Tasted with Philippe Pacalet in Beaune, 12 May 2015.
SAS Philippe Pacalet
12 rue de Chaumergy
Tel: +33 3 80 25 91 00
Philippe Pacalet’s operation is nestled in buildings just a stone-throw away from the Beaune train station. I noted not just the ping-pong table, but also a number of references to the old producer ‘Poulet Père’ – a label I think owned by Louis Max in Nuits – apparently Poulet, who existed since 1747, were latterly housed in these very same. The cellars are much more extensive underground, versus the footprint of the building – not an uncommon thing in Burgundy, where cellars are, in their own right, often for sale. I read that Philippe bought these buildings from the de Montille family…
Philippe is Burgundian, but from a little further south than Beaune – he is the nephew of Marcel Lapierre, a renowned ‘natural’ winemaker from the Beaujolais. Philippe worked together (in the Beaujolais) with Jules Chauvet, who some consider to be a father-figure of the ‘natural wine movement’ from 1986 until Chauvet’s death in 1989. In 1991 Philippe jumped from Beaujolais to become winemaker at Domaine Prieuré-Roch in Nuits St.Georges, he stayed here until 1999. Afterwards he began his journey with his négoce label, while also making the wines for and with the Sabre family in Beaune. Philippe’s first vintage under his own name was 2001.
I ask Philippe if he is fully négoce or… to which he responds ”On paper, we are 100% negoce.” That sounds rather cagey, but essentially he rents vineyards or has (he hopes) long-term contracts with growers. Vineyard work and treatments are, as much as possible, down to him and his team.
Maison Philippe Pacalet currently produces about 60,000 bottles – though we shouldn’t forget that 2014 was very low yielding in some places. Philippe began with a little over 20,000 in his first vintage, 2001.
The wines are 80% exported, the largest market is Japan, though there are also good sales in France. For the 2014 vintage there will be 30 cuvees, of which about 80% by volume are red.
Today was a day to look at the embryonic 2014s, so some notes are a little short.
Philippe on 2014:
2014 is a bit like 2002 or 2010 – classic and structured – though we’ve had lots of good years recently – that’s very different when compared to the 1980s when I started, back then we’d be happy with 2 good vintages in a decade!
2013 has a hint of grenache flavour – like 78 – just a hint…
I found Philippe rather guarded in his commentary to start with, but he really opened up as we progressed through barrels, becoming quite jokey. Philippe prefers whole clusters for his reds, and avoids the use of sulfur early in his elevage. The approach to elevage adapts to the vintage and raw materials, but usually lasts about 14-18 months. He uses a melange of coopers, though usually buys from Chassin when he’s replacing older barrels…
Returning to his ‘low use’ of sulfur, Philippe expands with a joke. ”It’s true, I don’t use a lot of sulfur – why? Because it’s expensive! – I prefer to sell wine not sulfur. Of-course, I’m joking, but I still prefer to sell wine than preservatives, but there has to be a balance, as some people take it too far and sell wine-vinegar, not wine.”
From Vaumoriens and Les Trois Follots. Given the hail, obviously not so much this year. 100% whole cluster fermented, with elevage in 1-5 year-old barrels – mainly newer.
Intense nose with faint malo aromas. Sweet and round in the mouth.
A blend Combottes and Derrière la Four.
More weight of aroma and a core of ripeness. Big, round, a little silky too – a big weight of intense flavour. Really good length too…
From 2 parcels; one under Les St.Georges, the other nearer to Vosne-Romanée.
Tight aromas but a good line of flavour – indeed, super extra mid-palate flavour here – I find this already a super wine.
Philippe’s biggest cuvée at ~10k bottles. ‘The produce of 5 vineyards that represent a good mix of Gevrey’s terroirs.’
Again, modest aromas, even half tight. Here is a more direct line of flavour.
Here, there should be a Pommard 1er Cru – but all was lost in 2014…
Fine, tight but with weight to the aromas too. Lovely dimension of fine flavour plus complexity, lovely length too – really super!
2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
A mix of Gruenchers and Feuselottes.
Delicate and complex though still rather tight. Silky, with very good dimension of complexity, versus the Beaune there’s more structure in finish, but this is extremely composed – yum
2014 Nuits St.Georges 1er Les Argillas
A rather tight nose. Faint gas. Direct, more structure, but tasty, mouth-watering flavour – dark fruit here.
2014 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Perrières
A more obvious coconut oak on this nose. Too much gas today, but a fine complexity here, backed again by some coconut flavour.
2014 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Lavaux St.Jacques
Fresher, wider notes. Too much gas today and also plenty of coconut here too.
2014 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Belair
Bright, round strawberry, whole-cluster fruit. Again much gas, but really a super dimension of mid-palate flavour. This seems fresh and super!
2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Aux Sentiers
Vines next to Bonnes-Mares.
Modest aroma, with a sweet core. More weight and silk in the mid-palate, faint furry tannin too. The first wine that offers a real grand cru impression.
Fresh, pretty aromas. Lots of gas, but really a clear extra mid-palate intensity here. Long and sweetly fresh…
From 2 parcels in Clos St.Denis.
Sweetly silky but tight as most here are. Structured, with growing ripe tannin but a line of fine fresh flavour through the middle. Yum
2014 Clos de Vougeot
First time with this wine. Old vines from the Vosne-Romanée side, near Grands-Echézeaux.
Tight but detailed. Rounder, silky, fine weight, excellent growth of flavour. Less obviously structured vs Echézeaux.
In a demi-muid.
A more finished nose that’s both complex, and a little stemmy – but without becoming gothic. Some gas, but fresh, and the flavour grows and grows. Not the roundness of the Clos de Vougeot, rather a wine that opens more and more – a wide wine – very good if today not profound…
Philippe also has a Cornas; it’s almost black, also made with stems – there’s some aroma from that… Very silky, and very lovely I must say.
Next we move to the separate white-wine barrel cellar.
“Whites are like patisserie, whilst the reds are more like cuisine – the whites are more capricious.” Philippe’s eyes light up talking about his whites – “Superb but complicated” he says. Today I agree – complicated! Very young, often unformed wines here today.
Vines in Puligny.
Deep, ripe aromas. Starts soft, finishes detailed and precise – yum!
The most forward of the aromatics. Growing freshness. Some sucrosity and a very nice line of intense flavour. Very yum!
The aromatics are not yet set, also flavour… Then Philippe notes that there is still some sugar here…
Cloudy, but this has very, very nice potential…
Faint reduction, but lots of flavour complexity.
Fresh, direct, lots of finishing flavour, very good weight of flavour here. Still not easy to taste, but I’m sure it will be good.