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Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses Iles des Vergelesses Premier Cru (stained labels) 2009
At Chandon de Briailles, the vineyard management has been fully biodynamic since 2005 and organic since 1998. Claude's brother, Francois de Nicolay joined the domaine in 2001.
In the cellar, no enological products are used (except for sulfur in very small quantities), no tartaric acid, no exogenous yeasts, no tannin powder, no enzymes, etc. The Chandon de Briailles wines are quite unique in the fact that there is a negligible amount of new oak for aging and most wines are made with a whole-cluster fermentation. The domaine has cut back on its use of whole cluster fermentation since 2011 and adapts vintage to vintage. The Savigny-les-Beaune village is typically de-stemmed and the premier cru and grand cru will have up to 100% whole cluster in a sunny year (with good phenolic maturity). Fermentations start naturally a few days after harvest in open top cement tanks. Aging is carried out in used barrels (up to eight years-old) and the wine are bottled without fining or filtration. Claude likes to describe her wines as having 'no make-up', referring to the lack of new oak.
John Gilman (View From the Cellar) wrote: “This domaine is quickly becoming one of the very finest to be found anywhere in the Côte D’Or...these are great, classically styled, terroir-driven red and white Burgundies that age brilliantly, and are among the treasures to be found in the Côte de Beaune for those adventurous enough to try a few bottles.”
A classic source of exceptional Chardonnay as well as Pinot noir, the Côte de Beaune makes up the southern half of the Côte d’Or. Its principal wine-producing villages are Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet.
The area is named for its own important town of Beaune, which is essentially the center of the Burgundy wine business and where many negociants center their work. Hospices de Beaune, the annual wine auction, is based here as well.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Villages or Cru level wines.