About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Domaine Chandon des Briailles

2010 is a much heralded vintage in Burgundy for both red and white wines.   This past Thursday I was invited by Brian Hider, Wine Director for The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, NJ to attend a small and informal tasting of the 2010 wines from Domaine Chandon de Briailles. While I own some bottles of the 2009 vintage of these wines, I had yet to taste them.  They came highly recommended to me last year by Jamie Wolfe, one of the owners of Chambers Street Wines in NYC.  Thus the opportunity to finally taste these wines, especially the 2010 vintage, was a real treat for me.

Domaine Chandon de Briailles is located in the commune of Savigny-les-Beaunne in the Cote de Beaune of Burgundy and is owned and run by Claude de Nicolay, (she took over from her mother as winemaker in 1988), and her brother Francois de Nicolay.  Mom is still present and is available to share her experience and wisdom to her daughter.

Completely organic since 1995 & biodynamic since 2005, Claude produces wines that are the essence of old-world traditionally styled, terroir-driven wine making.  The majority of the wines are 1er Cru or Grand Cru and they are amongst the most elegant Burgundies I have ever tasted.

The winemaking often includes a large percentage of whole clusters in the fermentation of reds.  The wines may average between 20 and 70% whole clusters, depending on the vintage.  Claude feels that the tannins present in the stems add a level of complexity and softness to her wines.  

Very little new oak (less than 10%) is used in her winemaking.  The new oak barrels are 600 liters so as to reduce the impact of oak on the wine.  Most of her barrels are purchased used (average age, 15 years old) from two of Burgundies legendary Domaines; Clos des Lambrays and Domaine Dujac.

We began with 2009 Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc 1er Cru “Ile de Vergelesses.  The wine had a beautiful nose and on the palate possessed a lovely focused balance with nice acidity and body and a round elegant finish.  A lovely wine and a phenomenal bargain at $37.50

Next was 2009 Chandon de Briailles Corton Blanc Grand Cru.  This was pure seduction on the nose and elegance on the palate.  There was a sparkling acidity that will allow this wine to age for another 20 years and as in the Vergelesses,  a long and round finish.  While at $90 a bottle a bit pricey, but an absolute bargain when compared to Grand Crus from better-known domains.

The first red was the 2010 Chandon de Briailles Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru “aux Fourneaux".  The wine had an enticing bouquet with wonderfully purity of fruit on the palate.  It was full-bodied, with modest tannins and a developing complexity (give it 5 years) and finished with an emerging elegance.  An absolute steal at $35.

Next we tasted the 2010 Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru “Les Vergelesses”.  From vines at the bottom of the vineyard slope this was gorgeous.  A fruity and earthy bouquet on the nose with pristinely pure fruit and a rich complexity on the palate.  Tannins were soft and the finish was long and elegant.  Hard to believe that this is also only $35 a bottle.

Next Brian brought out a 2006 Domaine Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Les Vergelesses from the restaurant’s wine cellar as a comparison to the 2010.  The additional bottle age was apparent from the first sip, which was a bit more full-bodied and complex on the palate with a seductive back end and elegant finish.  Also $35 a bottle.  I would give both of these wines another couple of years of cellar time as they are gorgeous wines in the making.

We next tasted the 2010 Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru “Ile de Vergelesses”.  This wine comes from vines on the mid-slope of this hillside vineyard.  It possessed silky tannins with terrific acidity and balance.  It finished pure and with great length.  A wine with great potential.  $45.

The final wine of the afternoon was a 2010 Chandon de Briailles Corton Bressandes Grand Cru.  This is another great wine in the making.  Made with sixty percent whole clusters, the bouquet leaps from the glass with a glorious earthy essence.  On the palate it has amazing purity, soft tannins and a long and elegant finish.  $94.

Claude’s passion for excellence in extracting a pure expression of her grapes and terroir was present in all of these wines.  Readers would do well to add them to their cellars.  All wines are available from The Pluckemin Inn Wine shop.

Claude de Nicolay

While I enjoyed these wines immensely, I sipped them sparingly as this day also marked my 43rd wedding anniversary, which my lovely bride Carol and I celebrated with a great meal and great wines at Culin Ariane Restaurant in Montclair, NJ.  

We began toasting each other with an absolutely superb bottle of NV Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne.  This was terrific.  It possessed loads of complexity, with a brilliant balance and a creamy delicacy that danced on the tongue before finishing long and lush.  Non-vintage champagne simply does get much better than this.  Widely available at about $90 a bottle, $45 for a half bottle.

If you did the math you know that 1969 was the year in which we were married.  I only own one wine from this vintage, but it is a great one, 1969 Camille Giroud Pommard Les Epenots 1er Cru and I open a bottle on our anniversary each year.  I have never been disappointed. The wine is still young and vibrant on the nose and palate and has retained the gorgeous translucent red hue of a great young Burgundy.  It had beautifully balanced fruit with a long and elegant finish.  A truly round and delicious wine filled with soul. 

Thanks again Brian for inviting me to taste these magnificent wines and thank you Carol for 43 wonderful years together.  May we continue to drink great wine together for another 43 years.


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