This transcription was created thanks to: Jake Jendusa, Paul Knittle, Olivia Pierce & 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 Paulee, and Acker Wines.
This episode is sponsored by our dear friends at Lone Wolf Imports.
Established in 2018 in Portland, Oregon, the mission of LONE WOLF Imports is to share exceptional old-world wines with wine lovers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Among its varied passions is a focus on Burgundy, where LONE WOLF proudly represents over 35 growers – ranging from rising stars to prominent icons.
I first met Tim Davey of Lone Wolf over dinner with Becky Wasserman in Bouilland back in 2017 and our spirits instantly aligned. Lone Wolf sees their role in importing wines as that of educators, rather than salespeople, and this philosophy shines through in everything they do.
We’re determined to keep this content free and accessible for everyone. If you’d like to support our show, please consider becoming an Insider. Insiders have access to lots of cool stuff including extra photos, travel guides, and extended interviews with our guests.
To learn more, visit our website roadsideterroir.com
Please, don’t drink and drive… and remember to keep your eyes on the road.
This episode contains explicit language.
Part 1: Gevrey-Chambertin
Brenna (Narration): Today we continue our journey through the terroirs of the Côte de Nuits all the way to its northernmost border. We begin in the famed Gevrey-Chambertin where we walk through our final Grand Crus…we then continue north to the lesser-known, but up-and-coming villages of Fixin and Marsannay – where vineyards suddenly collide with the urban sprawl of the city of Dijon…on this leg of our journey we will go from the top dogs to the underdogs, explore how finances and world wars have shaped landscapes, and begin to set our sites on the future of the Côte d’Or…
Even though much of the Côte de Nuits feels quite grand, when we think of the famous villages here there are really only 3 that have been truly famous in recent history – Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle Musigny and … Gevrey Chambertin.
We’ve spent a good amount of time discussing the silky, discreet side of the Côte de Nuits… such as Romanée-Conti or Musigny… but today we’re going to focus on that other pinnacle of pinot noir – the pinnacle of power.
Here’s Paul Wasserman…
Paul Wasserman: Sure, so Gevrey has the reputation of producing fairly deep, fairly structured, fairly powerful wines, and in many cases it’s true - certainly if you take the two most famous Grands Crus they are wines of power, but not brutal. There’s grace that goes with it as well, regal, king of the hill, they’re gorgeous in that way - with that being said - they’re not rustic. Some other vineyards that are also powerful, there’s no rusticity in Chambertin Clos de Beze.
Brenna (Narration): The fame of Gevrey Chambertin is not without merit – Compared to its neighbors to the south, Gevrey is pretty huge with 360 ha of village, 86 ha of 1er cru, and 87 ha of Grand Cru. Oftentimes, big complex villages get lost in their own chaos – but Gevrey is just the opposite. There are 9 Grand Crus here, more than any other village in the Côte d’Or, some of the very best 1er crus, and, impressively, some of the very best examples of village vineyards as well.
Paul Wasserman: Okay, so Gevrey is super interesting, yes because of the quality of its vineyards but also historically - it’s definitely linked to Roman times. The name Gevrey comes from Gibriacum which was a Roman settlement but also about a decade ago, there’s a vineyard that was found on the lower parts of Gevrey that dates back to the 1st century AD, and that pushes back by 200 years the first record of vineyards in Côte d’Or, so that’s super exciting for geeks. It doesn’t have a name, it’s an old Roman villa that was found, and next to it are the traces of the posts of old vineyards. Also it has one of the oldest recorded donations of vineyards by a Duke to the Abbey of the Bèze in 640, and it’s considered the first named vineyard in the Côte D’Or - the Clos de Bèze. And probably the vastness amount of great talent in all of the Côte d’Or - I mean: Rousseau, Bachelet, Burguet, Fourrier, Dougat, Dougat-Py, Trapet, Roussillion-Trapet, Duroché, Arnaud Mortet, Joseph Roty… and I’m forgetting a ton I’m sure. But also a ton of people that have vineyards in Gevrey that are not from Gevrey. It’s riddled with exciting winemakers. Lastly why it’s exciting is you know, thanks to our history, it’s always the village I take people to, to explain geology.
Brenna (Narration): It should be noted that we could have easily built an entire episode on the people, history, and terroirs of Gevrey…and still just scratch the surface…
But since we have more to see, we’re going to start off with just the key points – the main factors that shape these terroirs…
[Sounds of car tires on road]
Brenna (Narration): We head out into these prized vineyards beneath what seems to be a continuous sheet of rain. I think, once again, just how intimidating this slope of vines can be. Throughout the years I’ve spent visiting Burgundy, I’ve done everything I can to experience as much as possible, and to taste as many wines as possible, and yet, I still feel like a complete imposter.
Luckily, I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling…
Helen Johanneson: Initially it was the most intimidating, you know? It was like - oh my god, what is happening? *laughs* Like when I first started in the industry…
Brenna (Narration): So, to help us wade through these murky waters, and focus back in on what we love about this place – I’ve called upon probably the coolest person I know – Helen Johanneson…
Helen Johanneson: My name’s Helen Johanneson and I am a partner in Helen’s wines in Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles, California. I also have a podcast called Wineface…
Brenna (Narration): Helen loves wine, and she has this incredible ability to make wine accessible, without dumbing it down or losing sight of the nuance that makes it more than just a beverage…
Helen Johanneson: I tasted so many wines before I got to like what I consider an awesome producer from Burgundy. And then when I first started at Animal I remember I tasted - I think it was like 2006 Fourrier Vielle Vignes Gevrey-Chambertin and I was like, damn - what is that?! That’s Pinot Noir, but I’ve never tasted anything like that. That was the moment where I really had the ah-ha that wine can be so complex and so simple and that’s what I loved about it. And I think Burgundy specifically is a great example of that. It’s like a gateway into another world, it’s also just like can blow people’s minds and how many things can do that?
[Light piano, sounds of footsteps on creaky floor]
1.2 Gevrey-Chambertain Zones and Grand Crus…
Brenna (Narration): Conveniently, we’re headed into the vineyards of Gevrey with Jean-Marie Fourrier himself.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Not the best weather today.
Brenna: No, but you know, you never forget the rainy days in the vineyards.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Yeah yeah…
Brenna (Narration): Though Domaine Fourrier is small in size, farming about 10 ha of vines, they are easily one of the most iconic domaines within this illustrious village.
Brenna (Narration): As we drive into the vines, Jean-Marie points out some of the distinct zones throughout the village…
Jean-Marie Fourrier: There is the south side of Gevrey, with all the Grand Cru between the route des Grands Crus and the forest. There is a strip, we call the Champ d’Elysée almost, but the terroirs are amazing, but so variable from Ruchottes to Latricières. Then the Premier Cru are on the south side of Gevrey, which are on the low parts of the Route des Grand Cru which are trapped, which are quite fascinating. The Combe de Lavaux is definitely split in terms of south and north of Gevrey in which it’s exclusively premier cru and village, but I think some of the most amazing and complex premier cru of Gevrey are really located on the north side because they also have the benefit of the elevation.
Brenna (Narration): Geologically, Gevrey is a terroir - playground. It’s a prime example of Côte d’Or geology and contains all of the main Côte de Nuits limestone players. Thanks to the maps of our beloved Françoise Vannier, we can even begin to understand, in detail, how these different limestones and marls translate into the taste of the wines.
In terms of terroir – Gevrey’s got it all. There are distinct geologic zones that roughly correlate to historic vineyard designations. There are classic Côte de Nuits limestones that have been faulted along the slope – and a major combe formed by a major transverse fault that slices through the slope. This fault has shuffled up the geology on either side, while the combe in-between has mixed things up and ejected a huge alluvial fan –
There are vineyards we understand well, famous sites that remain a mystery, and of course a little bit of a human fingerprint on the landscape too…
Brenna (Narration): Geologically we can breakdown Gevrey-Chambertin into at least 4 very clear zones:
The large Combe Lavaux has deposited a huge alluvial fan. This alluvial material is what the village itself sits upon, as well as the village vineyards. Because this alluvial fan is so large, it has ejected lots of rounded limestone rocks – meaning many of Gevrey’s village vineyards sit on deep, rocky, well draining, alluvial soils. The village vineyards here follow the alluvial fan and extend far out into the plain – causing many people to think there may be too much village in Gevrey, but the geology tells us that these are clearly high quality growing sites…
Paul Wasserman: They tend to produce darker wines that ripen earlier because the gravel doesn’t retain water and very round and very pretty fruit, so there’s a lot of sort of beautiful Gevrey village on the alluvial fan.
Brenna (Narration): The second zone, South of the combe is one of the most revered slopes in the CdO – the 9 continuous grand crus of Gevrey — the most famous, by far, being Chambertin and Clos de Beze. The geology here is dominated by crinoidal limestone, topped with ostrea acuminata marl, some shaly limestone, and some hard Premeaux limestone at the top of the slope. The bottom of the slope is actually the younger, distinctive comblanchien limestone that we’ve seen further south. The grandest of the grand crus are Chambertin and the Clos de Beze…the distinctive examples of that regal, graceful, Gevrey power.
Paul Wasserman: Rusticity kicks in a few others of the Grand Crus in Gevrey-Chambertin - Mazis is also very powerful but there’s a bit more grip, a little more sense of gravel, more sense of wildness. Ruchottes right above it, is fascinating, is probably the most mineral of all the Grand Crus. To the south of Chambertin is Latricières, one of my favorite - very elegant, cause it slopes down but also on the south there’s grèze litée and you know how much I love that. And then under the road there’s Mazoyères, Charmes, Griotte and Chapelle. Mazoyères can be called Charmes, often it is, Mazoyères is different, it’s a little grittier, it's a little more gravelly, it comes across as a little more grippy. Griottes an oddity, it’s very small, it’s in an amphitheater - it’s very fruit driven, super pretty. Chapelle is the one that people are the least convinced about - I’ve always liked it. There’s something blocky about it, but I find that really satisfying. But with that said though - they're phenomenal vineyards. There’s no doubt about it.
Brenna (Narration): Another dramatic fault cuts down the slope just along the north edge of the Clos de Bèze. This fault has dropped down a huge block of Premeaux limestone that extends all the way into the Combe Lavaux. A pretty extreme example of geologically distinct vineyard designations…
The slope just north of the Combe Lavaux is home to what many consider the very best 1er Crus in the Cote d’Or. These vines are influenced climatically by the cool air that rushes out from the combe, and by the many fault splays that ripple out from the main zone in the center of the combe. The geology here contains the same classic limestones and marls found in the grand crus– just all jumbled up and rearranged.
Paul Wasserman: So the north side of Gevrey, usually called Le Clos Saint-Jacques. There’s a number of really good vineyards but the trio is Clos Saint Jacques, Lavaux Saint-Jacques and Cazetiers; they're all continuous. Clos Saint-Jacques is legendary. It is an incredibly mineral wine, red fruited, you really feel the cold air of the Combe. At Bruno Clair we get to taste Clos de Bèze, Cazetiers and Clos Saint Jacques in direct comparison and it’s fascinating. Clos de Bèze is always darker, always spicier, always grander but Clos Saint Jacques is more fit, it’s ripped, it’s athletic, it’s an Olympian. It’s all about stone, and I’m actually surprised because of its minerality - which is really taught that it’s that popular.
Brenna (Narration): Finally, the northern edge of Gevrey is also pretty impressive – the geology here is a bit different – it's still dominated by the crinoidal limestone, but here it has a new partner, a sandy marl that we haven’t seen before in the Côte d’Or. The top of the slope has a bit of the lovely ostrea acuminata marl–the one packed with little oyster fossils that we’ve found in both Bonnes Mares and the Clos des Beze…
Paul Wasserman: So north of Cazetiers you have Combe aux Moines, Goulots, Champeaux, Petite Cazetiers and it’s a very sort of odd looking slope in a way. It’s really the epitome of Gevrey-Chambertin power, a certain amount of power…
Brenna (Narration): And it’s here, in this northern corner of 1er crus that we begin our tour with Jean-Marie…
1.3 Vineyards with Jean-Marie Fourrier
Jean-Marie Fourrier: So we are arriving in Combe Aux Moins.
Brenna Quigley: Oh, cool!
Jean-Marie Fourrier: I have a vineyard above, on top. The first wall, plus I have this one inside, this road climbing up here on the edge, is the limit. After that it becomes, it becomes Goulot, and below this road this is Champeaux.
Brenna Quigley: This part of Gevrey feels like a different world from the rest of the Côte d’Or…there are ancient quarry walls, and a few different levels of large terraces, you can’t see it from the main road so it kind of feels like a secret garden… Determined not to be deterred by the rain, we follow Jean-Marie into the vineyard.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: So, it has happened to me to do the tasting in the spring time here because this road is basically the cross-road of, as you were saying, above this road is Goulots, this is Combe aux Moines, and here is Champeaux.
[Sounds of rain]
Brenna Quigley: This is definitely just raining, it feels very cold.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: It is really cold. Why, it was supposed to be snow!
Brenna Quigley: We look at the vertical cliff of crinoidal limestone surrounding Jean- Marie’s parcel of Combe aux Moines– if you look closely you can see layers and layers of subtly changing environments – tidal deposits and channels…as the shoreline wandered 165 million years ago. Jean-Marie points out the vine roots that have made their way through meters and meters of fractures through this solid rock.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Well it's definitely a great corner also for people to visit, to understand, and you can come and see the cliff… just give an incentive to people to understand what are the roots to grow through, to establish the system for vines. A lot of people have this classic idea that vineyards need a deep and rich soil, that is never the case. For me, that is why I always find it fascinating is to imagine what they are facing just…the roots, but it takes 7- 8 years to develop the trunk, it takes more than 30 years to develop the roots. I always look at the vineyards as the mother and as long as she didn’t need to establish her root system she cannot feed her kids…her grapes.
Brenna Quigley: In this special plot Jean-Marie has added a small stone picnic table and a somewhat sith-like stone statue of a monk.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Well, one day, maybe not today we will have a nice picnic corner.
Brenna: And that is for anyone to use?
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Yes, that is the idea…I don’t want to do a publicity thing, it’s just when people come and visit Burgundy, I think they all go to restaurants or go taste in the cellars, just buy an assortment of cheese, you just stop at the traffic light, at the corner of the winery, get a baguette, you come up here…nice bottle of wine from the area, it’s just so much deeper and nicer, but the view… that when the monks used to come in the mid-century you get that air, from the wind of the north, it's a stunning vineyard.
Brenna Quigley: We look to the wall of limestone.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: The stone of Gevrey, the reason why it was quarried, they used to extract rocks and some monuments, even some monuments in Paris have been made of it, but a lot of graves also of vigneron have been made of the stone of Gevrey which is pink, a classic pink color.
Brenna Quigley: This is…this looks like a little vein…see?
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Yeah, yeah…yeah.
Helen Johannesen: That’s cool, maybe…sorry to do this…
Brenna Quigley: Yeah, see how this is polished, and you see the lines on it, if you look really close, you kind of have to feel, like right here…it’s a fault plane. You can see it’s… we say it’s unnaturally smooth. But it is natural…probably, and you get the veins that kind of grow from the surface that you can see if you feel it you can feel like little ridges. Here is a good spot for it, and like right here. Where the rock moved.
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Let’s walk to Les Goulots…
Jean-Marie Fourrier: And you will see that as we are saying Goulots water is running through the vines, but this road is catching the water but never going to Champeaux but the climate for centuries it has never really washed out the soil of Champeaux and hence why the gap of difference and also in terms of the personality and in the style and hence why Goulots, in french is Gulots, and gulleys.
Brenna Quigley: Gutters?
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Gutters, exactly!
Helen Johannesen: Gully or gutter?
Brenna Quigley: Gully!
Jean-Marie Fourrier: If you can imagine if roses rain you keep going down the origin that would have generated, so this is very steep, do you see where the young trees, the Acacia trees. Ok, was like the wood, so all of this my grandma used to tell me, she worked as a tacheronne. It was planted as Chardonnay in 1945. It has never been re-planted, there are trees going over there and then after that I have a certain plot of land as well…
Jean-Marie Fourrier: And the vineyard up here people right when they see Burgundy rarely see how close we are from Dijon. So this is Les Goulots which here when we plow, we are almost on the rocks…even plowing is really difficult because it has been so eroded. But you see in terms of elevation, well we are all Goulots here. We are on the side of the Ruchottes, so Goulots is even higher in elevation so that is why you see the mineral character, for me this is an amazing commune for the elevation and it’s exposure, the way it is exposed, we also the wind of the Combe Lavaux it’s always colder also in the area. And of course, you can imagine that when the sun goes down those vineyards are in the shade. For 30 nights they are in the shade.
Brenna Quigley: Oh wow, in the summer?
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Yeah, so it’s quite early, that's why the mix between the soils and the exposure of the terroir… for me, I have been lucky enough to discover having this legacy from being so close to each other, it’s not that easy, I don’t think I would have seen things the same way if I wouldn’t have the chance of having vineyards so close to each other, it’s just being lucky.
Breanna Quigley: Wow, this is good.
[Sound of tool hitting the ground]
Helen Johannesen: Lots of tiny layers!
Breanna Quigley: Yeah, and it’s in the rain, just disintegrating.
Helen Johannesen: Right?
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Your world, that’s fascinating yeah, it’s true that our parents and grandparents didn’t really realize, couldn’t put words and what was our feet, it’s just magical the way that they discover it.
Brenna Quigley: Yeah, but they still knew!
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Science is fantastic to understand things! You know, as a friend said to me one day, you look at the dictionary, the definition of biology and the definition of enology. One says the science of life, the other one say science of wine. I think it is more fascinating to know in life, about life in general than just wine. So, yeah I follow the theory that the more I am a biologist the less I need to be an enologist.
[Church bells ringing, feet stomping in vineyards]
Brenna Quigley: We are right on time!
Jean-Marie Fourrier: Perfect, good timing!
1.4 Gevrey Chambertin Vineyards with Eduard Clair
Edouard Clair: Gives directions in French...
Brenna (Narration): On another, less rainy day we continue down the northern slope of 1er crus along what many call the Côte Saint Jacques.
Eduard Clair: Continues giving driving instructions in French.
Brenna Quigley (Narration): Our guide is Eduard Clair son of the charismatic Bruno Clair of Domaine Bruno Clair.
Eduard Clair: Hello.
Paul Wasserman: Bruno is straight out of a 19th century novel, he has a baritone voice, he is incredibly interested in history and politics. If you ask him any historical question it will be an hour before you taste any wine. He’s hilarious, he is out of a Zola, Émile Zola Novel. It is a really great family. Now the Domaine is ran by the two sons who are wonderful, are making a lot of changes, I think it is possible that Edouard descends directly from Bruno, he is a toughie, plays rugby, he gets bloodied up. I once saw him with stitches all over his face. Both of them do a lot together but Edouard is mostly in the vineyard where he is doing incredible stuff, and Archer is more in the cellar.
Eduard Clair: And on the right, it's (inaudible) this is our plot, Jadot, Fourrier, and Rousseau. Rousseau is on the south.
Paul Wasserman: The extraordinary thing about Clos St. Jacques is that when it was sold in 1955, some people say in 1954, it was a monopole and all of the owners got rows that went from the bottom to the top. And today there are five owners and it is incredibly consistent in its quality because everyone has a perfect slice of the terroir.
Brenna Quigley: This unique division makes the Clos St. Jacques one of the most interesting exercises in understanding the differences between style and terroir, each producer has rows spanning the same layer cake of Jurassic limestones as their neighbors. Just next to Clos Saint Jacques is Cazetiers…this vineyard is a bit lesser known, but beloved by many deeply entrenched burgundy lovers…it’s spelled like Cazetiers, but the French tend to squish it all together and say Caz-tee-ay.
Eduard Clair: You have the Cazetiers on the right of the wall. Cazetiers it’s you can see it’s not the same soil because it’s um because you have maybe two meters between the two on the top, because you have a step…a big step.
Brenna Quigley: Can we do a quick little walk up?
Paul Wasserman: Yeah, we can walk a little up…yeah.
Brenna Quigley: Here we find several pieces of angular Silex which Francois believes is from further up the Combe Lavaut.
[Sounds of walking through vineyard]
Eduard Clair: Ok, Ok. If you can…
Brenna Quigley: It's probably Limestone.
Eduard Clair: Uh huh, Ok.
Brenna Quigley: You see, scratches it, this… this scratches onto that. So this is softer than this. So this is not Silex, this is…
Brenna Quigley: At the top of the slope we walk over to the top of Cazetiers…although just a few steps away, the rocks here have been more rearranged than in Clos St. Jacques…and so has the ownership.
Paul Wasserman: Cazetiers is always darker, always spicier, nowhere near the same minerality as Clos St. Jacques. A beautiful wine, but almost like a winter completive wine, it’s enjoyable earlier. It ages super well, in fact the Clair’s believe it ages longer then their Clos St. Jacques. Then South of Clos St. Jacques is Lavaux Saint Jacques which is one of my favorite 1er crus in all of Burgundy, and that you're getting close really to the mouth of the the Combe, you are getting super cool and to me that gives it an alpine feel, it’s super delicate, it’s all about fragrance, it’s all about blue fruit, as opposed to the black fruit of Clos de Beze or Cazetiers, or the red fruit of Clos St. Jacques…it’s ethereal almost.
Edouard Clair: C’est marne blanche…
Brenna (Narration): We head across the valley to the slope of Grand Crus for one last stop in the historic Clos de Beze. The soil is different here.
Eduard Clair: Oh yeah, and this is the oldest…1912.
Paul Wasserman: We have similar soil really at the top of Clos de Beze really with the more wider soils.
Brenna Quigley: Here in the Clos de Bèze the slope is a perfect slice of jurassic limestone layer cake – hard premeaux limestone at the top, then shaly limestone, ostrea acuminata marl, and crinoidal limestone….this sequence is continuous, and unbroken by any major faults.
Eduard Clair: Yes… continues in French…
Paul Wasserman: Yeah, more clay.
Brenna Quigley: Standing in a vineyard with such history and presence…it's hard to know where to begin. We have talked about before so many people don’t have a lot of experiences with Grand Crus. You know what should other young people know about the Grand Crus. What should people know about this vineyard?
Eduard Clair: Grand Crus… continues in French
Paul Wasserman: Yeah it comes from uh, the word to grow, and so it’s a vineyard that grows well with less disease.
Eduard Clair: Less disease, a good vintage and not too much clay, but enough clay <laughs> for the area…it’s usually less frost, it’s warmer, less disease, it’s maybe good wind too. Yes, you have the big difference between the Grand Cru and the other is not an easy vintage. A warm vintage, an easy vintage is very ripe like ‘18, ‘19, ‘20, ‘22. Is the difference between the Grand Cru and the other is less. The Grand Cru you have a big difference for a small year because it is ripest.
Paul Wasserman: When you get to them, you know there's a silence that sets in because they are just so convincing there is that extra little length there is that extra will like in may the force be with you kind of way, there is just an ok you have convinced me…I am done, this is why we are here in this cellar.
Helen Johannesen: For me Grand Cru is a designation that like I would say that 90% of the time, like I get it… I totally get it, this is baller, this is above, this is taking it to the next level, this wine is on a plane of its own. It has jazz hands, it’s fucking epic.
Paul Wasserman: Which is your favorite wine in the lineup of all of your appellations?
Eduard Clair: Hmm. It depends the year, but often Clos St. Jacques. Often Cazetiers sometimes it is you don’t know why it is the vineyards in some years if it is very young it could be Charmes aux Prêtres or Longeroies. I don’t know Chambolle or Vosne-Romanée for me is a warm vintage, it is very good for…
Paul Wasserman: Like anyone would really want to be special?
Eduard Clair: Yes, Clos de Beze. If we test old wine we have Longerois that we can keep for a long time but for me the quality vs price it’s Graisse Tete, Longerois maybe some village. Maybe some 5-6x as expensive for a wine 6x pleasure. I can't measure my pleasure, I don’t know if it is 5x more, but I yes for Marsannay or Marsannay for me Graisse Tete, Longerois and Charm aux Pretes, sometimes Vaudenelles is perfect
Part 2: Fixin - Amelie Berthaut
2.1 Fixin and Amelie
[Sounds of tires of road]
Brenna (Narration): With exactly this sentiment in mind, we leave the grandeur of Gevrey-Chambertin, and arrive in the quiet village of Fixin –
Fixin is a little village, sandwiched in between two giants. Gevrey to the south, where we have just been, and Marsannay to the north which spans 3 villages and nearly 470 hectares of vines…
Fixin is not a famous appellation – the village is small with only 103 hectares of village and 22 hectares of 1er cru. The wines tend to be overlooked and are usually described as rustic – and not necessarily in a good way…
But this hasn’t always been the case…
Paul Wasserman: There’s five 1er crus. Three of them are monopoles, which is important even though one of them is partially sold to Méo-Camuzet so there’s only two 1er crus that you see with all the other producers of Fixin which is Hervelets and Arvelets which is basically the same vineyard cut in half with a different spelling. In the 19th century several vineyards of Fixin were thought to be on the par with the best of Gevrey. Lavalle, who was the first unofficial classification of Burgundy in 1855, he compared Arvelets to Clos Saint-Jaques. There was one grower who owned both Fixin and Gevrey and he sold his Arvelets at the same price as his Chambertin I believe so there was a great fame to the wines and then, when the Appellations happened, all of Fixin was allowed to be sold as Côté du Nuit Village and the lack of a ton of 1er crus, the lack of flagship domaines in the 60’s/70’s is what contributed to some of the rusticity that we saw in Fixin. Because when you are selling your wine as Côte du Nuit Village, there is no incentive to really measure the vineyards for quality of production. But there is no doubt that the village can produce extraordinary wines as is demonstrated by Amelie with several of her vineyards and in particular with Fixin Arvelets which is on the level of a great Gevrey 1er cru, without a doubt.
Brenna (Narration): In my mind, and the minds of many others, there is ONE producer to know in Fixin – Amelie Berthaut…of Domaine Berthaut-Gerbets.
Helen Johannesson: Yeah, she’s a badass. She drives around in that little cute truck. I mean talk about strength, you know like that kind of perseverance to then be making the wine she is making and for it to have the recognition it is having under her name and the Domaine’s name is awesome. The most exciting ones are the Fixin because they really are her …
Paul Wasserman: Amelie and husband Nicolas are like the most ethical people I know. There’s a great write up of her on our website, which starts with a quote, an old quote that’s carved in stone in one of the Berthaut buildings that says basically, “Better do well than talk” and that really sums up Amelie, her family and also Nico, her husband. They’re not talkers, they are doers and it's slow and it's profound and it's work, work, work. It’s a lot about serious work, quiet work and great talent.
Brenna (Narration): We meet Amelie at the Domaine and walk out to the vines…
Paul Wasserman: Your father and your mother. There’s two domaines, separate. One in Vosne, one in Fixin. And they ran them completely separately.
Amelie: Yes, like different vineyards, different culture, completely different vinification. Different markets, everything different. It came from their parents because my father always worked with his father and his brother, my uncle. And my mother, always with her family, my grandfather and my aunt. And Fixin and Vosne, it used to be very different villages because Beaune has always been very famous, has all the big names on the grand cru and Fixin was more ”paysanne”, Fixin was more agriculture. That is my point of view, but they (Amelie’s parents) met at school in Dijon. But ya very different vision of viticulture which is great because I can take from both. Maybe viticulture more from my father.
Brenna (Narration): Her husband, Nicolas Faure, is another one of our favorite people in the Côte d’Or – and the two make an impressive, yet solidly independent, team…
Brenna (Narration): Today, Nico directs the farming at Berthaut-Gerbet, while also farming and vinifying his own tiny but very impressive AND ADORED domaine.
Paul Wasserman: But now you run two domaines , you and Nicolas, separately.
Amelie: Yes it is separate, but…
Paul Wasserman: But you're his boss.
Paul Wasserman: But vinification wise, it is separate even though you get along and talk a lot, it's very different as well. Involuntary repetition of history.
Amelie: But my parents they exchanged a lot and talked a lot but kept their way and we wanted to do the same. It’s important to have our own stuff. Some stuff they did together and it's exactly the same as Nicolas and me, the two domaines. And now Nicolas is doing our domaine and his domaine.
Paul Wasserman: When we met Amelie because of Nicolas. I called Nicolas to meet him at a certain time. We just started working with him.
Amelie: You met him because of Aurelien?
Paul Wasserman: Aurelien Gerbet who popped a bottle twelve vintage, he didn’t have any wine, anyway so we started with him I think at thirteenth. And at one point I was trying to make an appointment with him and he said no I can’t at four thirty, I’m going to be in Fixin. And I’m like ya why? And he said I have to go see my girlfriend in Fixin. And I was like ok, does she make wine? He says, yes. And I said, is it any good? He said, yes, honestly it’s not because of my girlfriend. The wine is really good. So I put the phone down, I go online and I see all the vineyards. And, yes there is Lavaux, there’s Cazetier, there’s already Vosne Petits Monts. But I see this massive amount of Fixin, that’s what excited me because it’s relatively easy to find great Gevrey or great Vosne but there was no great Fixin in my mind. I mean I’m not going to turn down the Lavaux or the Cazetier or things like that. All these ideas she was making plus Arvelet which is the most exciting thing because it’s like archeology, it’s like finding ruins.
Brenna: And so what did you know about Fixin before Amelie?
Amelie: You didn’t work within Fixin?
Paul Wasserman: No, we had seen the beginnings of interest with négociants like Dominique Laurent who liked Fixin and produce Fixin.
Amelie: But Fixin is very small, it is only 100 hectares so you cannot be on the market too. And lots of the domaines they sell grapes, they sell wine in bulk. So it is more difficult than Marsannay because there are many domaines and they can be everywhere.
Paul Wasserman: Yes, so Marsannay, there have been really good domaines in Marsannay for some time but Fixin was, like we read about it but…
Amelie: We are not famous but I think we are a good group. The domaines are changing a lot. With the young generation.
Paul Wasserman: It’s rediscovering something really.
Amelie: Shall we go?
2.2 Vineyards with Amelie
Brenna (Narration): We arrive … in what most believe to be the best section of the Fixin vineyards – just along the base of the 1er crus Arvelets and Hervelets
The geology here is a little bit reminiscent of a mini Gevrey– with ostrea acuminata marl, crinoidal limestone, and the sandy marl we saw with Jean-Marie… plus alluvial fans extending from the slopes into the plain…
Amelie: So this is the Hervelets because just there you have the limit between Arvelets and Hervelets and this is our small vineyard. So the bottom part is very young, planted in 2016, and the top part is more like fifty years old.
Paul Wasserman: And it stops here?
Amelie: Yes, we put <<rosier>>. Nico planted it.
Paul Wasserman: Speaking of which, does it really have a use for the diseases, or not?
Amelie: People say it has odium before but I’m not sure, it could be an explanation. But for us it’s just more that you have only vineyards here and we wanted to see biodiversity so we liked to put this and we planted a tree just there, it's the tree for our baby Leon. We planted it last year. It is an Amandier (Almond Tree). So we hope one day it will be huge.
Paul Wasserman: So Amelie actually produces both Hervelets and Arvelets, so let’s talk about Arvelets where the bulk of the vineyards is, you know, Laval compared it Clos Saint Jacques, I think what they do share is this sort of minerality, this kind of, I’m a runner, instead of a couch potato kind of wine. You know, it’s going to be about minerality - it’s not grippy, it’s not rustic - there’s no rusticity in it. And then, this very red soil in the bottom, so you get this iron oxide umami that comes with it. Do you or Nicolas notice any difference in terroir between Hervelets and Arvelets?
Amelie: Well what we see is more on the difference on the soils. And more on the top part, it’s really sandy soil, it’s almost orange - in Hervelets. The top is really more sand and orange. So this is more like, red-brown?
Paul Wasserman: And no sand?
Amelie: Less sand, much less. Both are very shallow soils, this is the worst part (stepping through soil).
Paul Wasserman: The most shallow?
Amelie: This and the bottom of Arvelets.
Brenna (Narration): The rest of Amelie’s FIXIN vineyards are village lieu dits…
Paul Wasserman: There’s a fair amount of sand in Fixin, and sand is the opposite of rusticity. If you take for example her Fixin Les Crais, it’s very Gevrey-like, in the sense that it's fairly broad but it also has a stunning velevety texture. Les Clos is an oddball and I don’t know if it’s representative of Fixin, it’s so graceful and elegant, I don’t know if there’s something going on with geology or the genetic material or something. And lastly En Combe Roy which is a little enclave in the vineyard of Entre deux Velles. Right below Arvelets. On the little mounds, that one gives you a lot of grip, profound, a little reserved.
Amelie: And now we get to En Combe Roy… you’ve been here before? (asking to Brenna)
Paul Wasserman: (chuckles) Yes, she has many times. The mysterious En Combe Roy.
Amelie: I think there is something special with this vineyard… because it is on top.
Paul Wasserman: The dome, ya.
Amelie: But also it is not all about the soil but also the plants are really good plants, very old.
Paul Wasserman: So it’s not necessarily that the terroir is rustic, some of them are, but it’s not necessarily that the terroir is rustic, it’s that there is a whole other set of economic circumstances.
Amelie: Ya, it’s more the people.
Paul Wasserman: It’s the people and what happened to the price and things like that. But as we see with Amelie now that you have a few vintages and the work is starting to pay off. You take Arvelets for example, it’s one of my favorite wines in the cellar even though she has Cazetier and Lavaut Saint-Jaques and Suchots and Petit Monts, Arvelets remains extraordinary.
Amelie: I think Arvelets is a better terroir than a lot of villages (group laughs)... from what we have but for me it’s a better terroir than our Vosne.
Paul Wasserman: Parentheses this is normally classified as 1er Cru…
Amelie: Mais bas?
Paul Wasserman: Les Mais Bas?( Paul repeats) …but the reality of some of the less famous villages the land was more valuable as building land, which is tragic so there is no 1er Cru here.
Amelie: And this is not finished because they keep building, like here you see this big house so just after there is a very new one like from an architect. So it is in our Clos which is called Clos du Fixin. So we used to have the vineyard way before the house. They build a house 2 or 3 years ago and now they want us to take off some plants because they want to put their swimming pool. It’s a problem in our villages because all the vineyards are coming really close to the houses but it’s more that the houses came closer to the vineyards. Because before it was only vineyards. They don’t have this problem in Vosne-Romanée.
Part 3: Marsannay - Clair Intro
3.1 Intro to Marsannay and History
Brenna (Narration): We leave the little village of Fixin and head north to Marsannay. Marsannay is another underdog in the Côte d’Or, but one that has seen a recent surge in popularity, particularly as Burgundy lovers search out off-the-radar regions where they can still uncover some high caliber bottles for a more affordable price…
There is a lot going on here – it’s a big appellation with its own complicated history. Great wines from Marsannay can be red, white, or rose – and in fact, only here is there a special appellation dedicated specifically to rosé. A great Marsannay rose is more than just a pink wine.
As we mentioned before, Marsannay is a huge app that technically comprises three separate villages: Couchey, Marsannay-la-Côte, and Chenove. There are 369 ha of village Marsannay and another 100 ha designated specifically to Marsannay Rosé …
As of today, there are no 1er Crus in Marsannay, though an extensive application was submitted to the INAO over 10 years ago. This is typical French bureaucracy, I’m told – there is little concern that the vineyards won’t be awarded 1er cru status…some day…
Helen Johannessen: So to me it could be the start of a bigger movement, ya know. These less expensive, lesser known, and historically thought of as lesser quality sites, potentially needed just a different thought process in winemaking to elevate them to greatness. That wave for me, was probably like tasting Sylvain Pataille, right? Probably the most famous wave-maker in Marsannay. And even before him, like tasting Bruno Clair’s wines. I love wines from there now in general. But, I think it also has so much to do with the people who are making it.
Brenna (Narration): Marsannay has been lagging behind the glory of the rest of the Côte d’Or for a long time – In fact, they only received their village status in 1987… but that hasn’t always been the case either…
[Light guitar music plays]
Brenna (Narration): In order to learn more about how Marsannay got to where it is today, we return to the cellar of Domaine Bruno Clair…so Bruno himself can set the record straight…
Helen Johnannessen: Love Bruno Clair. I feel like you know, LL Bean. No, I’m just kidding.
Helen (continues): He’s like wearing a plaid jacket. His wines, oof, I feel like it really feels like a family business in a lot of ways. Feels very historical, feels very passion driven - very patriarchal. Which for me is not always a turn on - it’s oftentimes a turn off, but because of how Bruno, when I met him, read, I received it really well, because he brought this level of humility to what he was doing. I still also don’t think people equate enough value to them…
[Light piano music plays]
Paul Wasserman (in background): Do you want me to translate at all? Bruno’s not going to speak English…
Bruno Clair speaks in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): His lessons didn’t pan out…
Brenna: Mine either.
Brenna (Narration): We’re visiting with Bruno and his other son Artur, who takes care of the cellar…
Bruno Clair starts in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): You have to go back to the history of Burgundy with Philip the Bold… what year?
Bruno Clair replies in French…
Paul Wasserman: Okay, so in the 1400’s… Who said, who made a decree that you should only plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Bruno Clair in French…
Brenna (Narration): Bruno explains that even before Phillip the Bold, the Cistercian monks had declared Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to be the highest quality grapes for this area…
Bruno continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): But the winemakers would plant a lot of Gamay for practical purposes, for example when there’s frost, it still produces a half crop, because of the secondary buds, and it’s also more resistant to diseases that already existed back then, not the same but certainly some…
Bruno continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): So, it wasn’t just a toothless decree. If anyone was caught planting Gamay they actually went to jail.
Bruno continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (transalting): Skip to the French Revolution, so at the eve of the French Revolution 75% of the vineyards were in the hands of either the atrocity or the church, and of course the vineyards were confiscated and auctioned off.
Bruno continues in French…
Brenna (Narration): After the French Revolution lots of laws disappeared, including the ban on Gamay. Dijon’s population boomed during the industrial revolution, and the surrounding villages were thirsty for delicious, drinkable, inexpensive bistro wines – primarily gamay.
Paul Wasserman: So, effectively here the vignerons - Marsannay, Chenove, Couchey - were way richer than people in Vosne, because they had this huge market for bistrot wines. There’s a really telling sign, if you look at the town halls, they’re too big for the town. They are almost pretentious…
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): So Phylloxera in Burgundy 1875 - 1878 basically all the vineyards had to be replanted and the vignerons of Marsannay, Couchey and Chenove believe that this demand for Gamay, bistro wines, is going to continue, so they replant everything to Gamay and Aligoté. So one of the big things that happened that changed a lot of things is the arrival of the train. They could bring up wines from the Languedoc that were at prices that you couldn’t even compete with and it destroyed that bistrot wine market for a lot of regions, actually. That was catastrophic.
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): So the nail in the coffin was World War I because every man aged between 16, 17 and 45 went to the war and so, during that time it was difficult to take care of the vineyards. You actually never hear about the vintages ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18 - you hear about ‘19 which was great, but basically that really sped up the decline.
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Brenna (Narration): Bruno’s grandfather, Joseph, was from Santenay. After being injured in WWI, he fell in love with a nurse named Marguerite Dau of Marsannay – he swore that if he survived the war, he would return and marry her. And soon after the war ended, he did just that. Together, they find vines in Marsannay and create the historic Domaine Clair-Dau.
Paul Wasserman (translating): So he comes back to Marsannay, he finds vineyards that are almost in abandoned states, Pinots that have survived and you know he says what can we do? Maybe we can do something interesting to separate ourselves out from the competition let's make a rose. And the Sommelier at the best restaurant of the time, which was called the Trois Faisants, loved it. And that was the birth of Marsannay rose, the 1919 vintage and that was a resounding success, actually.
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): And just to point out that after Phylloxera that whole era was pretty dreadful and difficult economically, but the success of the Marsannay rose, first of all was going to make a lot of people replant Pinot instead of Gamay and for some reason that survived economically throughout. So, even though half the vignerons disappeared from Marsannay the other half had an outlet, and economic outlet.
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Paul Wasserman: So, in ‘35 when they started the appellations - Marsannay, Couchey, Chenove were still planted to a lot of Gamay and there was no way they’d get even the village appellation, because of that. So they became Bourgogne and so basically one generation during the 19th century or a couple of generations filled their pockets, but they had to pay for it for three quarters of a century…
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Paul Wasserman (translating): And they’ve been waiting for the Premier Crus for 20 years…
3.2 Marsannay Tasting
Brenna (Narration): We continue into a deeper part of the cellar, where Artur walks us through the great wines of Marsannay….
Arthur Clair: This is the Marsannay Vaudenelles.
Brenna (Narration): Vaudenelles.
Paul Wasserman: Which you know well! It rhymes too. A few Marsannay are really site specific - like big concepts. It’s a little new world-y right? But there’s so much acidity behind it.
Brenna (Narration): Graisses Têtes.
Paul Wasserman: You know, a premium texture to the wine.
Brenna (Narration): And Longerois.
Paul Wasserman: So, skinnier right than the previous one. But more defined then the first one. To me the difference is so clear.
Artur Clair: So Longerois is the biggest appellation in Marsannay. So every producer has some Longerois. Every place is different but there is like a harmony in Longerois, there’s some difference but not too big.
Paul Wasserman: Here’s a classic mid-slope anchor, but not too much.
*conversation continues inaudibly in French and English*
Artur Clair: I think to me Savigny and Marsannay is very close in terms of characteristics because there is so many different terroirs, so many different soils…
Bruno Clair continues in French…
Part 4: Marsannay - Pataille
4.1 Pataille Intro and Aligote
Brenna (Narration): After thanking the three Clair gentlemen we head out to visit the vines of Marsannay with one of the village's most beloved inhabitants…Sylvain Pataille
Helen Johannesson: He’s just a very generous soul who has his real own view of the world, you know maybe the antithesis of anti-terroir-ist - he’s die hard. It’s amazing, like he’s indefatigable. He can go long and is like, but try this one and try this one and try this one. I think he’s really important though in the story of Burgundy and the accessibility of Burgundy, because I have so many customers who Sylvain Pataille was a gateway for them and provided that access that was needed so, for that, you know that’s a revolutionary kind of person. And then they don’t even know like how obsessed he is with the 20 different plots of aligote he has, or whatever.
Brenna (Narration): It’s nearly impossible to describe a visit with Sylvain…I think every time I’ve been there we have had to wait outside his cellar for an impressive amount of time. Just long enough to wonder if it could possibly be worth it…
Paul Wasserman: And there he is!
Brenna (Narration): And then Sylvain appears out of nowhere, busy and beaming with a head of golden curls and big thick glasses…with his naughty pup Scooby doo prancing at his heels and you’re swept away into a new, odd and fascinating universe…
Paul Wasserman: Sylvain was trained to be an oenologist and in fact after his national oenology diploma worked for one of the main oenologists in Burgundy, and actually consulted for a bunch of famous domaines. There were no vineyards in the family - a tiny bit of vineyards in the family, so he wasn’t certain that he was going to make his own wine, but eventually he did. Sylvain is very loved, he’s funny, very well spoken, very insightful and will always throw you things you’ve never thought about before.
[Sylvain in background calling for his dog Scooby-Doo, gentle strumming sounds]
Paul Wasserman: He was the first of “those people'' I think in Burgundy, to ride that line between classic and natural. But he’s gone really far, I mean the whites in particular you may have some oxidative wines… he doesn’t care there’s a little sulfur in them, and they come and go. Goes through it’s oxidative phase, it comes back in your glass. So he’s not afraid to let go. He’s a character, it’s hard to encapsulate in words - I mean he’s a ray of sunshine very often, but he’s just so adorable and intelligent and bright and it doesn’t fit a sound byte - that’s the problem.
[Background voices and sounds of Paul and Sylvain calling and chasing after Scooby-Doo]
Paul Wasserman (in background): It is cold!
[Sounds of van door slamming shut]
Paul Wasserman: We’re alive.
Helen Johannesson: Can we, uh, turn the heat up?
Brenna (Narration): Marsannay is filled with hidden treasures that have been overlooked – amongst the pinot and chardonnay, there are also old vines of Aligoté. And not just old vines, but old vines planted on the slope…
Helen Johannesson: For Aligoté, it depends who’s growing it. If you get someone like Sylvain Pataille growing Aligoté it can absolutely crush or Nicolay crushes it with the Aligoté. Flavor wise it’s not my favorite. I think it benefits from good terroir, and I think again Patialle very elegantly outlines how different terroir can influence Aligoté in these really beautiful and nuanced ways, but when it hits - it can hit hard, but I would say generally it doesn’t hit that hard. Especially when you taste one, and you’re like this just kind of tastes like filler. But not all Aligoté is created equal - fo sure! If you want to try Aligoté, try it from a great maker and usually they’re hard to find, there’s not that much but scoop it up, give it a whirl and it can be very magical.
Brenna (Narration): Aligoté is basically the other white burgundy…it’s a hearty, high acid, vigorous variety that is almost always found on the lower slope in heavy clay…because of this it’s often thought of as a fleshy, broad and simple grape. But here, old vines and great terroirs showcase what Aligoté can really do…
Paul Wasserman: Well, Aligoté was considered one of the lesser grapes in Burgundy when the appellations got created, so it got kicked out of 1er Cru, Village or Grand Cru appellations. Now that we have a bunch of single vineyard Aligotés, to taste through it undeniably translates terroir brilliantly in a very different way than Chardonnay. Chardonnay produces that luxury texture, the deep seat with the cushions and Aligoté produces energy. It’s very electric. It’s very exciting and thrilling. You get the sense of… you’re living the highlife with Chardonnay and you’re living the dangerous life with Aligoté.
4.2 Vines with Pataille
[Voices talking in background, sounds of driving in van…]
Brenna: You’re all in Marsannay? One-hundred percent?
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah.
Paul Wasserman: But you still buy the Bouzeron right?
Sylvain Pataille: Right. And some Aligoté in Echrevone - in Hautes-Côtes.
Brenna: But the vineyards you farm…
Sylvain Pataille: I farm 18ha in Marsannay, I buy 1 ha to my father and uh, I buy 5 ha in Marsannay to friends who are all organic, or who leave me spray. I spray 5ha more than my vines. The villages are all over there. There was some great terroirs that have been built in the 50’s. As many towns and the towns have been stronger than the vines.
Paul Wasserman: Yeah, building land was more valuable than the vineyards of Marsannay.
Sylvain Pataille: Clos du Roy.
[Light keyboard music…]
Paul Wasserman: So Clos du Roy.
[Scooby-Doo barks, Sylvain scolds in French]
Sylvain Pataille: They are so incredible. The terroirs are incredible. The soil in French is greze litee. Very small (inaudible). Voila! Clos du Roy.
Paul Wasserman: And you have Pinot, Chardonnay and Aligoté?
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah. This is one of mine. You want to go and see the vines or…? And Scooby-Doo too wants to go.
[Sounds of agreeance and unbuckling seat belts]
Paul Wasserman: He doesn’t like the car very much…
[Sounds of walking on soil]
Brenna: So this vineyard originally had Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aliogte or you planted it?
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah, it was planted in 1953. No, 1932.
Brenna: 32? Wow, all three?
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah! *pointing* This one, this one, this one.
Paul Wasserman: How many parcels do you have in Clos du Roy?
Sylvain Pataille: 3.4 ha
Paul Wasserman: Man, that’s a lot.
Sylvain Pataille: It doesn’t matter to have 3.4 ha in Clos du Roy. It’s nothing.
Brenna: How big is it?
Paul Wasserman: The total size of the vineyard? It’s big, huh?
Sylvain Pataille: 28.
Paul Wasserman: Wow! Okay.
Sylvain Pataille: And this vine is only horse plowed.
Brenna: And is it mostly all greze litée? Everywhere?
[Sounds of footsteps on grass]
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah, yeah yeah! Everywhere. Clos du Roy is only made of this.
Paul Wasserman: Beautiful.
Sylvain Pataille: On va y aller? Ah! Here, look - this one is marvellous. The marcottage.
Paul Wasserman: The gobelet plus the marcottage.
Sylvain Pataille: This vine is not… (je me rapelle jamais le mot <<trimmed>>)...
Paul Wasserman: Trimmed. Hedged or trimmed.
Sylvain Pataille: As the vigor is low, it doesn’t grow very quickly.
Brenna: Can we talk a bit more about the non-trimming?
Sylvain Pataille: (Speaks in French…)
Paul Wasserman (laughing): It reminds him of his hair…
Brenna: You don’t cut the apex either?
Sylvain Pataille: My hairdresser has closed because of me. I never go.
[Church bells chime in background]
Sylvain Pataille: It’s quite fashionable at the moment, but it’s not stupid. I like it because I think it’s very important to keep the last bud, the main bud to organize the plant. It’s this bud that controls the growth, controls the… look they are absolutely no secondary branches… entrecouer? Paul?
Paul Wasserman: Laterals.
Sylvain Pataille: Ah laterals okay! And the grapes they are always very light here and it’s perfect for me. The growth and the physiology of the vine is completely different. If you cut the branches, if you take off the buds and there’s not anymore this control, it’s hormonal that controls the plant. This means that the plant will grow with other branches on the lateral that give more compact leaves and this way you can lead to rot. The wines are so different. The yields are lower like this.
Brenna: And someone said once, that if you let the top grow, part of the goal is to try to encourage the roots to go deeper. Like if you grow the top, the bottom will balance out.
Sylvain Pataille: Certainly, it’s normal a tree is higher outside than inside. There’s the same quantity of wood outside, then inside. And if you have more wood, and your vine is higher, you will certainly have more wood inside - it’s normal the more higher plants means more leaves. More leaves means more transpiration, more water, more production of sugar. The wines with this method are more fresher than the trimmed ones.
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah. Not on the analysis, but you know tasting and laboratories are contradictory. I am an oenologist, so I can say this. It’s incredible. How can you explain that?
Brenna: So do you ever find that there’s more minerality in the un-trimmed?
Sylvain Pataille: No. More freshness, and more expression. Minerality will come with your soils.
Paul Wasserman: More density?
Sylvain Pataille: Yes, and smoother tannins. But you know, the terroir can be alive with trimming like this. It’s the soil, it’s not the plant.
Sylvain Pataille: But I’m sure, look - they never look at the soil. You can see the <greze litée>, it’s easier than me. C’mon, c’mon.
Brenna (Narration): Sylvain grabs a handful of soil from his vineyard for us to inspect…
[Smelling sounds, distant “Ooooh!”]
Brenna: I like the looks of this.
Brenna (Narration): And a handful of conventionally farmed soil from his neighbor to compare.
Sylvain Pataille: Same soil. Alive, dead.
Jerusha Frost: I mean this I can smell from here! It wafts. Wow. Wild.
Brenna (Narration): We hop back in his van and head to Longerois.
[Van sounds, scooby-doo]
Esa: What’s the first stage of frostbite?
Brenna (Narration): Everything in Marsannay is a little bit backwards… here the vines are threatened by the constantly creeping urban sprawl of the city of Dijon… as we enter the northernmost parts of Marsannay we are suddenly jolted out of the pastoral daze of the Côte d’Or – here the stone cabottes in the vineyards are not preserved ruins or elaborately decorated chapels… but are covered in bright, bold graffiti…
Sylvain Pataille: We don’t know who made this but, it’s marvelous.
Paul Wasserman: It’s super nice.
Sylvain Pataille: It’s Salvadore Dali. And, “Qui sais déguster, ne bois plus jamais du vin, mais des secrètes”
Brenna (Narration): The quote reads: He who knows how to taste does not drink wine but savors secrets, by Salvador Dali…
Sylvain Pataille: Planted in 1927, Aligoté from Longerois, there were many stocks missing and we made the same with the massail selections.
[Van discussions between Sylvain and Paul, talking fades out…]
4.3 Closing – Cellar with Pataille
Brenna (Narration): Back in the cellar, the journey continues…a visit with Sylvain almost always takes the better part of a day...time contracts in the tiny cellar beneath his house…where the barrels are covered in hieroglyphics drawn by his two small children…
[Sounds of entering the cellar, Sylvain calls for Scooby, glasses clink]
Paul Wasserman: Everything is vinified without sulfur. Now Sylvain is an oenologist, he will intervene if he has to. I think more than what he actually does is the thetic of the wines, because he doesn’t systematically do anything. The style of the wine is like, three notches away of natty, natty. With incredible you know, openness but there’s so much to talk about with Sylvain.
[Background noises of Pataille’s small children exiting the cellar]
Brenna (Narration): And again, it’s hard to explain exactly what goes on… we taste and taste… a series of a dozen experiments before the real tasting begins…there’s rosé, not to be confused with Chardonnay rose, then 8 Pinots, then the Chardonnays, and then the main event…the single vineyard Aligotés…
Sylvain Pataille: The one’s experiment, most of these are experiments.
Paul Wasserman: This is Bouzeron?
Brenna: Sylvain, are you the only cellar in Burgundy where you can do an Aligoté terroir tasting?
Sylvain Pataille: No! There’s Jerome.
Paul Wasserman: That’s true, Jerome Gallyrand.
Sylvain Pataille: With larger terroirs than me…
Sylvain Pataille: *pouring* Chardonnay rose. You want to come? That’s okay?
[Sounds of footsteps on cellar pebbles]
Sylvain Pataille: So, Aligoté.
Paul Wasserman: *chuckling* speaks in french… translates, stop fucking around.
Paul Wasserman: In the single vineyards that are not secret, there are two on the lower slope Champs Forey & Auvonnes au Pépé which we saw. And the two others, Clos du Roy and La Charme aux Prêtres are slope Aligotés and that’s very rare because most people pull them out. Only Marsannay because it has its village appellations, so late. That’s why there are old vines on the slopes. It’s a real treasure, because we can see what Aligoté can do, you know.
Brenna: Do you do that here? Aligoté and Chardonnay? On the same terroir? Do you taste them blind?
Sylvain Pataille: Yes, but you know we have them on Charmes aux Prêtres and it’s a bit like the children. You can’t say which one is the best because they are so different. I have the same on Charmes aux Prêtes with Aligoté and Chardonnay. I love both, it’s a great terroir but they are so different. Charmes aux Prêtres chardonnay is very strong, energetic.
Paul Wasserman: You’re going to have Pinot on the Charmes aux Prêtres? Otherwise known as Fleurs de Pinot.
Sylvain Pataille: Aligote needs wideness. Draining soils, it’s better.
Brenna: Not the bottom of the slope soils?
Sylvain Pataille: No! Obviously not. You know we always said, Aligoté is modest but it’s normal. It was planted in Charlemagne, in Meursault. It’s not anymore. It was planted at the top of Chambertin. It has disappeared. Can you say the best Batard-Montrachet comes from Bourgogne Blanc, bottom of Puligny? No. It’s normal. The best Chardonnay are not made behind the road. Even in Vosne, Pinot from the plaine are not Grand Cru. There is something that is completely impossible. You won’t be able to do it, but imagine a blend between both. Like it was in Charlemagne - Chardonnay gives the strength to Aligoté, and Aligoté gives the tightness.
Paul Wasserman: I think Chardonnay needs Aligoté more than Aligoté needs Chardonnay.
Sylvain Pataille: In the old vines of Chardonnay, you often have some Aligoté plants, sometimes you have some Pinot Blanc, but not very often. In the old vines of Aligote you never have Chardonnay. Never - it’s always pure.
Brenna: I also imagine if you had wanted the opportunity to work in other villages you would have taken it?
Sylvain Pataille: Yeah, maybe. I could have done, but you know I’m free. I’m free and there are my roots, I couldn’t believe that my estate could be so big and with so lovely parcels. Clos du Roy, Langerois… At the beginning you know it was difficult. First 3 or 4 years, but it’s a dream. All of them, all the old varieties in my village. You know we have the book. My one grandfather was one grower and but in the 1904-1905 they had 4 hectares, they stopped because of wars because of divisions, because of many things.
Brenna (Narration): Eventually Sylvain leaves to go grab an old diary of sorts…
Sylvain Pataille: I can’t find the picture but look,
Paul: 1902 oh wow!
Sylvain: 1904, 1905…
Paul: It’s your grandfather?
Sylvain: It’s amazing they had the same parcels
Paul: They’re selling in barrels or half barrels
Sylvain: You see the writing changes, maybe it change? Maybe it’s the son?
[Sounds of pages turning]
Paul: Oh wow the war - there’s nothing!
Brenna: Nothing between 13, 14, 15 - 29
Sylvain: They have sold 325 kilograms of black currants and they have been paid from the government from the frost.
[Pages of book turning, cellar sounds]
Brenna (Narration): Before leaving he insists we must try his ratafia…made from marc de bourgogne…it has been many hours…things are a little hazy…and we’ve completely missed dinner…
[Sounds of laughing]
Paul Wasserman: I hate this normally. It’s called a Ratafia.
Paul Wasserman: It’s a fantasy world, it’s chaotic. It’s this incredible mix of chaos, of incredible knowledge, of incredible talent, of joy, of education and this incredible array of wines that are atypical and it’s a wild ride, that is everytime the most joyful experiences. It’s a circus, it’s a crazy circus in the most beautiful way. It’s why we do this is to be with people like Sylvain. That surprise you… that are generous with their knowledge, with their wines. With their laughter. It’s why we do this. People like Sylvain.
[Sounds of exiting the cellar]
Thank you to our guests: Bruno, Artur, and Eduard Clair, Jean-Marie Fourrier, Amelie Berthaut, and Sylvain Pataille.
Thank you to Paul Wasserman and Helen Johannesson for your commentary, guidance and expertise.
Our main source for historical and technical information is Inside Burgundy, by Jasper Morris, and our geological information comes from the local geologic expert, Francoise Vannier.
Make sure to stay tuned NEXT MONTH for the final episode of Season 2.
This season of RT is made possible by our Season 2 partners: Becky Wasserman & Co, La Paulee, and Acker Wines…
Thank you to Lone Wolf Imports for sponsoring this episode.
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
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 grand cru patrons Steve and Amy Lipin – thank you for making this episode possible!
Thank you to Esa Eslami, Jerusha Frost, Ali Massie, Julia Wiggin, Summer Staeb, Michel Joly, Michael Sager and everyone else who helped make this episode a reality.
Sylvain Pataille: Scooby STOP!
Paul Wasserman: Do you want to taste or…
Sylvain Pataille: No! No! Scooby-Doo! Scooby! Depeche toi! STOP STOP! Viens la! ALLEZ.
Sylvain Pataille: There was small dog…