The wines of Philippe Pacalet
Impressively pure naturally made Burgundies

I first bumped into Philippe Pacalet in Oregon, when he was pouring his wines at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in July 2008. I had a few chances to chat with him over those few days, and came away impressed. Heís unconventional, forthright, and is quite scientifically minded Ė indeed, he has studied yeast biology. Since then Iíve tasted his wines on a few occasions, most recently at the Caves de Pyrene Real Wine tasting in April 2010.  

Pacalet is the nephew of Marcel Lapierre, the Beaujolais wine grower who is one of the leading figures in the natural wine movement. Through his uncle, Pacalet also got to know Jules Chauvet, the wine scientist who is revered among natural winemakers.

So it will come as no surprise that Philippe uses no sulfur during his winemaking, save for a bit at bottling. He doesn't own vineyards himself (the cost of land for a newcomer such as Pacalet, who only began his operation in 1999, is prohibitive), but rents plots with interesting terroirs.

Until 2007 he was squatting in three different cellars, but he acquired a 19th century facility in the heart of Beaune from the De Montille family, which is big enough to house his entire operation.  

He also had some interesting theories about why it is that grapevines are so susceptible to disease (they have been vegetatively propogated for so long it makes them weak) and what he would do about it (GM vines, but only with the motivation of doing away with any spraying). It's very interesting to meet a natural winemaker who isn't bound by dogma (although I wouldn't want to suggest that most are).

Pacaletís Burgundies are quite distinctive, with lovely purity and elegance, and thrilling aromatics. These arenít wines that grab you by virtue of their size, but instead they seduce with freshness and elegance. Pacalet is clearly a master of ťlevage.

Philippe Pacalet Gevrey Chambertin 2008
Lovely pure elegant cherry fruit here with beautiful freshness and purity. There's some spicy structure, too. Fine and fresh, this epitomizes the Pacalt style. 93/100

Philippe Pacalet Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Bel Air 2008
From calcareous soils, this is a very structured wine. Lovely pure, elegant, fresh nose with red cherry and spice notes. The palate is pure with spicy tannic structure, some sappiness and real elegance. Needs time. 95/100

Philippe Pacalet Puligny Montrachet 2008
Fresh, bright, lemony and herby on the nose. The palate is fresh, herby and taut with some nuttiness but pure fruit is the focus here. 92/100

Philippe Pacalet Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru 2008
Very perfumed with lovely aromatics. Floral and herby. The palate is sweetly fruited and elegant. Very pretty but quite serious, with lovely acidity and nice structure. Amazing purity. 94/100

Philippe Pacalet Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques 2008
Pure with nice raspberry and cherry fruit. Lots of fruit here, but still elegant with good structure. Nice purity of fruit. 93/100

Philippe Pacalet Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2008
Lovely precision and purity, again. Supple with nice tannins and complex, minerally red cherry fruit, as well as a hint of pepper. Real purity and elegance. 95/100

Philippe Pacalet Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008
Slightly deeper colour than the other wines (which are quite pale). Lovely sweet, pure cherry fruit nose is aromatic and floral. The palate is pure and fine with firm but fine-grained tannins under the sweet fruit. Quite tannic and firm, but still elegant. 94/100

See also:

Visiting Burgundy (series)

Wines tasted 04/10  
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