Chandon de Briailles
In Burgundy, where they don’t mind waiting for wines to mature, this classical, Savigny based grower has long been considered one of the reference Estates. Yet, while these perfumed, graceful and structured wines remain a yardstick for classically-styled red Burgundies, recent years have witnessed subtle changes in both the vineyards and cellars that is now resulting in wines that are far more seductive in their youth.
First of all, the skilfully tended, long time organic vineyards have now been biodynamic for a few years (certified from the 2011 vintage) and there is also a horse used for ploughing in order to minimise compaction. The impact of such practices is always difficult to quantify precisely yet there is no question that the vineyards are today delivering a brighter fruit profile with more intensity and flesh. Another change is to the oak regime. While new oak remains forbidden, François and Claude de Nicolay and their cellar master, Kojak, have lowered the average age of their barrels by eradicating many of the really ancient casks and replacing them with 1, 2 and 3 year old oak from benchmark Domaines. Finally, and perhaps most contentiously, from 2010 the Domaine has instituted a more restrained use of whole bunches. As one of Burgundy’s most faithful advocates of whole bunch usage, this last point may worry lovers of this historically conservative Domaine. Yet fear not; the wines of Chandon de Briailles are every bit as understated, elegant and poised as they always were, and stems remain very much part of the classical architecture of these wines, yet it is now an architecture that is filled with a little more colour, fruitful tenderness and approachability.
Regarding the year - in a vintage that provided no shortage of excellence, we rate the 2010 release from Chandon de Briailles as the finest we have shipped (although the ‘09s were wonderful as well). As the crop was 40% down in 2010, it goes without saying that the wines have realised a rare level of intensity yet there is also a wonderful brightness and prettiness that are really the signatures of this vintage. From the scented, red fruited Savigny cuvées to the complex, limestone reverb of the Île de Vergelesses and then the deeper, darker, more brooding shades of the Corton Grand Crus, this is a set of wines that seamlessly mesh both the intellectual and sensual appeal of great Burgundy.