-Corton. Within Pernand lie 4.5 hectares of Chardonnay vines, all situated within the climat,  En Charlemagne. Within Aloxe lie 5 hectares of Chardonnay and 1.5 hectares of Pinot Noir, both parcels within the climat, Le Charlemagne. The Chardonnay grows on the upper slopes of the Hill of Corton. The soil of En Charlemagne is grey marl admixed with clay over Oxfordian limestone base. The topsoil is fragile and requires much care to maintain. The soil of Le Charlemagne, on the Pernand side,  is very similar but contains more flint.  The Domaine’s Pinot Noir parcel lies downslope in  Le Charlemagne, and the soil contains more iron (thus is redder) and pebbles, but less clay.

The estate and winemaking are currently directed by the very charming and articulate Jean-Charles le Bault de la Marinière, scion of the family that has owned the property since shortly after the French Revolution.  Since taking the reins from his father in 1994, Jean-Charles has

Jean-Charles le Bault de la Morinière

implemented principles of organic agriculture governed by a biodynamic philosophy. He has banished herbicides and chemical fertilizers, reduced crop yields, and promoted sustainable and renewable biological diversity in the soil.

Each of 16 separate parcels of ripe Chardonnay fruit is separately hand-harvested and sorted before complete de-stemming and light extraction by pneumatic Bucher  presses. Each of the parcels is then vinified separately. Fermentation begins in small, 15-hl stainless steel vats, where the juice ferments for 5-6 days with temperatures held below 18°C. After this initial period, the must goes into Allier and Nevers oak barrels, 30 % new, where it undergoes alcoholic and malolactic fermentation; and in which there is periodic batonnage.  After malo is complete, the wine is racked off its lees and the wines (still-separated by parcel) are blended in tank before racking back into barrels. Before the second winter the wine undergoes Kieselguhr and sterile plate filtration and is re-racked into tank to await bottling, typically in Spring, around18 months after harvesting.

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Jean-Marc and Hugues Pavelot

Jean-Marc and Hugues Pavelot illustrate yet again Burgundy’s apparently endless capacity to generate father-son teams that transition seamlessly from one generation to the next. Much like Michel and Frédérich Lafarge in Volnay,  Pavelot Père et Fils work so completely in synch that either one could doubtless complete the other’s sentences without a change in pitch or emphasis.  

Domaine Pavelot, with family roots going back in Savigny-lès-Beaune to the 17th Century, currently comprises 12 hectares in the Côte de Beaune, principally in Savigny-lès-Beaune, but also in Corton, Beaune, and Pernand-Vergelesses.  

The heart of Domaine Pavelot lies in Savigny-lès-Beaune (locally known as “Savigny”) where the Domaine has holdings in six different Premier Cru vineyards.   On the south-facing hillside sector lying under Mont Battois, Domaine Pavelot holds a .6-hectare parcel of Premier Cru Aux Gravains , 75% of whose vines were planted in 1930 (the other 25% in 1990), from which are produced on average 300 cases per year. Adjacent to Aux Gravains,  lies the Premier Cru vineyard of Les Serpentières, in which Pavelot holds a tiny .17-hectare parcel that was planted in 1947 and yields, on average, only 80 cases a year.  In the same sector of the appellation,  also on the north of the river, lies a 1.48-hectare parcel of Premier Cru Les Guettes, planted in 1978 and producing about 685 cases annually.    

On the hillside closer to Beaune, Pavelot owns three additional Savigny vineyards: a .36-hectare parcel of Premier Cru Les Narbantons, planted in 1923 and yielding an average of 165 cases per year; and a .45-hectare parcel of Premier Cru Les Peuillets, planted 1n 1955 that averages 225 cases annually. The Domaine’s largest holding  is  2.21-hectare parcel of Premier Cru La Dominode, which is a lieu-dit within Les Jaurrons, and arguably the most celebrated vineyard in Savigny. The largest portion of the vineyard (45%) was planted in 1928, while 32% dates to 1973 and 23% to 1993. Altogether Domaine Pavelot produces, on average, about 1000 cases annually of La Dominode.  

The Domaine also holds several parcels of village-level vineyards, aggregating  5.35 hectares of Pinot Noir vines averaging over 35 years of age,  from which are annually produced about 2000 cases of Savigny-lès-Beaune Village (Rouge). The Pavelots, in addition,  hold .84 hectares of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc vines, from which they blend (90-95% Chardonnay, remainder Pinot Blanc) about 400 cases annually of Savigny-lès-Beaune Village (Blanc).  

Finally, Domaine Pavelot enjoys a few small holdings outside Savigny, including  a .61-hectare parcel of Premier Cru Pernand-Vergelesses, Les Vergelesses, planted in 1975 and yielding an average of 300 cases per years;  a .23-hectare parcel of village-level Aloxe-Corton, Les Cras, planted in 1953 and producing about 100 cases per year; and a minuscule .09-hectare slice of Grand Cru Corton (Blanc), Les Chaumes, from which are produced 25 cases per year.  

  

Hugues Pavelot

Traditionally, as well as in the hands of less skilled vignerons than the Pavelots, Savigny wines can be a somewhat lifeless, all too often caused by fruit harvested before full phenolic maturity. Domaine Pavelot, however, as well as a handful of other Savigny vignerons, have mastered the techniques of coaxing elegant, rich, and seductive wines out of the difficult appellation while remaining true to the Savigny terroir. The approach taken by Domaine Pavelot is a combination of scrupulous viniculture and noninterventionist winemaking carefully tailored to the peculiarities of Savigny .    

The Pavelots are adherents of lutte raisonnée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist.  Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced viticultural management with primary focus on microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée  will occasionally permit limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed, and when chemicals are viewed as less harmful to the soil than alternative biodynamic treatments.   As a practical matter, lutte raisonnée  can be distinguished  from biodynamie in that the former implies the application of treatments only as a necessary response and the use of chemicals as a less harmful alternative; whereas biodynamie implements treatments systematically as prevention and employs biodynamic remedies like sulphur and copper that many vignerons believe are more harmful to the vineyard than chemical alternatives.   Lutte raisonnée , in the judgment of its practitioners, thus results in less intervention and a flexible approach that elevates the long term health of the vineyard above organic and biodynamic orthodoxy.    

Jean-Marc and Hugues Pavelot focus on low yields and old vines to produce their wines. The vines of the Domaine average over 65 years of age, and many are almost 100 years old. Such old vines typically provide small yields of rich, concentrated fruit. In addition, the Pavelots affirmatively restrain vineyard yields through a program of close pruning, de-budding, and vendange vert if necessary. In addition, only focused and restrained use of organic fertilizer is permitted.    

The vines are manually harvested and carefully sorted in the vineyard to remove any imperfect fruit.  The clusters are then brought immediately to the cuverie where they are subjected to a second round of triage. All of the Regional, Village, and much of the Premier Cru is then completely de-stemmed. Partial clusters of Dominode and Bressandes are left intact.    

A pre-fermentation maceration follows for 4-5 days, with temperature restrained to 12° C. The must is then slowly permitted to warm up to ambient cuverie temperatures, at which point the naturally-occurring  yeasts generate alcoholic fermentation. Temperature-regulated fermentation continues 12-15 days for Village wine and 15-19 days for the Premier Cru. During this period there is twice-daily pigeage (punching-down); toward the end of the process, there may be some remontage (pumping over) until all the sugar is converted into alcohol.    

Selecting termination date for cuvaison is a critical decision at Domaine Pavelot, one seen as greatly determinative of the character of the wine. The decision is predicated on careful evaluation based on tasting and experience.    

After a débourbage (settling of gross lees) of 24-48 hours, the wine is racked into French oak barrels (10-30% new), the choice of toast, percentage of new oak, and the origin of the barrels, all dependent on the vineyard. For example, Aux Gravains is treated to 25% new Tronçais barrels with light toast, whereas La Dominode enjoys 30% new Aliier barrels with medium toast, while Pernand-Vergelesses, Les Vergelesses is racked into and aged in 25% new Allier barrels with heavy toast.    

 The wines are barrel-aged on their fine lees 10-12 months for Village-level and 12-14 months for Premier Cru, and  then assembled in tank by appellation, resting there for a month or two before bottling, with light filtration,  only if necessary.

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