This transcription was created thanks to: Brittany Graham, Paul Knittle, Miranda Gustafson, Nina West & Ali Massie.
Brenna (Narration): Hi, this is Brenna Quigley, your personal geologist and terroir guide. Join me on a roadtrip through the geologic history of your favorite wine regions around the world.
This is Roadside Terroir.
Season 2, Burgundy’s Côte d’Or is made possible by our Season 2 partners: Becky Wasserman and Company, La Paulée, and Acker Wines.
Acker is now a proud Grand Cru Sponsor and the exclusive wine auction and retail partner for La Paulée de New York, the greatest celebration of Burgundy on earth – this year’s celebrations are on - now through March 4th!
Together, Acker and La Paulée are committed to bringing the great wines of Burgundy directly to you via auction, winemaker dinners, tasting events, and retail offers.
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Please, don’t drink and drive… and remember to keep your eyes on the road.
This episode contains explicit language.
Part 1: Entering the Côte de Nuits
Brenna (Narration): Over the past 5 episodes we’ve scoured the Côte de Beaune searching for the secrets of Burgundy’s terroir. Along the way, we’ve made some historic discoveries, felt the power of Jurassic limestone, and met some incredible characters.
Today marks a shift in our focus…
[Light piano music…]
Brenna (Narration): From the varied red and white patchwork of the Côte de Beaune, to the world’s most hallowed ground for Pinot Noir in the Côte de Nuits. A keen Burg-o-phile may have noticed that we‘ve seemingly skipped over the villages of Santenay and Maranges, but don’t worry we’ll be back for them before the season is over.
We’re heading North from our cozy home in Beaune, past the regal hill of Corton, and into another completely new Burgundian realm…
As we continue on this journey, be prepared for everything you think you know about Burgundy to be turned on its head. We’ve learned a lot together over the past 5 episodes, and while it’s all true, there is still so much more to this place. In this episode, we start doing some real mythbusting as we dig into the complicated layers that exist between the rocks and the wines in order to determine what makes Burgundy, Burgundy.
[Light transition music…]
Daniel Johnnes: You do have some of the really iconic appellations of Burgundy in the Côte de Nuits…
Brenna (Narration): Here’s Daniel Johnnes.
Daniel Johnnes: The Grand Crus, most of the Grand Crus Burgundies are in the Côte de Nuits and are red wine. So you have to think that some of the, the most sought after in terms of collectibles and in value, of red wines, are located in the Côte de Nuits
Brenna (Narration): The Cote de Nuits is the northern counterpart of the Côte de Beaune – it extends from just north of the village of Ladoix up to the urban sprawl of Dijon to the north. While there are miniscule amounts of white wines made in the Côte de Nuits – it is truly the home of some of the greatest Pinot Noir on the planet.
Paul Wasserman: There’s a sense of grandness of course. There’s a sense of almost irreplaceable treasures.
Brenna (Narration): Here’s Paul Wasserman.
Paul Wasserman: It’s impossible to discard, not the value of the wines, because that’s really a much more modern thing, but the sense that they’re irreplaceable. If I really boiled it down, I would say Romanée Conti and Musigny to me are just things that are, precious. You know, they don’t act like any other wines, they don’t feel like any other wines. You just have the feeling that it would be a catastrophe if those two were lost to the world.
And so the Côte de Nuits, it’s special. In the sense that it can literally produce the greatest reds in the world.
Daniel Johnnes: I think there’s an undue amount of attention that’s paid to the Grand Crus. Because, we know they’re great. We know they are like the holy grail of Burgundy, but they’re just a small part of the production of Burgundy and they’re a small part of the story of Burgundy today.
Brenna (Narration): With the hill of Corton in our rear view mirror – we speed along the D974 towards the Côte de Nuits, and our first question is…where does it start?
We ask our trusty geological expert, Françoise Vannier – who pulls off onto the side of the road in a seemingly innocuous location…
Françoise Vannier: Here you are at the limit between Côte de Beaune that starts after the wall, and la Côte de Nuits that starts here, so that’s funny because really there is no limit…
Brenna (Narration): Geologically, or at least topographically, you might expect to see something quite striking to delineate such a significant boundary. Because of the historical, and practical separation of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits, there have long been myths surrounding its geologic origin. Many people, including many geologists, once believed that there was a major tectonic fault that marked the boundary, and more recently this feature has been described as a giant, giant as in tens of kilometers, downward bend or fold, called a syncline…but Françoise’s detailed work has helped to reveal that it is actually not so geologically glamorous…
Françoise Vannier: Definitely to my opinion, it’s just a human creation, around one century ago. Between the “vin” de Beaune and “vin” de Nuits, the wines of Beaune and Nuits, but no geological reason. If I would have put a change, geologically speaking, it would have been after Corton, it would have included Corton in this area and after okay things are different from Savigny to the les Maranges, but not exactly here.
Brenna (Narration): Instead of a clear line, the change from Côte de Beaune to Côte de Nuits feels more like a gradual shift. And yet, as it is with most myths even though they may not be precisely truthful, they exist for a reason…
There are some clear geological differences between the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits that are responsible for creating two distinct landscapes and two distinct terroirs.
As we know, all of the rocks around here are limestones formed during the Jurassic period. But the rocks in the Côte de Beaune are actually younger than those in the Côte de Nuits.
The Côte de Beaune strata package is Oxfordian to Callovian in terms of geologic age, or approximately 158-164 million years old. These rocks are more marly in composition, and therefore softer. The classic stratigraphy of the Côte de Beaune goes something like this from youngest to oldest: the Nantoux limestone, the Pommard/Pernand marl, ferriginous oolite, digonela divonensis marl, and Chassagne limestone.
The bedrock of the Cote de Nuits is made up of more pure, hard limestone, compared to the clay-rich marls of the Côte de Beaune, and is on average older. These rocks are Bathonian to Bajocian in terms of their geologic age, or approximately 164 - 171 million years old.
There is also a lateral facies change that happens between the two subregions – meaning that even in areas where the rocks are approximately the same age, they formed in slightly different geologic environments (check out Episode 2 - the Hill and the Valley for a deeper explanation of these lateral changes).
The classic stratigraphy of the Côte de Nuits goes something like this, from youngest to oldest: Comblanchien limestone, white oolite (equivalent to the Chassagne limestone), Premeaux limestone, ostrea acuminata marl, and crinoidal limestone.
[Light background music plays…]
The classic Burgundian slope profile shows off in all its glory in the Côte de Nuits… a gentle concave slope that steepens towards the top and collects clay and limestone colluvium at the bottom… in fact, in the Côte de Nuits this entire slope is notably narrower in most areas, with village-level vineyards only rarely crossing over onto the lower side of the Route des Grands Crus. In some places, it can be a touch steeper – because it’s built upon that harder, older limestone.
And, even more significantly, the slope here is more uniform than in the Côte de Beaune – more regular with fewer combes or valleys. The combes that do cut through the slope are much steeper, and more narrow throughout the Côte de Nuits than their broader, more open counterparts in the Côte de Beaune.
So, as we enter into the Côte de Nuits we wonder: can we taste this 10 million year difference in geologic history? Between soft marl and hard limestone? Does this change in geology influence changes in human tradition or in winemaking style?
Paul Wasserman: What feels different… no, I was gonna make a joke, but then you're going to put it into the thing, so now I’m not…
Brenna: Do it! You can *almost* trust me.
Paul Wasserman: Well, we call it the Côte de Nuits tax, as soon as you enter the Côte de Nuits there’s 30% more new oak, but that’s a joke…
*Brenna and Paul chuckle*
Brenna (Narration): When blind tasting in Burgundy, the first thing you try to guess is if the wine is from the Côte de Beaune or the Côte de Nuits... I asked Paul to explain how you might make this distinction based purely on the taste of the wine.
Paul Wasserman: There’s a sense of power in the Côte de Nuits even in the shy vineyards. Then of course you start thinking about all the exceptions but if there was a generalization, power or depth, and for many of the villages a sense of class in the tannins because the villages in the Côte de Beaune that deliver similar power tend to be more tannic, a little more gritty.
[Piano music, car driving sounds…]
Part 2: Côte de Nuits Villages
2.1 Into Côte de Nuits Villages
Brenna (Narration): As we continue our drive, there’s a small section of what feels like “no man’s land” between the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. Large, presently active limestone quarries take up a good amount of slope real estate, and the stonemason industry seems to overshadow wine production.
Paul Wasserman: We’re almost at the southern end of the Côte de Nuits, in the village of Comblanchien. There’s no village appellation here. It’s ‘Côte de Nuits Village’ but it’s actually pretty exceptional.
[bass guitar music plays as transition]
Brenna (Narration): The first vineyards we begin to see belong to the more general appellation ‘Côte de Nuits Village’, which also includes a bit of Brochon in the north between Gevrey-Chambertin and Fixin. The Côte de Nuits Village here belongs to the villages of Corgoloin and Comblanchien, though without official village-level status, those names can’t appear on any labels. Because of this, these areas have been historically considered a bit lower in the quality hierarchy of the Côte d’Or. And yet, great producers, working with stellar vineyards, are proving that this may be one of the most undervalued pieces of the entire Côte d’Or.
Daniel Johnnes: Some of the best wines are made in… in Brochon and in Corgoloin Noir, such as Camille Thieret, Didier Forlerol, Lienhart. The other thing to say about Côte de Nuits Village is that I think that today with the value of Burgundy, the cost of Burgundy from the more famous appellations has gone so high, that some of the young generation can’t afford to buy their own vineyards or start a domain in a village like Gevry or Jean Paul Vosne Romanée, etc. So they have been able to find land in the haut cote or some of the areas in the Côte de Nuits Village. And this has enabled young, talented winemakers to really develop their craft and to produce really authentic Burgundy at what I would call reasonable prices. Even a village wine from Vosgne Romanee or Chambolle Musigny or not the best plot of land is going to cost more than a really well situated Cote de Nuits Village Lieu Dits.
2.2 Comblanchien Limestone + Quarries
Brenna (Narration): The working quarries we see here are exploiting the slope for the beautiful, hard Comblanchien limestone, named after the village not the other way around. We’ve already seen a glimpse of this rock in Corton and will continue to follow its trace up the top of the slope as we explore the Cote de Nuits.
[A woman’s voice is indistinctly speaking in background as narration transitions]
Françoise Vannier: …one of the specificities of the Comblanchien conglomerate is that the slope is, to my opinion, very gentle, and the vineyard is short. The area where this vineyard is planted is very short. The Comblanchien is outcropping in the forest, I’m sure. So Comblonchien has been exploited as the marble in Comblanchien and Corgoloin.
[a woman’s voice fades into the wind and story transitions back to the to narrator]
Brenna (Narration): Françoise explains that though the stonemason’s term for this is marble; but it isn’t entirely geologically accurate. To a geologist, marble is a metamorphosed limestone. Meaning, a limestone that has been re-crystallised due to extreme temperature and pressure, usually due to major tectonic collisions. In this case, the rocks have not been metaphorically altered but still function as a marble-like building material, meaning they’re hard, compact, and, well, good for building and carving. These quarries are a funny thing to consider in the lowly Cote de Nuits Villages. Their presence seems to somehow imply that either the compactness of the limestone or the presence of the industry itself may influence the hierarchical designation of the surrounding vines. But, since some of my favorite wines in all of Burgundy come from this area, I think it’s time to let you in on a dirty little secret…
[rhythmic drumming plays in the background]
Brenna (Narration): There are quarries all over the sacred slopes of the Cote d’Or. We’ve alluded to this in past episodes but we haven’t had the guts to really get into it. Some of these quarries are ancient, such as the 11th century quarries designated by the vineyard Perriere that we discussed last episode. But others are not as old as you might think. Some were active only decades ago as opposed to centuries.
[drumming continues in the background]
Brenna (Narration continues): From a terroir perspective, this man made modification of the slope is kind of terrifying. Not only does this indicate that the shape of the slope has been altered but that the geology has been altered by removing stone and even, more shockingly, by bringing in soil from other places. According to Françoise, this imported soil was often brought from the very, very bottom of the slope in order to fill in what had been taken away to all the new vines to survive. In some cases, there’s evidence of this human intervention in some very famous vineyards on both sides of the Côte d’Or, including many Grand Crus. To some Burgundian purists, this kind of feels like a betrayal. Like all of the stories of the monks and the perfectly vaulted Crus were all a big sham. And for a while, some big producers have even done their best to keep these quarries as secret as possible. Today however, I’d like to think that our understanding of terroir has evolved and we’re beginning to think of it as more of a complex system – a system that human beings are inextricably linked to.
[Bass drumming into a quick transition]
Brenna (Narration): Burgundy is a place of remarkable geologic complexity, but is also a place of deep, meaningful human history and tradition. It’s this combination that makes the wine so exceptional, and this mysterious human impact on the terroirs themselves only makes each site that much more unique. And, if you still need convincing, another way to think of it is even if we tried our very best to manipulate another piece of the slope in the exact way as some historically quarried Grand Cru vineyard we would still absolutely fail to recreate the sublime singularity of that single vineyard. So, from now on, we’re going to stop ignoring this human element of the terroir and we’re going to start asking others how they feel about it and what it means for the reality of terroir in Burgundy.
2.3 Camille Thiriet
[Quiet traffic sounds in the background]
Brenna (Narration): As we drive into the village of Comblanchien, the first thing you notice is a massive, boxy, white mansion, proudly towering over the vines that surround it. And just behind this mansion is the humble home Maison Thiriet, run by the charismatic Camille Thiriet. Daniel Johnnes has known Camille since her first vintage in 2016 and has been a huge supporter since day one.
**spherical background music**
Daniel Johnnes: So, Camille I met in 2016, and I was very impressed. And what has struck me most about her wine is the determination of this woman to make the best wine possible, without consideration of cost, because cost is so great and she’s had to really struggle financially. She had big plans and she is doing phenomenally well. And I think it’s just extraordinary.
What else can I tell you about her, except that she is representative of a generation of young people, who are really carving out a niche for themselves and creating almost like a second community in Burgundy: you have the community of the very historic family domaines, and then you have this subset of producers – like Chanterêves, like Camille Thiriet and so many others – gaining a real following, which is so healthy for Burgundy. And you even see some of the more established, historic domaines dipping a toe in the water in that area of experimentation, and really reinvigorating Burgundy. Burgundy is not sitting on its laurels. Burgundy is incredibly dynamic and innovative and alive today.
**spherical background music continues**
Brenna (Narration): Camille and her partner, Matt Chittick, a Canadian and the former chef de cave for Domaine de Villaine in Bouzeron, started Maison Thiriet with basically nothing, and have since produced some of the most exciting new wines in the Côte de Nuits.
**rain and windshield wipers in the background**
Camille Thiriet: The vineyard just up this hill, just behind – you can see this little hill? –, just before the trees, right?
**Camille continues talking in the background**
Brenna (Narration continues): Camille is candid, with a charming, wry sense of humor and a hint of rebelliousness. She has firmly planted her roots in the Côte de Nuits Villages and works tirelessly to bring the perception of this area up to the level of quality she has come to understand from the vines.
**The sound of a car driving**
We drive up to the vineyard La Montagne in the village of Corgoloin to meet up with Camille, but just as we all arrive, the sky opens up and begins to down-pour upon us.
[Original sound of voices with hard rain in the background]
Brenna: Yeah. Ok.
Male Voice: Oh, yeah, it’s like just starting.
Brenna: Yeah, it’s literally gonna happen. [laughs]
Brenna (Narration continues): Hospitably, Camille invites us back to the cellar to taste through the wines, instead of wading through the mud.
Camille Thiriet: Sweet. I was just thinking that for today, what I would like to do, if it’s ok with you guys, it’s only tasting Côte de Nuits Villages, as it’s my flagship. And then, we could even taste some ‘21 – fresh, fresh –, it can give you like an idea about the vintage also, and it’s going to be interesting, because it’s about all plots in Comblanchien, Corgoloin. I think it makes sense. Alors, …
**Bottles being opened in the background**
Brenna (Narration continues): Camille begins opening some bottles and gives us our first taste of Côte de Nuits Villages, as she tells us how she came to Burgundy.
Camille Thiriet: Voilà, from the beginning.
Sorry - ladies first, I’m very impolite, I always forget. [laughs]
I was born in Paris, right, and I wanted to be a nez. [fr.: nose]: I wanted to create perfumes. Because I have always been very sensitive about everything I smell, and I loved, when I was younger, walking in the street and recognizing the perfume of the women passing me – I loved that! But unfortunately, I was really bad at science, chemicals. I figured out that it was going to be complicated for me to do this school, to be a nez. But my family has always been passionate – not professional at all, but passionate about wine, and I found there is a similarity about creating a perfume and creating a wine.
And so, I decided to come to the wine school in Beaune in 2008. It was tough, because I was surrounded by sons and daughters of famous winemakers around. You know, they were born in this area, they knew a lot, I didn’t know anything. It was hard. But I felt a real passion for this. Super quickly, actually.
Brenna (Narration): Camille then went to Bordeaux, to obtain a Masters in Wine Marketing, then quickly returned to Burgundy, where she completed an extended stage with Nicolas Potel, the son of the great Gérard Potel, of Domaine de la Pousse d’Or in Volnay.
Camille Thiriet: He was making 75 different appellations. So, I was tasting his wines all the time. And every time I tasted the Côte de Nuits Villages, I really felt something special about this wine. But, you know, he was making Vosne-Romanée and beautiful other appellations.
I already had in my head this idea of creating my domaine. So, one day, I went to see Nico, and I told him: “Nico, I would like to create my domaine. Alors: would you be keen to sell me some grapes, because actually I figured out that your plot is the plot right in front of my house. So, you know, that makes sense, and I love Côte de Nuits Villages, so – would you be keen?”
And he was so nice. Nico is super generous. And he said: “Yes, no worries. I’m gonna sell you one ton of grapes, and then you’re gonna start your first vintage.”
**Pensive background music sets in**
So we were making wine in the garage of my house, where you’ve been. But at this time, this house was abandoned. So, because it was not occupied for a lot of years, they cut electricity, they cut water. So, we made wine without electricity. It was fine: It was one ton of grapes to process – but still… So, this is how we started to do pump-overs with buckets, because: no pump. This is why we started to press with a basket press: no electricity. So, the conclusion is: it is not easy, but it’s possible. And I loved – I loved! – this approach of wine making.
And slowly, slowly we made a little bit more wine. And now we are about, I would say, 13.000 bottles average. And so, also, I bought some land, some vineyards, although you know in Burgundy it’s complicated for a lot of reasons, because you – because it’s expensive! [chuckles] It’s very expensive.
And then, you know, I am totally independent. When you buy grapes, you’re not independent. You totally depend on mood, whether – a lot of stuff. Now my partner is just starting to work with me, but it’s gonna be complicated for a little bit of years. But it’s fine, you know, when you do your passion, I guess it’s the most important. Also, we are not rich, but we drink good wines with all of our friends around, so that’s the most important.
Brenna (Narration): We follow Camille into a small barrel room, where we taste the very young 2021 vintage. This conversation took place in November of 2021, so we’ll be among the first to taste these recently barreled-down wines.
**The sound of Camille of filling the glasses from barrel and passing them around**
Camille Thiriet: So, regarding the Pinot here, we’re gonna taste from Corgoloin first – alors! Guys, be indulgent. You can hear: they are doing the malolactic fermentation, right? So, it’s babies. But at least it will give you an idea of the different terroirs. It’s so expressive, this vintage! Alors, that’s La Montagne.
**The sound of glasses clinking**
Camille Thiriet: Alors, La Montagne is – you know where we were parked? So, that’s a 60 year old vineyard. This one, first time actually I’m processing those grapes. And I’m gonna have those grapes normally forever, as I’m gonna have the fermage [lease] on those lands. So, I’m so excited! It’s the first vintage.
Regarding the vinification: 70% destemmed, 30% whole bunch. It’s a clear fruit. That’s the typicity of the ‘21 vintage: it’s super floral, super expressive, it’s pretty, it’s not dense and concentrated like the last vintages, they were more hot. And so, I don’t know – you know: I didn’t have plenty of vintages behind me, but I feel that it’s a classical. I would say. I don’t know.
**Sound of footsteps on pebble stones**
We’re gonna taste… Les Retraits. So, now we will be back in Comblanchien.
Male voice: Really good.
**Pensive music sets in**
Camille Thiriet: You liked this one last time you came, too. Les Retraits – I don’t know: Les Retraits is so specific. So, it’s interesting, because this year I tried on two cuvées: really just infusion. So, it means that I was just doing like little pump-overs, most of the time with buckets, and I was really playing with the temperature, right? I don’t have temperature control, but I have heaters, and I have those covers around the tanks. And when I felt it was going a little bit too low, then I went on top of the tank and just slowly crushed the top of the tank – just not to extract! –, just to diffuse the sugar and give some food, you know, to the yeast, and continue, and give it a little [Camille makes a swooshing sound], just to have a little bit more of time, you know. But that’s it.
Now, we stay in Comblanchien and we taste Aux Montagnes.
**Pensive background music and glasses clinking**
Alors, Aux Montagnes is literally just in front of the house. Here… Aux Montagnes is very important to us, as it’s the first wine we ever made, in 2016, thanks to Nico Potel – and to be really fair: it’s a terroir of a 1er Cru. [chuckles] I’m sure about that. You really have to check this terroir. And it’s not very deep at all, maybe 30cm, something like that, maybe more. We are in Comblanchien, so a lot of calcaire, limestone. And the wines, the reds from Comblanchien always felt, like, super fresh. Even in warm vintages, because of this terroir with a lot of different stones, the wine is not heavy.
Alors, it’s funny, because, to be honest, guys: this year, some of the vineyards, there was a lot of oidium. We were between 16 to 18 people to sort the grapes. I feel that this is so much more work, but at the end of the day what you have in your tank, it’s the real reflection of the vintage and the terroir. The wines are clean, they’re pure. And it was the work.
Brenna: There’s just not enough of them. [chuckles]
Camille Thiriet: Et voilà. [both chuckle] Alright, now we’re gonna taste 2019.
**A few dreamy piano keys**
Brenna (Narration continues): We begin to taste through some bottled examples of the same wines.
Camille Thiriet: I love Les Retraits. Les Retraits is always super specific, and it’s a wine that you can find blind tasting. I feel it’s super easy to find blind tasting: this strawberry and pepper – like smashed strawberries –, it’s very typical of the Retraits. Did you ever taste Jérôme Galeyrand’s Retraits?
Brenna: We had some last night.
Camille Thiriet: Ah, cool. Which vintage?
Camille Thiriet: Ah, ‘17, sorry. Ah, yeah, it’s good, ‘17, huh? It’s very good. Very, very good.
**Sound of clinking glasses**
Brenna (Narration continues): But as we continue to taste, the conversation wanders away from the delicious wines in our glass. Sometimes the best tastings in Burgundy allow you to stop analyzing every detail of the wine, and to focus on who you’re with and the stories they want to tell you.
Camille Thiriet: Also, I always say: I don’t want people to have the idea of me making “natural wine”, because I don’t know what it means. To be really honest: I still don’t know what it means. What I can say to people is like: I don’t add anything in my wines. Never! That’s why I find it weird, people who say I’m making natural wines. No! Enfaite: you make wine. You make normal wines.
Yeah, some people are making wine with a lot of stuff: yeast, tannin powder – a lot of stuff! Like acid… But here we never add anything. We do use a little bit of sulfur, but most of the time not after malolactic, just before bottling. I have this thing, where I like wines when they’re not deviant. I like when it’s pure. I don’t like too much when it’s funky, let’s say. So, I add a low amount, I will say: 0 - 25 mg/l for the whites, and less than 20 mg/l for the reds. So it’s very, very low. It’s just: for I export a lot, and I like my wines, when they arrive at the other side of the world, to be ok, to be protected.
**More clinking glasses, melancholic strings setting in after a few seconds**
Brenna (Narration): Though she doesn’t come from a wine making family and is relatively new to Burgundy, she has the respect of many of the most respected domaines in the region. She is close with the Potel family and even worked a harvest at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, where she met longtime winemaker Bernard Noblet, who retired in 2017.
Camille Thiriet: … just for picking, just picking the grapes. But eventually, at the end of the day, I was trying to sneak around, and going on the sorting table. And this is where I met Bernard Noblet, and I explained to Bernard my project – I explained to him, like, I didn’t have any pipettes. I had nothing! I had a corkscrew, and that’s it. [Brenna laughs]
No, but seriously, when I started, I had nothing. And I had, like, a thousand Euros on my bank account. And that’s it, right? So he was like: “Whoah!?” – maybe he thought “you’re a bit crazy”. Maybe. But I told him that I had a huge emotion on Gérard Potel’s wines, and I’m super curious about whole bunch, but I’m super scared about trying to do 100% whole bunch, because I don’t know how it works. And he told me: “If you want, we can meet during the year. You come to my place and we’re just gonna talk.” And I’m like, yeah, sure, but thinking he’s gonna forget and it will never happen, but let’s see. It happened!
So, the Noblet family made a lot of different millésimes [vintages] at DRC. Alors, that’s the reason why I asked him about whole bunch. And this is how I jumped to do whole bunch, because he gave me some tips. If not, I wouldn’t do it, because I was too scared to screw up one of my cuvées – and also financially talking, I couldn’t take the risk. That was impossible. And now he’s coming every year, and he’s sorting for – hours! [both laugh] He’s for hours on the sorting table, you know, super minutieuse [minute], appliqué [diligent], focused, and discrete, humble… He’s calm! And I need people like that around me, because I’m not calm at all, trying to think about everything. He [Camille exhales audibly] calms me down. Very, very smart. Very smart.
So, what I love about him is like, when he was talking to me about whole bunch, he was not, you know, super technical. At the beginning he was talking to me about cooking, food. And it really talks to me, because I love cooking, too. And when I cook, I always cook with instincts: I don’t follow recipes, I just smell and taste, smell and taste, and again. He worked the same way. He has a lot of knowledge, of course, a lot more, but the approach is, I feel, very simple.
You don’t need all that crazy winery… like crazy technology-your-tank-can-talk-to-you. I don’t know – but now you can see crazy stuff. But now, coming back to basics: it’s good. I mean, I have no choice. [chuckles] So, hopefully it’s good.
Now you have a good example of three plots from the same village, and they are very, very different wines. Ça, c'est la conclusion! [That’s the summary]
**Upbeat pizzicato strings set in**
Brenna (Narration continues): We thank Camille for her time and head out into the slightly drier skies towards the village Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Part 3: Nuits-Saint-Georges South
Brenna (Narration): The appellation of Nuits St Georges is another large and complicated one. It begins in the village of Premeaux-Prissey and extends north to the southern edge of Vosne Romanée.
The appellation of Nuits-Saint-Georges is often split into three sections or zones: The southern end comprises most of the village of Premeaux – these wines tend to be of the softer, more graceful expression of Nuits-Saint-Georges. The core of Nuits-Saint-Georges begins just around its famed namesake, the Les Saints Georges vineyard and extends into the village itself – these are the structured, burly wines Nuits-Saint-Georges is most famous for. Finally, north of the village and bordering Vosne-Romanée the wines tend to soften up again, as if they are gradually transitioning into their velvety, luxurious neighbor to the north.
The last vineyard of Côte de Nuits village is Les Retraits, which we have just tasted, and just beyond it, the first vineyard in Nuits-Saint-Georges is also the first 1er Cru of the Côte de Nuits: Frederic Mugnier’s historic monopole, Clos de la Marechale…
Paul Wasserman: Marechal is 9.86 ha and it has not changed since Napoleon's map…
Brenna (Narration): Though it feels like we’re within a relatively unknown part of the Côte, we are surrounded by famous monopole vineyards owned by some great names.
Brenna: Is this Clos de l’Arlot?
Paul Wasserman: It is Clos de l’Arlot.
Brenna: Wow, it’s… I mean it is visually stunning and.. Odd.
Paul Wasserman: Yeah, it’s an oddball in topography.
Brenna (Narration): There’s Mugnier’s Clos de le Marechale, and the Clos de L’Arlot monopole of Domaine de L’Arlot, formerly run by the legendary Jean-Pierre de Smet. Domaine de l’Arlot proudly announces on their website that this vineyard was built on the site of a former quarry, giving it its unique amphitheater shape and diverse microclimates.
We begin our exploration of the southern-side of Nuits-Saint-Georges with Charles Lachaux – the rapidly rising star of Domaine Arnoux Lachaux.
Paul Wasserman: Nuits-Saint-Georges exciting!
Charles Lachaux: It’s good to see people happy to go to Nuits-Saint-Georges. With global warming the wines are getting better in Nuits-Saint-Georges. They are riper, the tannins are not as firm - I think, for example at the estate first they are taking more and more attention because the wines, we have quite a big surface at the estate, in total 14 ha, so the total surface in Nuits-Saint-Georges is almost half of the domaine. So it’s not small, it’s not just 1 or 2 vineyards. The vineyards we are about to see - are quite large. So it’s really a key village for us, for a long since, always been here. All the vineyards we’ve had in the family since a long time.
Brenna (Narration): Charles is based in Vosne-Romanee, but has vines here in Nuits-Saint-Georges, as well as in Chambolle-Musigny so we will be checking in with him and his long list of ambitious innovations over the next several episodes. Charles is young and hungry, and has wasted no time pushing the limits of both farming and vinification since he took over from his father in 2012. Neither his efforts nor his wines have gone unnoticed, and sadly these beautiful wines have already begun to leave the stratosphere of affordability.
Brenna (Narration): We begin just outside the village of NSG, in the structured core of the appellation.
Charles Lachaux: Here we are with the first vineyard. Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Proces.
[Sounds of car stopping, handbrake being pulled, footsteps on gravel]
Charles Lachaux: So Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Proces. For me it’s a very classic archetype of Nuits-Saints-Georges. It’s the southern part, as you can see we are below the old quarries. The top is quite steep, you can see the amount of rock that is there. One year the soil is a bit thicker, you have a good blend of clay and rocks in my opinion. It’s really the archetype of this thickness of soil - here if you don’t take care of the way you work here, you can easily end up with high quantity crop - which drives you to extract and make the stereotype of Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Paul Wasserman: So structure, tannin…
Charles Lachaux: Structure, tannin, black… So the way we work now, 100% whole cluster in this appellation - with warm vintages on the paper it should be undrinkable - should be structured, black, vegetle, everything why people don’t want to drink Nuits-Saint-Georges. Working the same way the vineyards, we’re trying to work the old fashion way - we can go take a look. So at the domaine you can see we don’t till anymore, we don’t mow as well…
Brenna (Narration): Though Charles has certainly been the most vocal, he is actually the second farmer to attempt no-till farming in the Côte d’Or, the first being JJ Morel in St Aubin, who we spoke about in our last episode. In just a few short years, Charles’ confidence has quickly brought this conversation to the world’s stage.
One of several risks of no till farming, is that the surrounding vegetation can grow into the fruiting zone of the vine, increasing humidity and therefore disease pressure. As a result, people are looking for ways to cut or crimp the tall grasses, in this case, without tilling or compacting the soil.
Charles Lachaux: For the soil, it’s quite inspired by what Mimi Castille has been doing, and from Roagna as well in Piedmont, but it wasn’t quite as common in Burgundy. The problem with working this way, and the density we have in reds, is that there is no feedback, nobody has ever done it, or so little that there is no advices. So now, we’ll try another thing which is not common in Burgundy… Rolo…?
Paul Wasserman: Roller?
Charles Lachaux: But what we were using before was Rolo Faca it works here, but the problem is between the vines, because Burgundy vines are low, the vineyards are narrow and in high density. So the tool, that pinches well the grass needs to be big and heavy… everything that can not enter Burgundy vineyards. So, now this year I will try some small rolls in the middle and below maybe nothing. There is no real tool, it’s something we’ll think about for this Spring.
Paul Wasserman: What’s the period where the grass is really a competition problem?
Charles Lachaux: We don’t know yet… and I think the more it grows, the less we’ll have competition, because the same with the no trimming, the roots of the vines, they grow more and more from year to year, so they go deeper deeper, so maybe at some point we’ll have less and less concurrency.
Brenna: You don’t think it’s too like, the grass is too vigorous to just mow it.
Charles Lachaux: No, well the problem is that if you mow, the grass will need to re-grow and it’s when it does concurrency to the vineyard. So the idea of pinching it, you wait for it to be tall enough, it flowers, so it seeds itself, by pinching it, you do a mulch, so it covers the soil, it makes a protection from the sun, and this with all the diversity we have because the more you don’t plow, the more you have bacteria and insects and everything, they will be able to quickly turn that into carbon and humus - so we have a better cycle. It works a much much better way. We have not been doing it for ten years, but in 2 or 3 you really see the differences. We see how it goes from year to year but we’re trying to find a certain natural balance back and to do less. I think it is a way to express more, the vintages difference and even more the appellations difference. Cause everything is worked exactly the same way, in the vineyards or in the cellar at the domaine.
Brenna: You must be really able to see differences in, like cover crop growth.
Charles Lachaux: Completely, that’s a way we are different. Because now the cover crops are very fashionable. A lot of people are doing it, more and more, but we don’t seed anything - it’s just what grows. And it naturally does it better than us. I think if there are some species growing it’s because they need to, that’s why I’m quite different from the people who do seed cover crops. It’s something I really don’t want to do.
Brenna (Narration): We return back to the southern edge of Nuits-Saint-Georges, within the village of Premeaux to the 1er cru vineyard Clos des Corvées Pagets.
Charles Lachaux: So we were in Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru les Proces, and we go to our second Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru which is Clos des Corvées Pagets. It’s our most southern vineyard it’s at the entrance of Premeaux Prissey. It’s a quite a special plot in terms of age of vines and wines it gives us - I think it’s one of Paul's favorites in the cellar, one of my mine too. Cause it breaks all these preconceived ideas. Always been, if you talk with people who, it’s always been a special appellation. And here we’re at the beginning of the monopole. See here it’s Clos des Forets Saint Georges from Domaine de l’Arlot 0.12 ha. After the path it goes into Clos de Corvées from Roch, which is about 5 ha…
Brenna (Narration): Just next door to Charles’ Clos de Corvées Paget is the monopole Clos des Corvées of the natural wine north-star - Domaine Prieure Roch, founded in 1988 by the late Henri-Frederic Roch.
Charles Lachaux: Here it’s Clos de Corvées Paget, and then you have Clos Saint-Marc. Which is another monopole from Domaine Patrice Rion which is here and then you have Clos de l’Arlot and Clos de la Marechal. So it’s really the part of the monopoles - I think there is something in common with all those wines. I think it’s not because we are here, but when you taste it and drink it - this area from Clos de Foret to Clos Marechal is one of the most enjoyable parts for Nuits Saint Georges. Always been quite approachable wines, delicate wines, but they are not weak, they are quite sexy if we can say. I think the Premeaux side is really the best part of Nuits-Saint-Georges. So here it’s way more… we can go onto the top because there the geology is very interesting there. From the ⅔ we change and we can see already in the rows, see the change of the colors of the grass and everything? Yeah, it’s more classic. Like in the Proces we can see more gravels and clay, and in the middle ⅔ we have some start to have some sand and marl and a lot of limestone.
Paul Wasserman: And clover…
Charles Lachaux: Yeah, we start to have a lot and the Bourgogne we have is just covered in clover. It’s almost 100% clover.
[Sounds of footsteps on grassy ground]
Paul Wasserman: C’est, c’est, c’est different… la végétation.
Charles Lachaux: Yeah… the texture? Even in summer, you always have this sensation of walking into the forest. Because we try to avoid the maximum the compaction of the soils.
Paul Wasserman: It’s incredible the difference between here and then there. The vegetation just changes.
Charles Lachaux: You can radically see the difference in the soil. And the more you go up, the more you see it.
Paul Wasserman: We have a lot of Ciguë in here, which is what Socrates was poisoned with. I believe.
Charles Lachaux: So be careful not to drink too much. Or just enough to get strong against it. And you see the grass is radically less taller here. See how the grass changes? The color and the height. Now we have a lot of diversity, but not just about bacteria and insects - larger formats as well. So we have many more holes like this with rabbits. We have many more animals getting through the vineyards.
Brenna: Is that okay?
Charles Lachaux: Yes it is, because it brings even more diversity and good balance back. The thing is that if the neighbors don’t start to let some grass grow and everything, when you have a very dry year like 2020, they come to your vineyard for the shade and grass, and when the grass is try they eat some grapes, so if everybody starts to do it - it would be fine, because everybody will have a little bit eaten and you don’t mind, but when you are alone, sometimes we can take the really big hit because of that.
Brenna (Narration): As we continue to walk up the slope, we finally come upon a big pile of rocks…
Paul Wasserman: Oh no, a geologist's dream. We’ll lose her…
Brenna: The biggest problem with all this grass is that you can’t see the rocks.
Charles Lachaux: Yeah, for you it's a problem. If it develops more and more, you will have to do more biology to discover the herbs, so you will know which rocks are there with the grass. You see how it’s changing here, it’s getting lighter here we have more sand, marls and gravels.
Paul Wasserman: You feel that just walking on it, you feel the… bit of the soil. Here.. c’est sableux comparé à…
Brenna: It feels like crunchier.
Paul Wasserman: Oh yeah.
Charles Lachaux: You see it makes a bit more compaction. You have a bit of… mousse?
Brenna: Mousse? I like that.
Paul Wasserman: Mousse? Moss.
Brenna: Oh I thought he was describing, like, chocolate mousse…
Charles Lachaux: No, that’s why you can see this kind of soil when it’s dry. It becomes cracked. So dry, so compact - you can really see there are less herbs growing and there’s less diversity. It will take more time to have a better balance here. So maybe this kind of area, we would need to seed a little by hand, so restore some diversity because it gets too compact, too hard for species to grow compared to the rest of the vineyards
Brenna (Narration): We break open a few pieces of the hard, sharp, fine grained, pink Premeaux limestone before heading back to the car…
Charles Lachaux: What is the diagnostic?
Brenna: It’s very like… we even recorded the sound - cause it sounds really crispy, as you break it)
[Sounds of rock being hit with a hammer]
Brenna: It’s kind of a sharp sound, like a high pitched ping. And the rock itself is really hard and sharp. I’ll ask, but I think that's the Premeaux limestone.
Charles Lachaux: I think that’s the Premeaux Limestone…
[Light airy music]
Brenna (Narration): We leave Charles for now, with a promise to find him again in his vines in Vosne-Romanée soon. Charles is a fascinating producer to watch, and his light, ethereal wines perfectly embody the style of the moment. But, we’re in Nuits-Saint-Georges and are ready to experience some more classic expressions of this structured and powerful village.
Brenna (Narration): We’re heading into the vineyards with Antoine Gouges of Domaine Henri Gouges. Over time… the name Gouges has been synonymous with the classic–austere structure of Nuits-Saint-Georges, with many collectors and drinkers saying not to even think about opening a bottle for at least 20 years.
Antoine Gouges: So we just walk a few hundred meters. And we will be at the limit of the village from Nuits-Saint Georges to the appellation Saint Georges and Chaine Carteaux at the top. And after it’s village of Premeaux-Pressey.
Brenna (Narration): Domaine Gouges is an old domaine, with some very significant history in Burgundy. Antoine’s great grandfather, Henri Gouges was one of the first domaines to begin domaine bottling their own wines back in 1933… and along with the Marquis Sem d’Angerville, was a leader in the movement to establish the first AOC regulations in Burgundy – protecting the integrity of the terroirs from the large negociant houses at the time, who were doing some suspicious blending with wines from outside of the region. Domaine Henri Gouges has long represented perhaps the most classic expression of Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Antoine Gouges: On your right it’s appellation Premier Cru Chaines Carteaux, and on the left it’s the appellation Les Saints-Georges, Premier Cru. So most of the premier crus in this part is villages south is situated between 240 and 260 meters. So you can see the small wall at the bottom, that’s where it starts, and after you are in Nuits-Saint-Georges village, and after the national road Bourgogne.
Brenna (Narration): Today, the domaine has been taken over by two young cousins, Gregory and Antoine – who are faced with the challenge of respecting the history of the domaine while bringing in their own modern personalities into the wines…
Antoine Gouges: Chaines Carteaux is quite different premier cru from all the other ones we have in the middle of the hill. It’s a much lighter soil, more sandy, and… We can walk a bit if you want to look at the soil. It’s very steep, so we have to put grass in the vineyard to avoid the erosion. So the bottom is a bit heavier. The more you go up, the more it’s kind of sandy. Can find some bit of red clay.
Jerusha Frost: This is becoming our morning workout.
*Everyone laughs and agrees*
Brenna: And it keeps you warm.
Antoine Gouges: And the view! That’s good exercise.
Brenna: It just got a little steeper.
Antoine Gouges: And you can see it’s a bit of gravel. Sometimes it’s gravel and sometimes it’s really sandy gray sand. Gray and yellow sand…
Brenna: It’s really angular gravels.
Brenna (Narration): Antoine tells us that these gravelly soils are very calcareous, which reminds me of the grezes litees soils we saw in Beaune with Françoise Vannier…
Antoine Gouges: There is not many vineyard in the south of Nuits where it’s so much steep.
Brenna (Narration): There is a small combe just above where we are standing now – the Combe de Vallerot – but the major Combe of Nuits-Saint-Georges is the Combe du Mezin just to the north of us– this is one of the largest combes in the Côte de Nuits. This large of a valley has certainly produced (and ejected) a good amount of alluvial material– however, the sizeable village of Nuits-Saint-Georges sits on top of most of this alluvial material instead of vineyards, which may be why we don’t get many soft, round alluvial characteristics in these wines…
Antoine Gouges: So you have Combe de Vallerot over there you can see. It is a small combe but it has a big impact on what happens at the bottom here. You can see very light, with very good structure. And when we pull up the vine, we work the soil at, I don’t know, maybe 40 cm, and there is no rocks, no big stones at all.
Chaines Carteaux it’s much more lighter, that’s wine with finesse and quite approachable in the young vintage. It’s lighter wine compared to Les Saint-Georges, which is really a serious guy.
Brenna (Narration): We walk back down the slope and into the famous Les Saint Georges vineyard…
Antoine Gouges: This is Saint-Georges. So Saint-Georges it is the best appellation of Nuits. They’re more complex and more full bodied in terms of wine. And Saint Georges is 7 ha.
Brenna: And how old are these vines?
Antoine Gouges: Those ones are 5 year old, so it’s very young vine. For the moment we don’t blend it in the cuvée.
Antoine Gouges: It’s a bit round. It’s not very angular.
Brenna: Little pieces of rounded things.
[Sounds of gravel moving…]
Antoine Gouges: And you can see at the bottom, the vegetation, the grass, they change a little bit more, they are bigger, so it’s a bit richer here.
Brenna: Yeah, I mean with these, they’re young, but they’re pretty…
Antoine Gouges: Yeah, they are quite healthy. I am very happy with this plantation. So yes here you can really see there is a change of the hill over there. And the orientation is different. So basically here it is always riper because the orientation, the inclination is great for the maturity. And that’s where the soil are more complex.
[Car seatbelt sounds…]
Brenna (Narration): We hop back in the car, and head to the next 1er Cru Vineyard, Les Vaucrains…
Antoine Gouges: In fact the vineyard of Nuit is quite big, 70 hectares.
Brenna: Oh wow.
Antoine Gouges: Half of it is Nuits-Saint-Georges and there is 43 different premier cru. So it is quite complex. You can park on the left, just here. We have a look at Les Vaucraines. It’s an old stone carrier, you can see.
Brenna: Like, really old!
Antoine Gouges: So this vineyard is called Les Vaucraines, it’s coming from Vaurien which is French old speaking that means “worth nothing.” Because it’s always very low production, but for the grapes it is the perfect place. (56:00)
It’s more stony, more stones this side. And we do about the same yield here than in Chaines Cateaux and Saint Georges, about 20 hectoliters per hectare. The soil is a bit heavier here, so probably more red clay. Worth nothing, but do some of the best wine from Nuits, huh?
So in this part with Saint George, Vaucrains and Les Cailles it’s considered as part of the best place for premier cru. 56:46
Brenna (Narration): We’re immediately confronted by an array of rocks scattered throughout the vineyard–just waiting to be broken open…we all scour the ground for interesting looking specimens as we make our way towards the quarry wall ahead of us…
The trick here though, is that we don’t know whether these rocks came from the limestones beneath our feet, or if they were brought here later by others.
Brenna: Oh, see this? I think it’s silex.
Antoine Gouges: Silex?
Brenna: I think so, see here? It’s so smooth. And this is limestone. See how it scratches it?
[Sounds of screeching metal on rocks]
Antoine Gouges: Yeah very. Do you want to break this one?
Brenna: I mean, I always do.
[Sound of rock breaking]
Brenna: Yeah, this is most of that Premeaux or Comblanchian limestone we’re seeing in a lot of places with that really fine grain.
Antoine Gouges: So you think you’d be the only one with silex or…?
Brenna: You always have to find a couple pieces to be sure.
Brenna (Narration): Soon, Antoine picks up my hammer, excited to begin breaking rocks open himself – this is always a good sign.
Antoine Gouges: If you want, I can do it if you want. Ok, quartz. Now I am searching silex.
[Sounds of rocks breaking, repeatedly]
Antoine Gouges: No, no.
Brenna (Narration): As we get closer to the quarry wall, we can see the clear layers of the bright white Comblanchien limestone – these layers record oscillating ocean conditions, changing directions of water currents, and evidence of sea life from 164 million years ago…
A giant tree balances at the top of the quarry wall above us, and we admire how its roots intertwine with the geologic layers in front of us – a metaphor for the vine roots just below our feet…
Antoine Gouges: So you can imagine, maybe, the extract, all this part. So you can see the curve. And they probably put some soil back.
Brenna: Ooooh water pooling.
Antoine Gouges: It’s probably straight under rock here. So no good drainage.
So what do you see?
Brenna: You can see little cross bedding, it's sort of like ripples, or little limestone dunes. Little small ones here, and little ripples shows moving water.
Antoine Gouges: Aw yeah, amazing how the roots went - deep.
Brenna (Narration): We head back down to the car, where we will discover one more vineyard before returning to the cellar to taste…
[Sounds of rock breaking with hammer]
Antoine Gouges: Last chance for silex. No.
Brenna: Nope, sorry. I know, we found this one piece of silex and nothing more.
Brenna (Narration): We arrive at the last vineyard – lower on the slope and a little closer to the village of Nuits-Saint-Georges – the 1er cru monopole Clos des Porrets Saint Georges. Yet another vineyard built onto an old quarry. The Gouges family believes this quarry is more ancient and may date back to the Monks of the Citeaux…geologically, it also seems to be exploiting the slightly older, pink Premeaux limestone instead of the white Comblanchien limestone we’ve just seen in Vaucrains…
Antoine Gouges: And we can look at the vineyard, just after there. We found a lot of stones over there. Compared to the other side, Vaucrains, it’s much more stony.
Brenna: Yeah, what is the name?
Antoine Gouges: Clos des Porrets Saint Georges
Jerusha Frost: You make a blanc from here too?
Antoine Gouges: Yes we do, not every year but we do one barrel every two or three. It is very small production, in fact the Perrieres you tried is made from Pinot Blanc, and originally the Pinot Blanc comes from this plot.
Brenna (Narration): In 1930 Henri Gouges discovered a branch of white grapes on a vine of pinot noir in this vineyard and decided to replicate it –a mutation now known as Pinot Gouges – aka Pinot Blanc.
Antoine Gouges: My great grandfather, he was son of a grafter, so he had the idea to graft it and replant it. So he did a nursery in the corner of Clos des Porrets, which is over there, and after, in the 40’s and 50’s, they replanted the plots up the hill, close to the buildings, you see. To make Le Perriere. So 100% from Pinot Blanc.
This one is really pink
Brenna: Oh yeah! Found another one.
[Sound of hammer break rocks]
Antoine Gouges: Silex?
Antoine Gouges: Ooooh cool!
Brenna: Found two!
Antoine Gouges: So we have a little silex.
Brenna (Narration): Now that we’ve found this silex in multiple different places, we can start to consider that it might potentially be a significant component of the terroir – my guess is that is comes from far up the combe and has been washed down during large storms – there is also some similar, mysterious silex to the north in Gevrey Chambertin – another village in the Côte de Nuits with a very large combe…
Brenna: Alright, more.
Antoine Gouges: More here?
Brenna: Yeah. Interesting.
[Rock scraping noises]
Brenna: There actually, it starts to feel like you’re not making it up.
[Sounds of scratching rocks]
Brenna (Narration): We hop back into the car and head into the village of Nuits-Saint-Georges and into the cellar…
Brenna (Narration): As we descend into the cellar for our tasting we immediately see a wall of old bottles, labeled with vintages that don’t even seem possible.
Brenna: Are these for real?
Brenna (Narration): 1943, 1924, 1919…
[Sounds of wine pouring into glasses]
Antoine Gouges: Great grandfather kept some and hide some during the wars, so we still have a few.
Brenna: That’s crazy. I thought they were numbers for something else at first, it just doesn’t compute that they’re…
Antoine Gouges: And my great grandfather was one of the first to do bottling at the domaine.
Part 4: Nuits-Saint-George (Village and Tasting)
4.1 Tasting in Nuits-Saint-Georges
Brenna (Narration): Daniel Johnnes once explained to me that during this time the popular style of Burgundy was actually much bigger, more tannic wines than we are used to today – Because Gouges was one of only a few domaines to begin bottling their own wines, their robust style not only became synonyms with the time, but with their name and the village of Nuits-Saint-George as a whole.
And as we’ve just seen, their best vineyards are within the most structured core of the appellation, full of both hard limestone rocks and powerful clays.
Brenna (Narration): Here’s Daniel Johnnes.
Daniel Johhnes: So Gouges is a particular style that I think has evolved a bit. The Gouges style has historically been a very long lived wine, wines that are a bit inaccessible, the door doesn’t open easily to welcome you in. Or did not, I should say in the older style from the 40’s, 50, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s into the 90’s. And if you’re patient enough, and I’ve had very old examples of it - they are absolutely glorious. So in a way, this is like old style Burgundy. Or was I think with the new generation of Gregory and Antoine, are making a slightly more softer style.
Antoine Gouges: So with the style in the south of Nuits, as I tell you that they make really big tannins, big structure, so we kind of work them very gentle during harvest and vinification to be the lighter as possible with the extraction and get a finesse of tannins.
Daniel Johnnes: Yeah more approachable and that’s it, and I think they’ve done it really well, because they’ve done it in way that retains the Gouges style, but you do remark and say, “this is a little more approachable”.
Brenna (Narration): We begin tasting through the wines. Including many of the vineyards we’ve just visited and a few others. The first wines are bottle samples.
Antoine Gouges: So this is Chaines Carteaux Premier Cru
[Sounds of glasses clinking, wine pouring…]
Antoine Gouges: So first one we visited this morning. So very steep, fresher, very fresh and a bit of typical, from the south of Nuits because the soils are lighter and steep
Jerusha Frost: Do you own vines in the northern part of the appellation?
Antoine Gouges: We own only one vineyard that we will try now. Aux Chaignots is a forty years old vineyard.
[Sounds of wine pouring into glasses]
Brenna: And this is a very, very different wine it feels like it’s from a different area. To me, it feels like it is the softer friendlier side of Nuits.
Antoine Gouges: Yeah? It’s north. Yeah exactly, the tannins are thinner and the wines are more approachable early.
Brenna (Narration): The rest of the wines we taste from barrel.
Antoine Gouges: And the last one is Saint Georges. Henri Gouges, he was very involved in the creation of the appellation. He spend a lot of time in Paris to defend the appellation, everywhere in France.
Brenna (Narration): As we’ve mentioned before, there was a huge movement in the late 20s and early 1930s to build a system of appellations, or AOCs, to protect the integrity of Burgundy’s terroirs. Two of the strongest advocates for this movement were Henri Gouges and Sem D’Angerville of Domaine Marquis D’Angerville in Volnay.
Their goal in building the INAO and AOC system in Burgundy was for the good of the region, and both felt that any attempts at lobbying for their own benefit would be counter-productive to their purpose. At the time Henri Gouges was the mayor of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the largest landholder of it’s best vineyard, Le Saints Georges and Sem D’Angerville owned the monopole Clos des Duc.
They decided not to recommend any grand crus in their own villages, though many people believe to this day that there are some vineyards that merit the designation – today, Les Saint-Georges is owned by 13 different domaines, who have collectively begun the process to potentially elevate it to Grand Cru status.
Brenna: Do you think it should be a Grand Cru?
Antoine Gouges: It’s, it’s better to have a great Premier Cru. We work on it since few years to have it as a Grand Cru, and we asked the Institute of National Appellations to consider that it could be a Grand Cru. So we work on, it so maybe, yeah. Maybe in 10 years - I don’t know. It takes a lot of time with the French administration. We hope so. It could be great for the village to have a Grand Cru and it could pull up the appellation but we are happy anyways. Anyways, this vineyard is already known as great wine.
Brenna: Well, this is very well grounded.
Antoine Gouges: Mh hm.
Brenna: Like it has very firm, footing, it’s not as lean or straight as some of the others but it has more breadth to it with really grounded.
Antoine Gouges: We say in Nuits-Saint-Georges there is a bit of every plot in Nuits-Saint-Georges. It’s a blend of everything.
Brenna: In the past historically, when do you think was the perfect time to drink these wines?
Antoine Gouges: In the past you needed 10 - 15 years to open a bottle. I still have clients that say, “Oh I start to open the ‘99s” so sometimes 20, and we really evolve and change the style. Even if you want to keep doing terroir wine and wine with a good potential of aging, we change because it’s more my taste and the wine I like. I prefer a bit more finesse, primary aroma - I think there is interest for Nuits-Saint-Georges because quality really upgrades. It’s 10-15 years and we have a real personality of terroir.
Brenna: Why do you think in the past 10 years the quality has improved?
Antoine Gouges: Because of the climate and the producers involved lots. Nuits Saint Georges is considered as a cold city, so when we have a good phenolic ripeness, we have finer tannins and they make the wines more approachable.
Brenna (Narration): Before we leave we take another look at the wall of bottled history on display…
Esa: It’s a well documented history.
Antoine Gouges: Yes, when you know that in the forties nearly all the wine was done by women, there was no men around. Harvesting under the snow - there’s a lot of history.
Brenna: And saving bottles because they meant something.
Antoine Gouges: But you can see almost all the good vintages are nearly finished.
Brenna (Narration): Clearly, Gouges is one of the most important domaines today, which represents the history of the village and where it’s headed. And while there are many other great domaines who are proud to make wines from Nuits-Saint-Georges, not many are actually based in the village.
Daniel Johnnes: The three most notable producers would be Lecheneaut, Gouges and Faievley as far as style and notoriety. A lot of people own vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges, but these are residents of the villages and probably the most important spokespeople for the village of Nuits-Saint-Georges, the appellation. Robert Lecheneaut large holdings in the best Premier Cru Vaucrains, Pruliers, Saint-Georges, Les Cailles. When I taste Aux Chaingots with a little age, I’m tasting what I consider to be a quintessential Burgundy. Now with age, I’m talking maybe 20 year old, 30 year old wine, that has developed the aromas of smoke, a hint of cedar, tobacco, like black fruit, mushroom… All those aromas that you find so beguiling in a great mature Burgundy.
Faiveley’s style was also known as a pretty powerful, and they’ve made huge changes with Erwan and Anne Faively and the style of the wines is really delicious today. I think the changes have been even more dramatic than at Gouges where I think that the wines at Faiveley were really needed a very long time to reveal themselves, whereas today, I noticed a change fairly quickly when the direction of the company changed. And they have tremendous appellations not just in Nuits-Saint-Georges, that’s where they are located, but between Gevrey-Chambertin and even as far south as Puligny-Montrachet. But Faiveley is located in Nuits-Saint-Georges and that’s what they’re known for.
[Piano transition music]
Male voice: Wait for me here, I check… I come back.
Brenna (Narration): We were lucky enough to spend a good amount of time with Erwan Faiveley of Domaine Joseph Faiveley – the major negociant house operating out of Nuits-Saint-Georges. We actually spent most of our time in their incredible parcels on the hill of Corton, and won’t speak about those today, but Erwan also generously provided us with a vertical tasting of Les Saints Georges…
[Sounds of entering cellar, door closing]
Erwan Faiveley: Tack! Et voila! I thought it would be interesting to go back a little bit in the past. My father he left to Switzerland, when I was 25 - in charge of the winery. I didn’t know much about wine, but over 2 years I tried to see the do’s and the dont’s. I spent a lot of time in all the villages here, and I was quite blown away to see how transparent and how welcoming people were. My father was very keen on making big tannic wines - I like wines with a more thin and delicate structure. So what I suggest - we’ll start with the oldest and we’ll move to the youngest. Okay?
Erwan Faiveley: 2000, so 2000 was not considered like a great vintage in Burgundy. Yet, I believe my father really did a good job in 2000.
Jerusha Frost: It is so tannic, there’s so much structure.
[Sounds of wine swishing]
Erwan Faiveley: Wow! By far too much.
Brenna: I would guess it is much, mch younger. It's not tired at all. It’s…
Erwan Faiveley: But it’s so tannic, it’s really tannic.
Brenna (Narration): We then move on to 2005. The year Erwan took over the domaine, but before he began to put his own mark on the wines.
Erwan Faiveley: 2005 was a great vintage, I had doubts at some points that it was THE great vintage that everybody talked about. But now, I’m not so sure I have doubts…
Brenna (Narration): Then onto 2010.
Erwan Faiveley: 2010, great vintage! For me it ends the 2000’s…
Brenna (Narration): This tasting does a great job of demonstrating how the personality of a terroir can persist through changes in style.
Brenna (Narration): And onto 2015.
Erwan Faiveley: 2015, great vintage! Obviously that vintage, it was (acme?) of what we could do.
Brenna (Narration): As the vintages get younger and warmer, the wines start to embrace you, let you in on some of their secrets– while still embodying the big, muscular structure you would expect of Les Saint Georges.
Erwan Faiveley: I think it’s a great vintage, but damn I would have never have expected we had such a series of great vintage. As I said, Les Saint Georges is the greatest vintage of Nuits-Saint-Georges south.
Brenna (Narration): And finally 2020 from barrel.
Erwan Faiveley: Let’s try a few 2020’s?
[Sounds of wine swishing)
Erwan Faiveley: It’s really surprising how we’ve managed to make such balanced wines considering the weather we’ve had. It’s a miracle.
Brenna (Narration): Erwan was generous enough to Coravin these bottles and give them to us to take home – so over the coming days we had the opportunity to watch each bottle open up and blossom – making us remember once again, that no matter how grand a wine is, it’s made to be drunk, experienced, and listened to…
4.2 Nuits-Saint-Georges Village - Closing
[Light transition music…]
Brenna (Narration): We step out into the village of Nuits Saint Georges, once again beneath a blanket of rain…
[Sounds of rain falling on pavement]
Brenna (Narration continues): The village itself is a significant one, with shops, restaurants, and even a little train station. We haven’t managed our time well today, so we sneak into a little dive bar in the center of town called “O-Bar” with shockingly tasty green salads. Before running off to our next stop, we pop into the Patisserie Olivier Bourau – a favorite of Paul’s stepfather, the wonderful Russell Hone – to pick him up something sweet.
Brenna (Narration continues): Finally, we make our way to the vineyards in the north of Nuits.
[Light transition music, sounds of tires on wet pavement]
Brenna (Narration continues): Just about everyone we’ve spoken to has said that these vineyards are a totally different world from the proud, austere wines we’ve tasted today, and every single person has commented that these wines seem to share some sort of genetic link to their neighbor – the holy ground of Vosne Romanée…
Brenna (Narration continues): In order to get through the village, you have to cross a small creek that flows from the Combe de Mezin – the great big combe that sits behind the village of Nuits Saint Georges. It is one of the largest combes in the Côte d’Or, and this little stream creates a clear, physical boundary between the wines from the South of Nuits, and the wines in the North …
As it turns out, this is a rare case where the tastes of the wines have revealed the secrets buried underground…
In our next episode, we’ll discover what geologic keys are hidden within the famed combes of the Côte d’Or as we take a closer look into the vineyards of Vosne Romanée and the exceptional fringes of the villages that surround it.
[Light transition music…]
Thank you to our guests: Camille Thiriet, Charles Lachaux, Antoine Gouges, and Erwan Faiveley. Thank you to Paul Wasserman, Daniel Johnnes and Françoise Vannier for your commentary, guidance and expertise.
Our main source for historical and technical information is Inside Burgundy by Jasper Morris.
This episode is made possible by our Season 2 partners: Becky Wasserman & Co, La Paulee, and Acker Wines.
Remember, you can now get 15% off of your first order of $350 or more by entering the code ROADSIDE at check out. Check out their website, ackerwines.com for details.
Roadside Terroir is hosted and produced by me, Brenna Quigley
Recording and sound engineering by Nick Canepa
and original music and sound design by Jeff Alvarez
If you liked this episode, please share it and give us a review–it really does make a difference!
This season wouldn’t be possible without the support from all of you – Check out our website roadsideterroir.com to learn how you can stay in touch, and how to help support this season by donating, sponsoring, or becoming a Roadside Insider.
We would like to extend a special thank you to our friends and patrons Steven Lipin and Shelby Perkins – thank you for making this episode possible!
Thank you to Esa Eslami, Jerusha Frost, Ali Massie, Summer Staeb, Michael Sager, and everyone else who helped make this episode a reality.
Erwan Faiveley: Nuits-Saint-Georges would be an exception in the sense that this rusticity is well wrapped in a great wine, but still, you still get this…
[Sounds of lights switching off]
Brenna: [ gasp..! ]
Erwan Faiveley: Damn, okay they forgot we were here… I… I’m going to…
Jerusha Frost: That’s great.
Erwan Faivley: That’s live!