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Profile: Domaine Pavelot, Jean-Marc et Hugues (Savigny)

pavelot in pernandEntering Savigny-Lès-Beaune you will see a sign directing you up a small road to the Domaine of Jean-Marc et Hugues Pavelot. When I said a small road, I mean’t it; from the main road it’s a sharp and narrow approach, the wall on one side is testament to legions of cars that have not completed this particular manouvre whilst keeping their paintwork in-tact – so-far I’ve made two successful attempts – but there’s time. The last house on your left is the house of the Pavelots and their friendly labrador. Going on past their house, the road continues on up the hill and into the trees affording you a south-westerly view down to the village of Savigny-Lès-Beaune; it’s also a nice place to walk your dog!

Savigny-Lès-Beaune nestles at the mouth of the Rhoin at the bottom of the Mont Batois with vineyards on three sides (though mostly on two hillsides) and woods to the south-west. There are many possible orientations to the sun and the altitude of the vines can vary from 220 to 360 metres; these different exposures can make as much as 7 or 8 days difference to the harvesting time – not surprisingly, it is the southern-facing vineyards that are first to ripen. These southern facing vineyards are also the ones with richest soils, hence, often producing the darker and richer wines eg Guettes, Clous, Gravains and Sepentières; it is interesting then, that it is the opposite facing vineyards, which in most hands, are a little lighter due to their gravel and sandy bases, that produce some of the best known wines; the Les Narbantons of Leroy and La Dominode of Bruno Clair and Pavelot.

Wines from Savigny were often a little rustic but many producers have taken the wines to a new level, not just the ones already mentioned, but also Jadot, Bouchard P&F, Bize, Ecard and many more. Look at a map of Savigny and you may wonder where the 1er Cru of La Dominode is – it is actually an alternative name for Les Jarrons, itself split into Haut and Bas, but for at least 200 years has been know as Dominodes or Dominaudes.

The busy village of Savigny is, compared to many in the Côte d’Or, actually rather pretty, and is dominated by the large Château at it’s centre. It was here in Savigny that vines were first planted in rows – why? – because the first tractor that could straddle the vines was invented here.

Savigny is one of the largest producers of wine in the Côte de Beaune, luckily we have several good producers and in the context of Burgundy, wines of real value; Even the best 1er Crus cost less than many a villages Chambolle or Vosne, and don’t worry about longevity, several of the 1er Crus will easily age for more than 15 years – as you will see. It is, then, a shame that the professional opinion of Robert Parker Junior suggests that the 1er Crus have an aging potential of 4 to 10 years; as I see it, many wines will be consumed long before their peak, that said, he’s perfectly correct (and in the same company as Allen Meadows and Clive Coates) when he talks of the almost unmatched price to quality ratio of the Savigny wines. Provided you avoid the wines of Domaine Leroy, you can reasonably expect to find the best wines of Savigny for 20-25 Euros, a level of value that (for me) only Monthélie and Maranges can come close to.

The domaine

There have been Pavelot’s in Savigny for many generations, this particular domaine traditionally moving from father to son. We are at one of those transitions today; father Jean-Marc has made space next to his name (since the early 2000′s) on the newly-designed labels for the name of his son Hugues.

For a long time, the main outlet for the Pavelots was the negociants of Beaune, even 15 years ago as much as 25% of their product left by this route. Today all stays within the domaine, and considering production is over 60,000 bottles from around 12 hectares, the family home is a little small; so it’s a short walk back down to the main road to find the real work going on.

The cuverie and cave is a large building on the main road that was purchased from La Reine Pedauque around 1989, indeed the rooms above are still used by Pedauque. When I visited in January Jean-Marc was busy in the cuverie putting wine into bottle while Hugues (above – posing by the Savigny vines behind the family house) talked me through the domaine’s wines.

Despite being one of my ‘Dijon School’, Hugues actually didn’t study at Dijon; he studied and worked in Beaune and Australia. Hugues maintains that his most important ‘school’ was his father Jean-Marc. The emphasis for this domaine is the work in the vineyard right from a green harvest to reduce yields to their lutte raisonnée approach. Grapes are harvested manually and go through 5 days of cold (~14°C) maceration before a ‘traditional’ cuvaison of 12-15 days. They are not completely dogmatic in their approach, and should a wine need filtering or fining then it will be done.

This domaine is right at the top of the price/quality curve, bottling 8 different wines:

Cuvée Owned Comments
Savigny-Lès-Beaune – Rouge 5 ha 35 ~25,000 bottles
Savigny-Lès-Beaune – Blanc 0 ha 84 ~5,000 bottles from 1:1 55 and 15 year old vines
Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Les Peuillets 0 ha 45 ~2,700 bottles from average 55 year old vines
Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Aux Guettes 1 ha 48 ~8,200 bottles from average 25 year old vines
Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Les Narbantons 0 ha 36 ~2,000 bottles from average 80 year old vines
Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Aux Gravains 0 ha 60 ~3,500 bottles from 1/3 13 and 2/3 80 year old vines
Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er La Dominode 2 ha 22 ~12,000 bottles from a mix of 10, 30 & 80 (45%) year-old vines
Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Les Vergelesses 0 ha 61 ~3,500 bottles from average 28 year old vines
Their wines

The wines that follow were tasted in January 2004, and at around 12°C only gradually expressed their potential as they warmed in the glass.

2002 Savigny-Lès-Beaune
Most of the vines are in Guettotes close to the 1er Cru Aux Guettes. A bright, medium cherry-red colour. A greeting of bright and pure red cherries on the nose. This purity is equally obvious on the palate, red-shaded fruit that shows good concentration. Plenty of structure, the ripe tannins adhere to your gums and teeth. Lovely balancing acidity. A fresh complexion to this very-good villages
2002 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Les Peuillets
From terre-rouge, the vineyard is full of small stones, this cuvée typically sees around 10% new oak. Similar intensity of colour, but a deeper shade. The nose is also a little deeper, gently supported by some oak. Finer tannins and an extra dimension of complexity. Lovely acidity pushed the finish much longer than that of the villages. Very well balanced.
2002 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Aux Guettes
Pronounced ‘Gets’, the shallow soil is quite rich and full of chalky stones. A little more (20%) new oak is used in the elevage. Just a little deeper colour again. The nose is primary showing real depth – cherry/kirsch. A denser expression in the mouth, tighter too. Whilst the previous wine was a little fresher, this is all-round more profound. The dryish tannin clings to your lips. Finishing strongly, this is a real vin-de-garde, and very good it is too.
2002 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er La Dominode
Thirty percent new oak for the elevage of this wine. A bright, medium cherry-red colour. The nose seems a little tighter than the Aux Guettes, but still manages to show an extra depth and width. A little extra fat on this round and concentrated palate the fruit guards well the tannic structure- a real extra level of complexity on the finish. Lovely wine.
2001 Savigny-Lès-Beaune
Medium cherry-red with a little fading at the rim. The fruit on the nose is less primary, showing a more raisin aspect. Similar fruit on the palate, medium concentration but very well crafted. The finish is super – good structure and excellent value.
2001 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Aux Guettes
Similar colour. The fruit is a little diffuse, but the panorama is much wider – even a little coffee. The concentration of the palate belies the colour, though it’s certainly a more elegant expression than the 2002 – today.
2001 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Les Gravains
Typically 25% new oak for the elevage. The soil is a mix of different sediments, including a little gravel. This wine has a younger colour than the previous two. The deep nose shows a little earth and much more primary fruit than the last two 2001′s. This is a wine of purity rather than force, very elegant too. A lovely wine.
2001 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er La Dominode
The colour is a little darker. The nose commences with primary cherry-fruit and only very slowly gives up additional complexity. [Hugues often fins the Dominode to be a 'simple' wine in it's youth] Seems fresher than the Gravains, primary and quite tight in the mouth, most of the complexity is found on the finish. This is quite elegant, and it’s interesting to contrast vs the extra bulk of the 2002.
1989 Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Les Gravains
A treat! Medium ruby-red. The nose is a lovely blend of confiture over soil – and that’s while the wine is still cold. Gorgeous, soft texture, real concentration and an almost caramel aspect. The tannins are still evident but they’re well to the background. A sneaky length that just builds with time. Jean-Marc bought these vines in 1988, and Hugues says that the ’88 was quite tanninc when young and is still a little hard – this, however, is just perfect now and there’s no rush.
2003 Savigny-Lès-Beaune Blanc
Actually contains some old-vines (50 yo) pinot blanc. Pale yellow colour. The nose bursts with melon, pineapple and green-apple skin. Some fat, and despite a mouthwatering finish, my taste begs more acidity. Whilst quite simple in the mouth there’s a really engaging and long finish.

Domaine Pavelot, Jean-Marc et Hugues
1 Chemin des Guettottes
21420 Savigny-Lès-Beaune
+33 3 80 21 55 21 – tel
+33 3 80 21 59 73 – fax

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