Logo Small

The Energy of Philippe Pacalet.

January 21, 2020

1 Who is Philippe Pacalet?

“When asked if the wines could age my dad used to say, “If you don’t drink them they age well.”

Born into wine, he is the nephew of Marcel Lapierre, historical producer of Beaujolais, who worked with his uncle from a young age, and spent 10 years at Prieure Roch. In 2001, Philippe started his own project. With no money and no land, all he had was the experience he cultivated, and with patience he rented plots where he could work the vines. Today, Philippe is a key character of the natural wine movement and his wine has been praised by the critics as the most similar in style to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

2 Viticulture/Winemaking

“I’m not smart so I make everything in the same way!”

Philippe doesn’t own any land, as when he started it was already too expensive to start a business. Renting land was the perfect option; it has reduced tax and offers the freedom to select the areas that he wanted to work with. He always wants to be fully in control of the vines. In 2007, he acquired a cellar from the De Montille family near the local train station of Beaune.

For him the definition of Terroir is really specific and based on three things:

The Vineyard as Grape Information (is where the DNA of the wine is formed)

Fermentation as the Revelation (where the quality of the wine is exploited)

Ageing as the Differentiation (as the wine is alive – having a conversation)

The viticultural part of his job includes minimum intervention and going as old school as possible, such as using horses. Machines are considered only when the vintage requires faster human interaction.

His winemaking is based on two main techniques. The use of wild yeast creates the real energy (this is a really important term for Philippe) that gets the fermentation moving.

The whole bunch fermentation creates the balance and the elegance of all his wines. Keeping the stems also reduces the alcohol content slightly.

As a natural winemaker, no filter or racking is involved, and temperature control is achieved through pigeage. Instead of punching down in a single session, Pacalet and his team do it slowly across a number of days, checking that the temperature doesn’t get too high. Philippe also needs to check on the pressure that needs to be contained during the fermentation to increase the flavours. 

The ultimate goal is to focus on the energy of the Pinot Noir and the goal is reached when you experience the intense balance of fruit, opulence and umami content of each wine.

3 Vintages Report + Tasting Notes

“Maybe I don’t make fancy wines but surely elegant ones”

2016 was a nightmare, 50% of the crop was lost because of the frost. The style of the wine is more approachable and ready to drink, elegant but full-bodied.

Cornas 

As Philippe did his civil service in the Northern Rhône, he felt it was time to give back to Syrah, and his friendship with Thierry Allemand. 

In this expression, the classic soapyness of the wine is integrated by lavender and fresh herbs coming from the balance given by the stems. Slightly more structured than a normal Syrah thanks to the vintage with gentle oak on the palate.

Moulin A Vent

Philippe considers this Cru the Romanée-Conti of Beaujolais. The label is connected with his story and the work he did with his uncle and he started this project just to please his mother to create a connection with the past.

Structure and flavours are more similar to Syrah, again thanks to the whole bunch where wild herbs and loads of spices are noted with green pepper, and the palate shows an even balance between tannins and acidity with a biscuity end given by the gentle use of the oak.

2015 is a copycat of a great vintage like 1985 for Philippe. Easy, no stress, sunny days. You can drink it now as the for the winemaker, wine will stay exactly the same for the next 10 years to then open up to his tertiary notes.

Gevrey Chambertin

This is the most-produced bottle of the winery, based on limestone and clay soils with small stones. Peppery and vegetal, the sturdiness on the nose bring up a close flavour of lavender on the palate. Easy to drink with a long finish and a bitterness that reminds me of many Italian wines coming from Piedmont and Etna that Philippe loves.

Nuits St Georges

Cooler area than Gevrey, this bottle showcases a slow ageing in cool vintages and an upfront character in hot years such as this one. Soils are getting rockier with high percentages of chalk giving great minerality to the wine

Orange peel and green notes are clear, while the mushroom and forest floor awakens. More oak on the palate with dark cherry and more grippy tannins. A more prominent garnet rim shows that his development might be faster than other Burgundian examples.

2014 is a totally classic vintage. Late harvest, not too sunny. The wine is more powerful as the vintage was harder to tame than 2015.

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru

In this blend of 2 parcels, the silkiness of the village shines through this powerful flower bouquet with a slight opulence. The velvety tannins are helping the drinkability while the vintage expresses itself in a light alcohol push at the very end of the finish on the palate.

Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Aux Argillas

Even though the name of the Cru means clay, there is none, as it is mostly white stones.

Forest floor, mushroom, lavender and star anise are all powerful on the nose while the opulence in the palate helps in constructing a stronger balance with the fruit and the spaces.

When putting the two wines together, Philippe made us aware that for him Nuits Saint Georges is the masculine counterpart of the more feminine Chambolle Musigny.

To describe 2017, Philippe told us that it is exactly like closing kids in a garage and then opening back up after a week. Imagine how much energy would come out. A vintage like 2014 but with more sun that, because of the climate change, creates a really strong energy.

The interesting aspect of the last 2 wines is that their focus on grand cru is not specifically famous for quality, such as Corton and Clos de Vougeot. It is here that the winemaker really shines through in truly understanding what the deal is about these terroirs.

Corton Bressandes Grand Cru

From 80-year-old vines, this wine is, for Philippe, his most challenging and most precious revelation.

Silky, seductive, where the opulence seen before becomes more approachable, sweet spices and chocolate are supporting a more pronounced fruit more on the palate making it ready to drink now.

Clos de Vougeot

From soils rich in clay, this presents itself purplish in colour and truly youthful with blue fruit, cinnamon and hearty components. A palate that explodes in umami with a slight Brettanomyces that slowly moves all the other flavours waiting for the ageing to explore the potential of the bottle.

4 Epilogue

“It’s not the weight, it’s the energy that counts!”

Consistency is what most people are striving for in Burgundy. Unfortunately, recent vintages are making this goal a really hard task for many winemakers, but not for Philippe Pacalet. His vision and experience ensure that he has a style that seems to fit with what is coming next.

The energy that he portrays as a human being is a big part of what we see in the wine.

Go, go, go Philippe!