Blog: Producer Newsletters

  • Cult Burgundy Natural Winemaker: Philippe Pacalet

    March 24th, 2013

    Cult Burgundy Natural Winemaker
    Philippe Pacalet, Beaune  
    “We work without sulphites in vinification, no added yeasts and with whole grapes. This means we need grapes that are at their top, and for that we need a good job in the vineyards so we are able to succeed in our process.” Philippe Pacalet
    Philippe Pacalet
    Philippe Pacalet is not your typical natural winemaker. If you look at his shock of curly hair and at pictures of his employees treading on grapes you might say that he gives the appearance of one but beware, this is not a guy who can be pigeonholed. 

    One of the 7 appellations we are receiving on March 27

    Pacalet is based out of downtown (if there is such a thing) Beaune. He does not own any vineyards – who can afford buying any vineyards in Burgundy these days? – but rents parcels from all over Burgundy. Lest you think that is not exactly the way a true terroirist makes wine, Pacalet would rather not be tied down to one specific site but have the freedom to explore the various climats to be found throughout the region. He learned how to do this well through one of his mentors, Jules Chauvet, who many consider to be the father of the natural wine movement.
    Philippe’s wife, Monica with Alice Feiring (picture by
    The nephew of Marcel Lapierre, a revered Beaujolais producer and Chauvet compatriot, Pacalet was schooled to think of terroir first and foremost from a young age. He worked with Chauvet for three years before the latter’s death in 1989. Between Lapierre, his uncle’s friend, the legendary Jacques Néauport, and Chauvet, he built a solid foundation before crossing the border in 1991 to Domaine Prieuré-Roch in Burgundy. Here, Pacalet was exposed to new perspectives, applied what he had learned about natural winemaking and deepened his knowledge of the different appellations in the Côtes de Nuits.
    Philippe Pacalet in his cellar
    Even though his family has been making wine since 1780, Pacalet was not fortunate enough inherit property, which meant that in order to start his own label he would have to purchase a vineyard or buy fruit. By the time he was ready to set up shop, the price of land was off the charts so he made the decision to follow Chauvet’s path and rent vineyards that meet his extremely high standards.
    We are receiving 7 appellations by Philippe Pacalet on March 27 



    Despite not holding title to the fruit, Pacalet controls the way his grapes are farmed. No chemicals are used in the vineyards he rents. He also has his own team hand harvesting. They sort as they pick, looking for a perfect level of ripeness. In total, he works with nine hectares, just over 22 acres, in both the Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune. 
    Philippe and Monica Pacalet
    After harvest, the grapes are loaded into open top fermenters of different sizes. These vats are covered with a black plastic tarp to minimize the oxygen exposure and keep the CO2 in. The process of partial or complete carbonic maceration allows the wine ferment and age without the addition of sulphur.
    Philippe Pacalet
    For Pacalet, fermentation is the key as he believes:
    - “A living soil has a good fermentation.”
    - “Wine fermentation is wild yeast fermentation.”
    - “A person who drinks our wine has a good fermentation too.”
    After a couple of weeks, the grapes are transferred, via pitchfork, to the press. This is where the stomping begins. Pacalet also has a low-tech mechanical press that he uses for some wines.
    Lunch with Monica and Philippe Pacalet in Beaune. February 2013.
    Using gravity and a rubber hose, the juice from both the initial maceration and press are transferred to older barrels where the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. The whites are aged on their lees. Pacalet does not rack or filter his wines. Before bottling, minimal sulphur is added.
    Starting in 2001, Pacalet worked out of three different facilities simultaneously before purchasing a 19th century building from the DeMontille family in 2007. All of his needs, from fermentation, to bottling to storage and shipping are under this one roof, situated just a couple of minutes from the Beaune train station.
    Philippe Pacalet
    Known for their aromatics and finesse, Pacalet’s wines make a great study of terroir. His winemaking techniques vary little from one wine to the next, so the differences in terroir between the 30 wines he makes is clear though all of his stamp.
    Monica Pacalet
    It is an honor for Return to Terroir to represent his wines in California and to be able to offer them to you in this pre-arrival.
    Now for the logistics:
    •             The wines are due to arrive in California on March 27 and will be available for delivery the week of April 8th.
    •             All cuvees will be sold in 6-packs only.
    •             The wines will be highly allocated, on a first come first served basis.
    2010 Puligny Montrachet
    2010 Meursault 1er Cru “Les Charmes
    2010 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
    2010 Gevrey Chambertin
    2010 Gevrey Chambertin
    2010 Gevrey Chambertin
    2010 Gevrey Chambertin
    2010 Echezeaux Grand Cru


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