Profile: Domaine Antoine & Rachel Olivier (Santenay)

Update 15.9.2011(14.9.2011)billn

This family domaine was founded in the 1960s and used to be based in Santenay-le-Haut, but moved in 2007 into part of the old premises of Vincent Girardin. These ‘new’ premises had lain empty between 2002 and 2007 in Santenay-le-Bas – just a few metres down the Chassagne road from Santenay’s main square. The extra space enabled Antoine Olivier to change how we worked, because due to lack of space in Santenay-le-Haut he had to bottle his whites before the next harvest, now they can have a full eighteen months, if he wants.

Selling through wine-fairs since 1983, “it’s so last century!” jokes Antoine, means that more than 50% of sales remain in France – mainly to private customers but the number of cavistes and agents are expanding. The wine-fairs was actually my introduction to the domaine; I bought some 2002 Beaurepaire, but last touch with my plan to make a follow-up visit, at least until another fair where I bought some 2008s – then I remembered!

When Antoine started working with his father and sister the domaine was over 16 hectares, but only about 50% was commercialised – roughly 45 thousand bottles – because the balance was sold to the négoce. When his father retired the domaine was split between him and his sister so he was working just over 8 hectares but commercializing all. In 2005 with his wife he decided to start a négoce operation, their objective was to reach 100k production (bottles); the market between 2006-2008 was favourable and receptive to their wines, but in January 2009 everything stopped – “that January we sold only 600 bottles in the whole month compared to 10-12 thousand per month at the end of 2008.” This was when the cuvée ‘Temps du C(e)rises’ first saw light – not just a play on words, but a great bottle in its own right. Last year the domaine commercialised 120 thousand bottles.

As you can see above, Antione was part of a witty troop of Burgundians – with beards – who descended on the Bordeaux wine fair this year – selling sand to the arabs 😉 You may also recognise Thibault Marion in the picture.

The domaine’s production is currently equally split between red and white wine, but having just planted new vines, the split will be more like 60:40 (white:red) by 2016. Antoine has just rented a relatively large vineyard in Rully – 1.3 hectares which will be for whites. Antoine smiles; “I’m drinking more red wines but I like to produce whites!” Producing about 40k bottles, Antoine is actually the largest producer of Santenay Blanc. He loves his whites after 10-12 years, much preferring them to young bottles – so far he’s had no bad experiences keeping those bottles.

The weather has made life quite difficult for all the growers in Santenay in the last few years; 75% of Antoine’s whites were lost in 2005 because of hail in Santenay. In fact Antoine notes “Between 2003-2010 we have lost the volume of two complete harvests – so we effectively had only the bottles of 6 vintages to sell, not 8.

Vines and wines

If the weather has not been particularly helpful, it doesn’t seem to have affected the winemaking – there were multiple wine-making medals for the domaine this year, including the Decanter wine challenge and the International Wine Challenge – one wine being awarded a special trophy for being one of the top 100 tasted – from 12,000.

Although they have been working in almost the same style ‘for years’ (i.e. minimum amounts of synthetic treatments), only in 2011 are the vines fully organic – or at least only sulfur and copper were used in the vines. Antoine likes to call these natural wines, so no yeasts or enzymes, but with a smile he says ‘but I always use sulfur!’

In the cuverie “I’m always using some whole clusters in my reds” says Antoine, though not in the ‘easy-drinking’ cuvée of ‘Temps de C(e)rises’ which he recommends drinking in its first three years. There is always a period of cool maceration – which is as important operationally as it is to the wine – tanks can be left unguarded while the rest of the grapes are brought in. Vinifications were close to 30 days in 2007 and 2008 but closer to 20 in 2009. Less pigeage too, some of his reds in 09 had only half a dozen pigeages.

There is no fining or filtration for reds.

The whites are pressed, allowed to settle overnight and then racked into barrels – all in Santenay-les-Haut – but that’s about 40 barrels per day which needs about 6-7 hours, and throughout the harvest too. Some are bottled in screw-caps.

Domaine Antoine & Rachel Olivier Santenay
3 Bis Route de Chassagne
21590 Santenay
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 20 61 35
Fax: +33 (0)3 80 20 64 82

The wines

Tasted in Santenay with Antoine, 18th May 2011. Everything here was already bottled. These are tasty, relatively elegant renditions of Santenay (and Savigny and Chassagne!) but lose nothing in terms of concentration or clarity. A fine address in Santenay…

2009 Olivier, Santenay Les Temps de C(e)rises
From four different plots of vines made with about 20% new oak. This was planned as a one-off cuvée in the financial crisis as an easy drinking wine – but customer took to it very well, so…Medium colour. Clean, dark cherry on the nose – fine. Medium weight with a lovely clean intensity – very nice wine.

2009 Olivier, Santenay Les Charmes
Made with 50% whole clusters, from a single vineyard just under Clos Rousseau in the west of Santenay.Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose seems a red-cherry compote. Fuller with lots of interesting and intense flavour – lovely length too. A wine with a very well managed structure – excellent quality.

2009 Olivier, Santenay 1er Beaurepaire
Medium, medium-plus colour. This also shows a dark cherry fruit but coupled to higher-toned violet notes. Again there is intensity and very pretty, mouth-watering fruit. A good increase of flavour in the mid-palate and finally just a little strawberry in the finish. Excellent.

2009 Olivier, Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Liards
Producing since 2006, this is the first vintage that Antoine is happy with. The aromas are completely different – wider and less deep. There is plenty of velvet tannin and a lovely fresh fruit flavour – that said the structure is appreciable – today at least.

2009 Olivier, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Les Peuillets
Medium-plus colour. Darker, deeper aromas. Full and wide – again with plenty of velvet tannin but with more depth of fruit. Very serious wine here. The aroma from the last drops of wine were much redder…

2009 Olivier, Bourgogne Chardonnay
Nice high-toned chardonnay. Full, plenty of peachy fruit flavours with a good lingering acidity.

2009 Olivier, Santenay Les Coteaux Sous la Roche (blanc)
Medium colour. Hints of toasted bread on the nose, hints of cream too. Fine balance, depth of flavour and decently intense too – once more with a suggestion of cream.

2009 Olivier, Santenay 1er Beaurepaire (blanc)
Hints of warm fruit and Chassagne-style herbs. Intense, sweet and just slightly heavy – but the flavours are long and finally a decent acidity kicks in delivering a nice balance to the finish.

2009 Olivier, Santenay Bievaux (blanc)
Medium-pale colour. Lovely density coupled to equally lovely acidity – the intensity grows and grows – there’s a lovely mid-palate peak too. I like this a lot.

2009 Olivier, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Morgeot (blanc)
High-toned, completely different aromas, framed with Chassagne herbs. This is longer and rounder and whilst balanced I have a slight preference for the river of acidity that runs through the Bievaux.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There is one response to “Profile: Domaine Antoine & Rachel Olivier (Santenay)”

  1. meyerwire15th July 2015 at 3:45 amPermalinkReply

    Had a 1996 Beaurepaire (blanc) in London -in 1998. Superb! Want to visit this august!

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