Florence and François de Nicolay, and Claude de Nicolay-Drouhin – the next generation staying the background…
A lovely opportunity on a Spring-like day in March 2012 to visit the team in Savigny-lès-Beaune, and at the same time to have a mini vertical of two iconic (to me anyway!) wines from the domaine: The Ile des Vergelesses rouge and the Corton Blanc. But before we start, why not take the opportunity to have a walk around the special gardens?
I was really looking forward to this tasting: Twenty years ago Chandon de Briailles would have been in anybody’s list of top domaines, but whilst staying genuine to its own style, maybe it had progressed less quickly than than its peers. Has that been recognised? Maybe; the vineyards had been well-managed for a long time, but I have the impression that, if nothing else, the average age of the wood in the cellar has decreased a little in the last half-dozen years…
The Ile des Vergelesses is (in Pernand-Vergelesses terms) a quasi-Grand Cru – it has a depth and complexity that is often augmented with a cushioned texture from its tannins – the Chandon de Brialles bottling fits exactly to this template. The domaine’s Corton Blanc is something more of an exception I feel; many white Corton – i.e. not Corton-Charlemagne – have heft / weight of extract (call it what you will) that is absolutely of Grand Cru proportion, but this weight is rarely carried in an effortless way – and that’s because there is rarely the underlying acidity to acheive balance. The Chandon de Briailles wine is also a wine that you would never call ‘racy’, but it is delivered with an understated balance – I always look forward to it.
Well, that was my impression before I tasted anyway!
Not yet bottled, but assembled and in tank awaiting its day. Such a shame, the wine rebelling, it’s aromatically very shy. In the mouth this a wide panorama of a wine with a subtle texture and a lovely balance – indeed poise! No heavyweight but immaculately presented.
Francois has decided ‘why not?’ with this wine. Also in tank. There’s a lovely blast of red fruit aromas before it tightens, and then opens again with some floral stems – this wine is playing with us. Fine sweetness from equally fine fruit, clearly with an extra power after the 2010 ‘Ile’.
Beautifully perfumed red fruit that, reminiscent of the 2010 Corton, fades in and out. Round with a little prickle to the structure (a hint of CO2 perhaps). There is a lot of wine here, certainly more apparent extraction than the 2010 so I think it will need more cellar time.
The aromas offer density with exuberance, perhaps it’s a little tight – like many 05s. There’s nothing tight about the flavours – here is a real mouthful, with many dimensions – very good intensity as the flavour grows and grows. For all the intensity this is a very primary, young wine, there’s not even a hint of development. Tightens a little more with time in the glass.
This wine offers up a wonderful red-fruited perfume over a depth of mineral notes. The aromas remain quite young though there is a hint of aromatic maturity starting to creep in. Ripe fruit, the texture starting quite silky and the intensity is very good. The finishing flavours have left the fruit behind and concentrate on the wine’s mineral aspects. Fine but young.
Here’s the first wine with a little undergrowth to augment the fruit on the nose – the aromas seem almost textured – lovely. A width of flavour supported by velvet tannin and then augmented by an extra dimension of flavour and complexity in the mid-palate. It seems the domaine’s ‘Ile’ needs twenty years to start to deliver the benefits of some maturity, yet this wine will be even better in another 10 years I think.
There is a depth of fruit flavour, yet the fruit has an intriguing halo of flavour to it – compelling but then clearly lacking precision. Here is a wine of excellent balance; whilst it’s not exactly fresh, it is certainly mellow and contemplative. Don’t take that as a criticism, it works just as it is, and I’ve no need of more acidity.
Here is a similar depth of fruit on the nose as the 2010, a few flashes of gunflint too, however, the ‘halo’ of the 2010 fruit has developed to become a slightly creamy coating. Very silky, with an extra dimension of fruit that is reminiscent of a Côte de Beaune Grand Cru.
Super aromatic depth again; initially brown sugar and molasses, then hints of lanolin and a note that hovers between gunflint and iodine. There is surprisingly little texture (for a 1992), unlike the 2006 (today!), here is the lithe minerality of the hill of Corton. Lovely understated acidity. A super wine to sip and sniff!
I remember older reds and whites (1980’s) followed those noted above – but we were in ‘social mode’ by then – so there are no ‘recordings’!
Ile des Vergelesses is a wine that is clearly the king of Pernand labels and it can easily be seen in all the producers’ wines. It seems to me that the Chandon de Briailles example is exceptional – perhaps because of the use of stems, perhaps because there is a strong extraction, or more likely the combination – in that you have to wait longer to see the development of complexity and the character if ‘Iles’ than is typical with other producers. That’s not a criticism, only an observation, but it implies that these wines may also have a longer life – though perhaps that’s an extrapolation too far!
The domaine’s Corton Blanc is also exceptional, but for a different reason. For my own palate the majority of Corton Blancs (i.e. not Corton-Charlemagne) struggle for balance – despite concentration and power they often lack the balancing acidity for ‘grace’. The wine of Chandon de Briailles, whilst not an advert for super-freshness is a wine of balance and poise that seems to become more mineral with age.