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(NOTE: Chambers Street Wines is extremely proud to present another article by our good friend and neighbor at Racines NY, Pascaline Lepeltier. In 2014, Pascaline passed the Master Sommelier Diploma, and in 2018, she won 2 more major titles in her homeland: she is now a laureate of “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France - Sommellerie” and Best French Sommelier 2018. In January 2019, the famous French magazine La Revue du Vin de France awarded her “Personality of the Year 2019," the first woman to be given this prestigious recognition.)
The first time I tasted a wine by Claire Naudin I knew I was enjoying something special. Alice Feiring told me I had to try - she was back from a trip in Burgundy researching about Aligoté and visited her. I found a bottle of her Clou 34 2010, and indeed it was a show stopper: soft and deep, with a determined restraint, that bottle was asking me to focus, to appreciate its charm, its delicacy, its layers. The way she had preserved these old vine Aligotés and captured them in a bottle was remarkable. Since then, I have been following Claire with attention: the red may have been a little too oaky and austere for me originally, but since 2015 they reached a superb level of refinement without losing their depth, while the whites continue to gain in density. All in all, Claire Naudin makes today some really beautiful Burgundies - in an area rarely talked about, if even known at all, by wine lovers: les Hautes-Côtes.
Les Hautes-Côtes was often pejoratively referred to in the past as “Arrières-Côtes” (the back Côtes). What an interesting twist of fate that this region located above the prestigious, world-famous Côte d’Or is today becoming a hot-bed of experimental, deeply interesting and yet still affordable wines in a region where prices - for a bottle or a piece of land - are getting totally out of reach for most. Leading the pack high up is without a doubt Claire, who is redefining what this area is about. Down the street from the old Jayer-Gilles estate, she is running one of the largest domains of Magny-lès-Villers, with 22 ha of planted vineyards. You probably never heard about Magny, a tiny village located just above the Corton triumvirat of Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton and Ladoix-Serrigny (in the Côte-de-Beaune) and the tail of the Côte-de-Nuits. Interesting fact, the commune is where the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune AND Haute-Côtes de Nuits meet: Claire has some plots touching each other, but belonging to one or the other AOC, which can be confusing when tasting the range of wines! It was not easy to arrive at the quality level she produces today. Since 1994 when Claire officially took over the domain from her father, so much was accomplished both in the cellar and of course in the vineyards. But the result is undeniable: Claire Naudin is a not to be missed producer of superb terroir-driven Burgundy, and we are very happy to offer some of them today!
Les Hautes-Côtes are not not one homogeneous area: split between the larger Hautes-Côtes de Beaune (29 communes) and the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits (16 communes), these vineyards are located on three main areas separated by higher plateaus covered by forests and cereal fields. It is a landscape of polyculture: depending on the most valuable markets, agricultural practices changed from cereals to cattle to more recently fruit trees, especially blackcurrants. At this altitude, between 290 to 500 meters, the vineyards were historically planted for the most part on the south-southeast facing slopes of the valleys cut into the Jurassic limestone & marls, covered by sandstone and clay from the Trias. When you pick up a bottle of Hautes-Côtes, always look at the location, and relate it to the closest commune in the Côte to have an idea of the style: Claire for example in Magny is between Corgoloin, Ladoix & Pernand.
From the microclimate to the landscape to the culture, it is such a different world from the Côte itself, even though these two regions are touching each other! The Hautes-Côtes’ vineyards almost disappeared after phylloxera. They were saved by a couple of passionate growers who pushed and obtained the AOC in 1961. Introduced in 1962, the Lanz-Mozer planting technique (high-wired vines with low density of plantation) is still quite present in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits side, way less in the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune side. Thanks to their altitude and the affordability of the land, the Hautes-Côtes are becoming a center of interests for winemakers and drinkers alike: the climatic evolutions allow now for a regular crop of very good ripeness, and their potential is still undiscovered. Claire’s wines are a proof of this evolution.
Claire is a very thoughtful, sensitive, and determined vigneronne. One must possess all of these qualities to successfully take over a family estate. Since the 16th century, the Naudins have lived and worked in the region cultivating vineyards. Wine runs in the family blood! The current estate was built little by little by Claire’s great-grand-parents, grand-parents and parents as they slowly stopped their other agricultural activities to focus solely on wine. Polyculture was the economic reality of this part of Burgundy (see below). Magny was the epicenter of their vineyards sites due to logistic necessities - buying land down on the Côte itself meant too long of a distance by horse to properly work the vines. In 1964, Henri Naudin, Claire’s father, married Lilian Ferrand, creating the Henri Naudin-Ferrand label we know today. He bottled all his production, only estate, selling through a mailing list, something still quite rare in the area at that time, and really visionary. In 1990, the question of the succession came up: out of the three sisters, Claire decided to take over after studying oenology and agronomy. Aided by her father and her sisters, she discovered that running a tight business is as important and hard as trying to make the wines of her dream or converting the vineyard to sustainable and organic practices. This is a reality we tend to forget: being able to properly pay your staff, having a great supportive team, acquiring and financing the right equipment and of course dealing with the administration is as important in the success and the quality of a wine estate as farming. And things take time. Claire understood it, and in her own way, methodically, began to transform the domain. Modeled after the only viable economic example for the Hautes Côtes in the 1980’s - high-trained, widely-spaced vines to be able to work with a multi-purpose tractor, fertilizer and herbicides, machine-harvesting - the priority was to keep the vines viable while actively evolving technique. She started to work under the rows, discontinuing fungicide and pesticide, and has now adopted hand-harvesting. Same in the cellar-as she believes in “trials” - she tried a lot of modern extraction techniques before realizing she did not like the resulting wines, especially the dryness of the tannins. Tastings of DRC and Lalou Bize-Leroy were inspiring. As well as talking and exchanging with her husband Jean-Yves Bizot who makes very rare but absolutely worth seeking Pinots (it is fantastic to enjoy their conversation as I was lucky to do so one night at their dinner table!) She mustered the courage, and decided to use only whole-cluster for the Pinots, and diminish as much as possible the use of sulfur dioxide. She could start to taste the changes, especially after 2009- the different terroirs started to shine more and more.
In the Vineyard & the Cellar.
In the vineyard, 16 ha are planted “large” (widely spaced) and high-wired, the rest being the more traditional low vines, high density plantation (in the AOCs located in the Côte and the old vines). Typically large and high is not associated with quality but rather with high yield. Claire noticed how this technique counterbalanced the climatic changes - it mitigates the risk of losing the crop to frost, and in summer, the canopy helps for shade, decreasing the risk of burning the grapes. Her main goal for farming is to use lighter tractors to avoid compaction and to continue to increase biodiversity by ploughing less, replanting trees and leaving some vineyards in fallow. She is committed to reducing her use of copper and sulfur to the minimum. She sprays algae, especially Ascophyllum Nodosum, and is very happy with the result.
In the cellar, she continues to reduce the use of sulfur dioxide. Of course all fermentation is done with indigenous yeasts and bacteria. She experiments with coopers to find the right level of toast for a better oak integration. She looks for longer elevage without disturbing the wines. To avoid the oxidation of sulfur and filtration at bottling, she works by gravity, sometimes using nitrogen, and may leave a little CO2 for natural protection.
Today, she has a team of seven people working full time with her in the vines - most of which are rented from the family. The majority of the vineyards are in the Haute-Côtes, but she also has some plots located below in not too shabby areas :
In 1998, she began producing “alternative” cuvees with no sulfur during the vinification. This is where she experiments, and applies what she learned to the other wines. Most of these cuvées are named after flowers growing in their specific vineyards :
She also produces an outstanding Aligoté - Le Clou 34 - rom different plots of old vines (unfortunately, the oldest disappeared after the 2016 frost) and a terrific Passe-tout-grain, Omayga.
There are two ranges of wines: the classic (her regional, communal and crus cuvées) range where SO2 is used during vinification with parsimony, and the low-sulfur to no-sulfur range, when SO2 is just used at bottling. If the difference can be felt, both will please different palates! This is what I appreciate a lot with Claire: no dogma, trying to understand, observing, questioning. I can only encourage you to explore her wines, as she is offering a very unique interpretation of a very deserving part of Burgundy! Bravo Claire! (Wines arrive Thursday 8/20)
BiNaume is a project started by Claire Naudin and her husband Jean-Yves Bizot after the terrible 2016 frost where she lost a majority of her crop. Thanks to her agent in Paris, she met Florent Barichard from Les Terres d’Ocre, a domain located in Saint-Pourçain (once upon a time the most famous vineyard in France in the Allier department, thus the pun of the name). They started a collaboration. Claire hand-harvests some Gamay on granite and Pinot on lighter, sandy soil she vinifies back home - it is barely 2-3 hours drive. Both grapes are vinified whole-cluster in cement tank with no sulfur. For the Gamay, she pressed early in order to preserve the fruit, and aged the wine in cement dolia. The wine is bottled unfined unfiltered with a hint of sulfur dioxide at bottling. This is a perfect, over-delivering vin de soif! It is a crunchy expression of Gamay with more bite than its Beaujolais example. More wild strawberry and raspberry, more fennel and black pepper. The fresh tannins arouse the thirst, especially if you slightly chilled the bottle. A great summer wine with some nice layers! Serve it this summer with a panzanella salad, some pork ribs or smoked salmon. 100% Gamay. Pascaline Lepeltier
BiNaume is a project started by Claire Naudin and her husband Jean-Yves Bizot after the terrible 2016 frost where she lost a majority of her crop. Thanks to her agent in Paris, she met Florent Barichard from Les Terres d’Ocre, a domain located in Saint-Pourçain (once upon a time the most famous vineyard in France in the Allier department, thus the pun of the name). They started a collaboration. Claire hand-harvests some Gamay on granite and Pinot on lighter, sandy soil she vinifies back home - it is barely 2-3 hours drive. The Pinot is vinified whole-cluster with no extraction. Claire pressed early in order to preserve the fruit, and aged the wine in tank. The wine is bottled unfiltered with a hint of sulfur dioxide. La Plante d’à côté is a young Pinot Noir (planted in 2013) growing on sandy soil. It is a totally different expression than the other Pinots made by Claire: it is uplifted, juicy, soft! A really gourmandise, full of rose, raspberry, pink peppercorn. Tannins are very gentle, alcohol is low: just chill it and enjoy per se of with any type of summer salad, some grilled sea fish, some charcuterie. 100% Pinot Noir. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Le Clou 34 is the bottle of aligoté that will convince anyone about the true quality of this grape to express terroir and be age-worthy. For this wine, Claire Naudin uses her oldest plots - originally some were more than a hundred years old but she had to tear them off after the 2016 frost.. In 2018, the average age is a little younger than it used to be, but we are still talking about 60+ years old, and the core is still the plot that gave its name to the cuvée , a clos (also pronounced “clou”) planted in 1934. From this shallow top soil over limestone east exposed, the yields are naturally low, concentrating the berries. Too atypical to claim the Bourgogne Aligoté AOC, the wine is sold as a Vin de France… 2018 is a great vintage (even though not the easiest). Le Clou 34 is indeed superb. Quickly decanted (the wine is unfiltered, and may have a tiny bit of protective Co2) the wine shows an exuberant nose of gardenia, lime blossom, rhubarb. On the palate you get the refreshing zippiness of the grape, but with creaminess and texture: blind you could think of a great St Aubin, if it was not for that subtle note of almond so typical of Aligoté! Don’t hesitate to cellar it, up to 10 years. There is a lot happening in this wine. For pairing, a scallop crudo with almond milk emulsion and fig oil would be fantastic, but try it also with an asparagus risotto or a young goat cheese. 100% Aligoté. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop) is a new cuvée for Claire Naudin in her série “flower," her experimental range of wines where she does not use SO2, but a little at bottling if needed. Made from a .43 ha of 50 year-old Pinot Blanc Gouge (a mutation of Pinot Noir) from the Bellis plot, this cuvée is a first in 2016 as the Chardonnay did not bear fruit due to the frost. She isolated the Pinot Blanc, a project she had for a long time. Grown on a very shallow topsoil over Jurassic limestone, the berries are very concentrated, giving a wine with a lot of substance. Hand-harvested, slowly pressed and settled overnight, the wine is vinified and aged in used 228-l barrels. It is a tiny cuvée (1800 bottles or so). The wine is bottled in the Spring unfined and unfiltered. 2017 is the second vintage of this cuvée. Harvested one month earlier than the 2016, it is a more opulent variation, reminiscent of a lean Chassagne-Montrachet from the bottom part of the village. The nose has now a little reduced smokiness: you may want to decant. On the palate, despite the concentration, the energy is vibrant, with notes of lime blossom, pink grapefruit zest and salted cream. A great wine to enjoy now or over 10 years. Bottled with no sulfur, its precision is remarkable. It would make some terrific pairing with a razor-clam with lemon gremolata, some grilled summer squash and creamy cheese. 100% Pinot Gouge. Pascaline Lepeltier.
This is the last vintage for Claire’s Crémant… sadly it does not make financial sense for her to continue, so back up the truck for such a great value! A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligoté grown around Magny-lès-Villiers in the Hautes Côtes just above Pernand-Vergelesses, she collaborates for the prise-de-mousse with Parigot & Richard, a very serious sparkling producer in Savigny-lès-Beaune. The low yield (30 hl/ha) as well as the 18 months of tirage (an exceptional length for Crémant!) contribute to the quality of this wine: these are serious, vinous, creamy bubbles with texture and saltiness. In this disgorgement, the ripeness of the sunny 2018 vintage is perfectly handled. The nose has some hint of papaya, white peach and pretzel croissant, with the palate picking up a lot of lemon zest and wormwood. The unctuosity is light on its feet, and lingers. This is a fantastic value to impress Champagne lovers who enjoy the more powerful, broader style of the Aube. Pair it with some gougères with aged parmesan, a monkfish terrine or some sheep's milk ricotta filled gnocchi with bottarga and lemon. Pinot Noir / Chardonnay / Aligoté. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Clematis Vitalba is part of Claire Naudin’s série “flower”, her experimental range of wines where she does not use SO2, but at bottling if needed. This 25 year-old Chardonnay comes from the lieu-dit Les Tilles on the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits side of Magny-lès-Villers. Perfectly east exposed, the vines produced small concentrated berries from the Jurassic limestone (there is barely any top soil). Hand-harvested, the wine is slowly pressed, settled overnight, vinified & aged in 228-l barrels. Claire has worked a lot on her choice of coopers to make sure the toast doesn’t show in the wine. She leaves a little CO2 to naturally protect the wine, so it is always good to decant. 2017 was a sunny vintage producing a dense wine, reminiscent of the lower part of Puligny. This is where you understand all the potential of the Hautes-Côtes to preserve freshness and vibrancy! After decanting, the wine shows a lot of gardenia blossom, white peach and a hint of blond tobacco. The acidity is very well preserved for that warm year, and the lees are just giving a sensual touch. There is a great energy, with a long, salty finish. Enjoy it now or over the next 10 years. Don’t drink it too cold, and enjoy with a trout with sunflower seeds and sweet onions, charred zucchinis with sumac yogurt or a creamy cow’s mill cheese. 100% Chardonnay. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Clematis Vitalba is part of Claire Naudin’s série “flower”, her experimental range of wines where she does not use So2 but at bottling if needed. This 25 years-old Chardonnay comes from the lieu-dit Les Tilles on the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits side of Magny-lès-Villers. Perfectly east exposed, the vines produced small concentrated berries from the Jurassic limestone (there is barely any top soil). Hand-harvested, the wine is slowly pressed, settled overnight, vinified & aged in 228-l barrels. Claire has worked a lot her choice of coopers to make sure the toast doesn’t show in the wine. She leaves a little Co2 to naturally protect the wine, so it is always good to decant.2015 Clematis was made in an early, sunny vintage yet thanks to the altitude of the vineyards the acidity was maintained. In that vintage, Claire used some oaks with a little bit more toast, so you pick up some white tobacco, roasted hazelnut notes, but in a very enticing way. Then it is all about Chinese pear, lemon blossom, star anise. In the palate the wine combines very well volume and tension. The lees are bringing more saltiness with some reduction, enhancing the smokiness. The finish is really well defined : you would have a hard believing it is not from a famous village of the Côte de Beaune. Enjoy it over 10 years, or drink it today, decanted, not too cold. Serve it with a wild-caught trout with yellow corn polenta or roasted organic chicken with fried zucchini blossom. 100% Chardonnay. Pascaline Lepeltier.
La Plante comes from .7 ha of 35 year-old vines in Magny-lès-Villiers. The lieu dit “En Daisey” has a deeper, clay-limestone soil. The vines are high-wired, the traditional pruning technique of the Hautes-Côtes. Hand-harvested, the grapes are macerated whole-cluster in tank without any pump-over. A little sulfur is added after malo and at bottling but remains very low, below 40ppm. The wine is bottled in Spring on its fruit. 2018 was a concentrated, sun-kissed vintage. Claire harvested early to preserve the freshness. The result is a really enticing balance between the soft, attractive fruit, the stems’ aromas and acidity typical of the Hautes-Côtes. It is a plusher, more fruit-forward expression of Pinot Noir on the attack, but it keeps the Burgundy touch in the finish. Perfect to drink now or in the next 5 years. Perfect also for wine lovers who think Burgundy is too austere. Chill it slightly if you want, decant and pair with any type of charcuterie, some tuna poke, or a summer bean stew with heirloom tomato and onion. 100% Pinot Noir. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Orchis Mascula (orchids) is part of Claire Naudin’s série “flower”, her experimental range of wines where she does not use SO2, but at bottling if needed. This Pinot comes from 3 plots, En Foigery, En Bully and La Grande Corvée de Bully (Nicolas Faure’s fans should recognize the name!), from vines averaging 30 years-old. On this Jurassic limestone with clay soil, the Pinot in this ripe vintage preserved a remarkable tension typical of the Hautes-Côtes. Hand-harvested, the grapes are vinified whole-cluster with no pump over, free run and press are blended after the two weeks maceration. Sulfur is used usually just at bottling after 18-20 months of aging in 228 liter barrels with a small percentage new. 2017 is a tender, super aromatic, very floral version of this wine, taking you to notes you can find in the cooler part of Volnay. The grapes ripen very fast but never got cooked, so you have a fresh plumminess both on the nose and the palate. Iris (and not orchi) is dominating. A lot of red cherry, coriander seed, rose shows on the palate, with a very well handled oak use, as well as the use of whole-cluster! Tannins are soft but present. A really complex yet too easy-to-drink wine. Enjoy now decanted (because of the CO2 Claire leaves to naturally protect the wine) or over 15 years. Pair with a duck carpaccio, a farm lamb served with green goddess and garden herbs. 100% Pinot Noir. Pascaline Lepeltier.
If you like nuanced, refined Nuits St Georges or Pommard, this wine is for you! Viola odorata (violet) is part of Claire Naudin’s série “flower," her experimental range of wines where she does not use SO2, but at bottling if needed. This cuvée is the emblematic wine of Claire, coming from her father’s favorite plots: 90 year-old vines located just east of Magny-lès-Villiers in Corgoloin. On this perfectly eastern exposed slope of limestone, the Pinots reach a perfect, slow maturity. Hand-harvested, the grapes are vinified whole-cluster with no pump over, free run and press are blended after the two weeks maceration. Sulfur is used usually just at bottling after 18-20 months of aging in 228 liter barrels with a majority percentage new but with gentle toast. The wine is bottled unfiltered. This cuvée always needs more time, and 2015 is still a baby! The nose is subtle, all in black cherry, elderberry, mint, peony, very fresh and floral. With an hour of decantation, all these notes are exploding without losing their class. In the palate, the wine has flesh and tension, with power slowly growing in crescendo to finish with sleek and silky tannins. The whole-cluster vinification is bringing so much life and density, but also enhances the spiciness and pepperiness. A really beautiful bottle, to keep 10-15 years! Enjoy it with a roasted squab with celeriac salad or a duck breast with sautéed porcini. 100% Pinot Noir. Pascaline Lepeltier.
If you like nuanced, refined Nuits St Georges or Pommard, this wine is for you! Viola odorata (violet) is part of Claire Naudin’s série “flower," her experimental range of wines where she does not use SO2, but at bottling if needed. This cuvée is the emblematic wine of Claire, coming from her father’s favorite plots: 90 year-old vines located just east of Magny-lès-Villiers in Corgoloin. On this perfectly eastern exposed slope of limestone, the Pinots reach a perfect, slow maturity. Hand-harvested, the grapes are vinified whole-cluster with no pump over, free run and press are blended after the two weeks maceration. Sulfur is used usually just at bottling after 18-20 months of aging in 228 liter barrels with a majority percentage new but with gentle toast. The wine is bottled unfiltered. Viola always needs more time, and 2017 is just starting to show all the potential of this superb cuvée. The nose is very enticing with a very nuanced florality coming from the grape and the use of whole-cluster (Claire is really becoming a master of that technique!). On the palate the wine shows darker cherries than Orchis, with a hint of liquorice and cardamon. The oak just adds a touch of torrefaction perfectly in tune with the overall bouquet of that bottle. Tannins are silky yet present. The finish is lingering, and really detailed: the old vines shine through. This is a really great bottle of Pinot you can age 15 years. If open today, decant and pair it with beef tenderloin tartare with roasted tomato, rabbit agnolotti with thyme jus or an Epoisses style cheese. 100% Pinot Noir. Pascaline Lepeltier.