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Domaine Chandon de Briailles holds a special place in my heart. When I first started tasting Burgundy regularly, their wines were often in the mix. When I first visited the region I made sure to book an appointment to visit the domaine and taste in the cellar. And when I was a wine director later on I always made sure to have their wines on the list. I even had the opportunity to mount dinners and events with owner Claude de Nicolay.
Claude and her brother Francois have deep roots iin the region, as the De Nicolay family has owned the estate since 1834. The vineyards include substantial holdings in Savigny-les-Beaune (Lavieres and Vergelesses), in Pernand (Ile de Vergelesses) and in Aloxe (Corton Grand Crus Clos du Roi, Bressandes and Corton-Charlemagne). Claude's mother Nadine ran the estate in the 1970s and 1980s until handing over the reins in 1988. In those forty-odd years, a steady change took place that set Chandon firmly on a course as one of the most viticulturally progressive estates in the region. Nadine moved to eliminate any chemical treatments of the vineyards and under Claude and Francois the estate was converted entirely to biodynamics, achieving Demeter certification in 2012. Today they are focusing on replacing tractors with horses and on the reduction of copper in the fight against powdery mildew.
In the cellar the wines are made with little fuss and great transparency. There is no fining or filtration and the use of new oak tops out at twenty percent for the Grand Crus. The whites tend to be intensely mineral and structured. The reds have always been fermented with a high percentage of whole bunches. But the recent acquisition of a new vertical press has changed the wines for the better. The pressure is gentler and more even, and the resulting wines are more refined where they could previously feel rustic, especially in challenging vintages. Claude finds the tannins less astringent in the reds and that the solid material extracted during pressing is finer and thus quicker to separate from the juice.
The other major recent change is the regular production of wines bottled with no sulfur. While the domaine has experimented with an odd cuvée here or there for almost ten years, since 2017 there are now several sans soufre bottlings. They change from year to year, depending on the health of the fruit and the wines, but they are a pleasure to drink.
The long and the short of it is that Claude, Francois, and their team are producing some of the best and most consistent wines in the recent history of Chandon de Briailles. I say this as a devoted fan. These are precise, elegant Burgundies that will make an outstanding addition to your table or cellar. Sam Ehrlich
Chandon de Briailles is one of the truly grand domaines of Burgundy, dating back to 1834. Their holdings include vines in most of the best sites in Savigny and Pernand, as well as considerable parcels of Corton Grand Cru and Charlemagne and there seems to be near-consensus that the wines that the estate has produced over the last ten years are the most consistently brilliant that the de Nicolay family has produced. "Aux Fournaux" is named for the 1er Cru that makes up the lion's share of this bottling. This may be labeled villages-level wine but what's inside is considerably more elevated.
From .38 hectares of biodynamically farmed vines averaging over 40 years old, high on the hillside of Corton. Traditionally the most powerful and long-lasting of the stable of red Corton lieux-dits at Chandon de Briailles and always found on any Burgundy lover's shortlist of truly great and classic Cortons.
Ok, I know that this is not a 2018 but I'm including it regardless. In 2017, Chandon produced their first skin-contact white, made from a few rows of Pinot Blanc in Ile de Vergelesses. It's decidedly unlike the rest of the lineup and not immediately identifiable as Burgundy, but it's a strikingly pretty wine nonetheless. Domaine Simon Bize has made a similar wine the last couple of years (I wonder what they are putting in the water in Savigny-les-Beaune). The fruit spent fourteen days on the skins with no punchdowns and was bottled completely by hand with no sulfur. The wine itself shows peach, orange peel and ripe yellow apple fruit, alongside plenty of yellow flowers, ginger and an intensely savory, salty finish. The texture and tannins are quite fine. It is not classic but it's genuinely delicious and if you are curious about what goes on in the heads of winemakers in an ever-expanding world, then this is worth your time. Sam Ehrlich
This is Savigny Blanc from white rocky soils previously planted to Pinot Noir. Claude de Nicolay has been experimenting more and more with no-sulfur winemaking in recent years and as the quality of vineyard work and cellar work has steadily increased, so has the success level of these bottlings. The 2018 Saucours is one of the more delicate and refined white Burgundies that I've tasted from the 2018 vintage, emphasizing citrus fruit and under-ripe apple notes backed by intense minerality and a vibrant seam of stony acidity. A bit angular on opening, the palate widened with air, yielding a touch of lemon curd and delicate white floral aromas over 3-4 hours open. I opened this before dinner on Christmas Day, but it really showed itself after the meal - don't be afraid to give this wine some air! A great example of the elegant winemaking at Chandon de Briailles and a lovely sans soufre wine. Ben Fletcher
Chandon de Briailles' bottling of Ile de Vergelesses comes in both red and white and each one is a benchmark expression of the appellation. Pernand is lodged in a combe (a valley) between the hills of Corton and Savigny and stays a couple degrees cooler thanks to a wind that comes down from the north through the gap. The wines are as a result always fresh feeling even in warmer vintages and this 2018 is no exception. The nose and palate are both redolent with lemon peel, fresh ginger and something that feels a bit liked poached pear. But what is really remarkable is the intense minerality - salty and stony and beautifully crisp. This is a wine with real spine but not at the expense of pleasure. One of the best whites of the vintage that I have tasted and unmissable for fans of serious white Burgundy. Sam Ehrlich
Claude de Nicolay has been experimenting more and more with no-sulfur winemaking in recent years and as the quality of vineyard work and cellar work has steadily increased, so has the success level of these bottlings. Produced from vines planted in 1954 the Pernand 1er Cru Vergelesses has always been a lovely wine and this 2018 is no exception. Though the nose was a bit quiet upon opening, but my colleagues and I were knocked out by the joyous crunchy red fruit, rounded out with notes of rooibos tea, allspice and dried thyme. With air, the fruit darkened somewhat and a firm limestone character emerged. When sans soufre winemaking is really successful what always strikes me most is a feeling that the wine is untethered and that is certainly the case here. Outstanding wine that can be drunk tomorrow or laid down for a few years. Sam Ehrlich
Chandon de Briailles' bottling of Ile de Vergelesses comes in both red and white and each one is a benchmark expression of the appellation. Pernand is lodged in a combe (a valley) between the hills of Corton and Savigny and stays a couple degrees cooler thanks to a wind that comes down from the north through the gap. The wines are as a result always fresh feeling even in warmer vintages and this 2018 is no exception. The pretty red and black fruit is a touch reticent at first but emerges with air, along with beautiful spice and dried floral aromatics from the stems. There is great acidity and an overall feeling of energy, which belies the sturdy tannins. This is young today and will benefit from decanting if drinking tonight but the potential here is considerable and this will be excellent in 3-5 years and beyond. Sam Ehrlich