5 New Generation Winemakers in Burgundy
If you receive our newsletters and offers, you probably hear us talking quite often about the “New Wave” of Burgundy or the “New Generation”, but what exactly are we talking about?
We are in a moment of Burgundy history where a number of domaines are changing hands from the previous generation of winemakers to their children: a generation of young people full of energy, well-educated and passionate about making wine and keeping up the family tradition rather than making lots of money and selling to wealthy billionaires. Many of the new generation have gone to oenology school together and there is a sense of camaraderie among them as they are starting to release their own wines.
The other trend that marks the new wave is a desire to take back family-owned vineyard plots that have been contracted out to other producers. Rather than selling the fruit, these growers have turned their hand to crafting wines from their own grapes. With their hand on the wine all the way from the vineyard to the bottle, these producers are making some truly impressive wines that show the stamp of their terroir.
With the upcoming Burgundy En Primeur campaign, here are five of the new generation to keep your eye on at the tasting on the 8th of January.
Bertrand Bachelet took over from his father in 2010. His domaine is in Maranges, which is the last proper village of the Côte-de-Beaune before the land becomes more rolling and agricultural and metamorphosizes into the Côte Chalonnais. He has vineyards dotted around the Côte in Meursault, St Aubin, Chassagne, Pommard and, of course, in Maranges. Maranges is one of those appellations that has found its time. Relatively unknown until recently, the increasing prices of the more established villages have made consumers look elsewhere for well-made wines and this has opened the door for the likes of Maranges. Visually Maranges looks pretty similar to the rest of the Côte, the more clay dominated vineyards of the plains giving way to the limestone slope that rises into the distance. As an appellation it is virtually all planted with Pinot Noir, although there is a little Chardonnay, too. Generally, the soil is more suited to Pinot, although the slope of La Fussière, Maranges’ most important 1er Cru, has pockets of limestone that would work very well with Chardonnay. Bertrand’s wines reflect his personality, very charming, honest and likeable with an appealing transparency and subtle depth. New oak is sparingly used and vinification is gentle and respectful, leaving the wines to reflect their origin and their cépages. With everyone only just waking up to the delights and possibilities of Maranges, prices here are still incredibly reasonable and when you come across a talented source such as this one, there is genuinely great value to be had.
The clamour that now surrounds this domaine is quite extraordinary. Amélie has only been in charge since the 2013 vintage but already her wines are highly sought after and mostly sell out en primeur. Based in Fixin, she has inherited vineyards from both her father and her mother, who shares a domaine with her sister (Amélie’s aunt) in Vosne-Romanée. As a result, she has amassed a fascinating array of appellations, from Côte de Nuits Villages up through to various Grands Crus. In many ways it is what she has done with her vineyards in Fixin that really excites and marks her out as a winemaker of great talent. In a bygone era, Fixin used to command both a reputation and a price on a par with the most illustrious vineyards of neighbouring Gevrey-Chambertin, yet for the past few decades it has been languishing in the doldrums, save for a few rare examples (think Mortet or Meo-Camuzet). To highlight its undoubted potential Amélie has separated the various parcels she has and produced a string of different cuvées which show the complexities and intriguing characters that would have got drinkers excited in previous generations. She has tweaked some of her father’s vinification and élevage techniques, used whole bunches and has built a new cuverie, as well as working hard in the vineyards so the changes and the success have not come by luck but they have certainly come.
Where to begin with Maxime, who is fast become something of a legend in the short space of time since he moved from the family home in Champagne to the heart of Vosne-Romanée. He went there to take over from his grandmother in 2010 when he was just 19 and we bought everything we could of that first vintage. Those were the days! Since then his wines have become some of the most sought after in the Côte de Nuits, becoming incredibly inflationary on the secondary market in the process. The domaine has some fantastic vineyards, with some plots over 100 years old. His grandmother used to sell off a good deal of the fruit she produced but Maxime immediately kept everything and in the last couple of years he has expanded dramatically the number of wines in the range, through some purchases, some contracts to buy fruit and some long-term agreements to buy vineyards, from which he gets the fruit in the meantime. Admittedly 2016 was a small crop due to frost but that only slightly exaggerates the growth demonstrated by the fact that in 2016 he nevertheless made 120 barrels of wine and in 2017 he will make 300! Which is great news. Stylistically the wines are gorgeously hedonistic, yet in each vintage he seems to create more focus and bite to complement the natural intensity of the fruit. Serious stuff.
Curiously, this family domaine is based in Nuits-St-Georges but has no Nuits! Jean-Marc’s dynamic and highly motivated daughter, Alix, is now running things having assumed control in 2014. She is very much part of the generation of twenty and thirty-somethings who have set Burgundy alight in recent years with their ambition, insight, energy and sheer talent. Confidence with no hint of arrogance seems to be one of the key ingredients in the make-up of these stars of the future, and Alix has it in spades, being very focused and clear about what she is trying to achieve and how she should do it. She and her father have been a part of the new guard taking their vineyards back that had been previously contracted, and have been doing extraordinary things with the fruit. The domaine is run organically, although not certified, and is blessed with various parcels of old vines. New oak is sensibly handled varying from around 20% to 35% depending upon the Cru and the volumes made, and extraction is light and delicate, Alix generally preferring pumping over (remontage) to pumping down (pigeage). Stylistically the wines are cool with silky tannins and precise detailed flavours and whilst she has some grand appellations in her locker, her entry level wines really show off her innate skills as a vigneronne.
This is vintage number 3 in project Pommard for Xavier Loriot and his wife Eleonara. Talk about hitting the ground running. Great initial press from Tim Atkin MW and, now other journalists have had a chance to taste, the domaine is winning many plaudits with scores in the mid-90s from the likes of Burghound. It took Xavier over ten years to resolve family issues surrounding the inheritance of the domaine and by then he was left with just 4 hectares of vines to farm (from an original 12ha). Still, don’t feel too sorry for him as these 4 hectares include some great things in Pommard and a couple of rather well-known Grands Crus in Gevrey-Chambertin! In his previous life, Xavier was a fighter pilot but he is no Maverick when it comes to winemaking. Stylistically his wines are beautifully perfumed, sophisticated and blessed with a touch of class.