Domaine Pierre Naigeon Fixin 1er Cru 'Les Hervelets' 2019
Let's turn to the 'lesser-know appellations'. Pierre has a few gems up to the north of Gevrey, and once again this year we chose his Fixin 1er Cru 'Les Hervelets'. Always a masterpiece wine. Such a wonderful vineyard. It's different for other Fixin in that its soil is kimmeridgian clay...the same soil that Chablis premier cru is grown on. And year in year out it infuses this parcel with a finesse and a freshness that's almost indescribable. It's chocolate covered black cherries, if you are looking for a snapshot of the attack. And long, long long.
DOMAINE PIERRE NAIGEON
The Domaine Naigeon, though old by even Burgundy standards, remained fairly small until the present generation. Shortly after 1945 Pierre Naigeon gave his name to the domain that is now managed by his grandson, also named Pierre. Until 2005 the domain consisted of two hectares of two grands crus, Charmes-Chambertin and Bonnes-Mares! In 2006, Domaine Pierre Naigeon dramatically increased its size with the addition of 9 hectares of vineyards in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits and Gevrey Chambertin area.
It was at this stage that Elden Wine first met and presented Pierre Naigeon’s wines, being one of the first in the US to do so.
The Domaine is now more than 11.5 hectares (almost 28 acres), with 50 different plots in the Côte de Nuits. The vines of Domaine Pierre Naigeon average 50 years of age. This is considered quite remarkable in Burgundy, and ensures consistently low yielding vines producing high quality wines.
Aside from the domain-owned vineyards, Pierre Naigeon also sources high quality fruit from various parts of Burgundy including many of the most prestigious appellations of the Côte de Nuits and Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune. An impressive range of wines is produced including 3 Grands Crus, 6 Premiers Crus and 8 Villages. The Domain now produces more than 25 different single vineyard wines.
The wines are vinified and bottled separately, following traditional practices, without fining and filtration, to keep the pure expression of the terroir.
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
Mazys Chambertin Grand Cru
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Cazetiers »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Lavaux Saint Jacques »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Fontenys »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Perrières »
Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru « Les Cherbaudes »
Fixin Premier Cru « Les Hervelets »
Gevrey Chambertin « En Vosne »
Gevrey Chambertin « Echezeaux »
Gevrey Chambertin « Les Crais »
Gevrey Chambertin « Les Corvées »
Morey Saint Denis « Les Herbuottes »
Fixin « Les Herbues »
Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits
Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Bourgogne Pinot Noir « Les Maladières »
Bourgogne Passetoutgrain « La Riotte »
Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru « Les Embrazées »
Puligny Montrachet « Les Reuchaux »
Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits
Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire Chardonnay & Pinot Beurot
So that the grapes are picked at the optimum stage of ripeness, particular care is given to vineyard work throughout the year.
Manual pruning, using the "Guyot" method (cane pruning), takes place in March and early April. Minimal use of organic fertilizer combined with older vine age, naturally limits grape yield. The weed population is limited by cultivating the soil, which eliminates the use of chemical herbicides. Only organic products are used to protect the vines against insects. These beliefs and practices are enforced to ensure a sustainable philosophy, producing natural wines and protecting the environment for future generations.
Specific attention is paid to crop yields, with the use of shoot thinning, bunch thinning and ‘green harvest’ if required. It is considered optimal that the vines carry five to six bunches prior to harvest.
Since the 2002 harvest, Domaine Pierre Naigeon has been using flat bins (similar to those used in Burgundy's most famous domain situated in Vosne-Romanée). The grape pickers simply place the grapes in these cases without first putting them in a basket as is done traditionally. Each shallow case can contain only one layer of grapes thus avoiding crushing, hence juice oxidation. Care is taken to ensure the cases are never placed on the ground before reaching the sorting table, limiting contamination. Moreover, the cases are latticed to allow damaged fruit, rainwater or dew to drain off. Only rigorously selected, undamaged fruit is vinified in the vats.
The vinification takes place in two phases; a 5 to 10 day cold maceration period (12 to 15°C) followed by an alcoholic fermentation, by the natural grape yeasts. This second phase lasts around two weeks under controlled temperatures.
Once the fermentation is completed, the wine is put into oak barrels in the cellar. The proportion of new oak varies according to the year and appellation. The pressing of fermented skins is carried out using a pneumatic press, which ensures gentle extraction of desirable tannins to ensure the structure associated with great Burgundy.
During the maturation in oak barrels the wine is racked once after the malolactic fermentation. This involves the malic acid being converted to lactic acid, decreasing total acidity and resulting in a more balanced wine.
Barrel ageing lasts between 12 and 22 months. Once a week each barrel is topped (ouillage) to preserve the freshness and prevent oxidation of the wine.
Wine is tasted and assessed regularly during barrel maturation and is bottled according to moon phases. The bottling is done traditionally, without fining or filtration, directly from each cask with a "two-nosed goat", a stainless steel tap with two openings. Corks are inserted with a hand-operated corking machine. Only two barrels a day (600 bottles) are bottled.
White wine fermentations are natural, without the addition of cultured yeasts. The whites are raised on the lees for between 12 and 15 months in 20-30% new oak, with regular batonnage (stirring of the lees). Red wine fermentations are natural, without the addition of cultured yeasts, in thero-regulated tanks. 15-20 days vatting time. They are then raised 15 and 18 months in 30% new oak.
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
COTE DE NUITS
You can see the upper reaches of the Fixin vineyards as you leave Dijon heading south. Only the vines of Marsannay separate Fixin from the modern commercial zone that sprawls out into the plain. And along with Marsannay, Fixin seems at times to have lost its identity in the hub-bub of suburbia. For some reason these appellations are seen as the rustic cousin of Gervey-Chambertin. But look closely and carefully and you will find not only substance and tradition, but also some interesting undiscovered gems.
Fixin is a ‘village’ appellation of the Côte de Nuits. This appellation includes 6 Premiers Crus Wines from within the area of this appellation (including the villages of Fixin and Brochon) may also be known as Cote de Nuits-Villages.
Fixin produces mostly red wines from Pinot Noir but there are some plots of Chardonnay. The reds are generally considered ‘gutsy’ and require some aging before opening. They can be a deep purple color, but more modern wines tend to a classic Burgundy ruby or garnet. The nose is floral, often violet (not unlike wines from further south in the Cotes de Beaune). There are classic Burgundy blackcurrant and black cherry fruits, and the nuttiness of cherry pits. They are often marked with animal and peppery notes. Usually considered to be tannic and hard in their youth, but this is a function of the winemaking and use of oak. With age Fixins have a rounded attack and solid structure, with remarkable fullness and surprising finesse.
Fixin is very similar in soil make-up to Gevrey-Chambertin, but lower, and with more alluvial soil in the lower reaches. The premier cru parcels are on homogenous brown limestone with east to south-east exposures at 350 to 380 meters of altitude. In some spots the soil is more marly. The remaining plots are on lower ground at the foot of the slopes and the soil is a mixture of limestone and marl.
Reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Area under production
1 hectare (ha) = 10,000 m2 = 2.4 acres
Reds : 91,76 ha (including 17.12 ha Premier Cru)
Whites : 4,25 ha (including 0.5 ha Premier Cru)
Red wines dominate appellation Fixin, and these are generally muscular wines with a tannic structure that make them ideal for braised meats, roast pork, beef rib, or traditional stewed poultry like coq au vin. Cheese combos tend towards hard mountain gruyere or comte. Rarer white Fixin partners well with the Burgundian specialty of cold-cuts like jambon persillé, as well as with firm-textured goat cheeses.
On the label, the appellations 'Fixin' and 'Fixin 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de la Perrière
Clos du Chapitre
Le Meix Bas
The following climats are village wines from a single-vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
Aux Petits Crais
Champs de Vosger
En Combe Roy
La Croix Blanche
Le Poirier Gaillard
Les Basses Chenevières
Les Champs des Charmes
Les Champs Tions
Les Crais de Chêne