Chandon de Briailles: What's Old is New

2/10/21 -

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

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