Domaine Pierre Naigeon Gevrey-Chambertin 'En Sylvie' 2019
The Gevrey-Chambertin 'En Sylvie' (another single vineyard) is flowers and lace. What finesse and elegance. Open, opulent, rich and running on all cylinders. Like all great Gevrey: a fist in a velvet glove.
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
The vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin swirl around the mouth of the Combe de Lavaux, a cleft in the hillside that has been eroding limestone slurry into the plains around the village of Gevrey for a geological epoch. Few appellations in Burgundy break down so neatly into zones: north of the combe lie most of the premier cru vineyards. The 9 grand cru vineyards are on the other side of the combe to the south. There are some good premiers crus in this sector as well, but they tend to be on the edges of the grands crus. Logically then, there are several different zones of village wine production, some very interesting, some (especially to the east) not.
Produced in the communes of Gevrey-Chambertin and Brochon, the appellation Gevrey-Chambertin includes 26 premiers crus. The commune of Gevrey-Chambertin also produces 9 grands crus.
In youth Gevrey-Chambertin is usually a bright ruby color, turning more black cherry with age. Strawberry and cherry fruits, violet and rose floral notes are common in the early days. Maturity brings out liquorice, leather and fur and hints of that Pinot underbrush. Youthful firm structure gives way to velvety tannins and delicate texture. Gevrey is what great burgundy should be: powerful, rich, and meaty. They can often be when drunk young to appreciate the fruit, but really these are wines for aging, often for long periods.
The grands crus sit on the eddys of the combe , with thin soils on crinoidal limestone; while most of the premiers crus occupy the upper portion of the Côte at heights of between 280 and 380 meters on shallow red limestone soils. Below them are the village appellation vines on brown limey soils. There are also marls covered with screes and red silt that have washed down from above the combe. These stony mixtures can produce elegant wine while the clayey marls, which contain rich deposits of fossilized shell-fish, add body and firmness. Exposures vary from east to south-east.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
409.65 ha (including 80.46 ha premier cru)
Massive yet velvety, the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin should show power and structure, and should age admirably. This is a wine for meat-eaters. As it evolves, its gamey notes becomes a match for game, feathered or furred. It also goes superbly with rib steak, lamb, and fibrous meats, that need marinating or braising. It goes well with all the Burgundian strong cow-milk cheeses, in particular Époisses and Ami du Chambertin, and of course with the creamy purity of a Cîteaux.
On the label, the appellations Gevrey-Chambertin and Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru may be followed by the name of the specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos des Varoilles
Clos du Chapitre
Combe au Moine
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Champerrier du Bas
Champerrier du Dessus
Combe de Lavaux
Combes du Bas
Combes du Dessus
Croix des Champs
Le Carré Rougeaud
Les Champs Perriers
Les Jeunes Rois
Meix des Ouches
Puits de la Baraque