Domaine Sylvain Cathiard   
visiting Burgundy, part 6

Sylvain Cathiard is the archetypal Burgundy producer. He works the family domaine, established by his grandfather in the 1930s, together with his wife Marinette and son Sébastien. He has 4.2 hectares of vines spread around 11 plots, including a 0.17 hectare plot of Romanée St Vivant, with the majority of the holdings in Vosne-Romanée. And the wines from this modest producer are rightly highly sought after. ‘When we started we had to look for customers,’ says Sylvain. ‘Now  it’s customers who are calling me. I was really surprised to become this famous.’ Indeed, his success has been relatively recent.

‘We are winegrowers. We are farmers, people from the soil,’ says Sylvain. ‘We are not becoming businessmen. We don’t get big-headed. It is the passion of our work that counts. Now we have to manage that success.’

99% of the production is exported, with 40% going to the UK and 15% to the USA. Sylvain feels that too much is going to the UK, and is thinking of reducing this amount. He says that Becky Wasserman was the first to launch him in the USA.

Old vine: Romanee-St-Vivant

Most of Sylvain’s vines are old – at least 40 – and this probably helps with quality. Viticulture isn’t organic, but he works the soil and doesn’t use herbicides or pesticides. He says Sébastien might move to organics, but without certification just in case an exceptional event causes for some chemical intervention, such as the use of systemic fungicides.

Sylvain explained how his grandfather started the domain in the 1930s, and then his father added some more vineyards. Sylvain worked for his father for 15 years, unpaid. Then he got married, and his wife insisted that he get paid. So Sylvain started renting some vineyards to make his dad realize that he really was interested and keen. In response his dad agreed to rent him some vineyards, and the domaine name was changed from Cathiard-Molenier to Sylvain-Cathiard.  

As we visited he was in the middle of a building project, constructing a new cellar.  In the old cellar, we tried some 2008s from barrel, and then some bottled wines. We also took a wander through the village to visit some of his vineyard plots.

Sylvain Cathiard Chambolle Musigny ‘Les Clos de l’Orme’ 2008
50 year old vines. Very perfumed and open. Expressive, powerful and beautifully expressive.

Sylvain Cathiard Vosne Romanée 1er Cru En Orveaux 2008
This is between Clos Vougeout and Echezeaux. Dense, tannic and firm with lovely fruit expression. Bright and assertive.

Sylvain Cathiard Vosne Romanée 2007
Some spicy, meaty notes to the fresh, vivid, elegant sappy cherry fruit. Lovely. The palate is fresh and elegant with lovely focused fruit and some spicy structure. Nice grippy finish. 91/100

Sylvain says that 2007 is a pleasure wine that will help people wait for the 2005 and 2006, which will close and keep for longer. 2007 is a little like 2000 – a pleasure wine.

Sylvain Cathiard Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Aux Thorey 2007
Sweet, spicy, slightly oaky nose with lovely dense plum and cherry fruit. The palate has lovely depth with dense spicy fruit and lovely spicy structure. Rich and dense, but focused with lovely minerality. Needs time. 93/100

Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Malconsorts 1999
Wonderfully sweet, open nose: rich, meaty, slightly herby with sweet cherry fruit. Beautifully meaty perfume – almost like Syrah. The palate is dense, spicy and firm with concentrated spicy fruit and good structure. Lovely tannins here. Robust and full. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin
J-P Fichet
Pierre Morey/Morey Blanc
Louis Latour
Domaine Dujac
Sylvain Cathiard
Clos du Tart

Wines tasted 06/09  
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