wenty-two years old Julien Cruchandeau was handed the keys to a six-hectare domaine with the explicit orders to take care of everything.
– The only problem was that the domaine was 90 per cent white, he smiles. And I didn’t know how to make white wine. But it was a great experience.
In the end Julien Cruchandeau came out on top. He stayed at Domaine France Léchenault in Bouzeron for five years. 2005 was his last vintage at the domaine, but already in 2003 he had begun buying his own vines when he got four parcels of Bouzeron, in total 0,70 hectares.
– I’m a musician as well, so in 2005 I decided to focus more on the music, says Julien Cruchandeau. With Shrink Orchestra and Nomadic Lab I toured France and Europe. As a kid I played the piano and drums. Then I moved on to electronic music.
In 2004 Shrink Orchestra played the Eurockéennes in Belfort, a big festival that every year attracts around 100 000 people. All together Julien Cruchandeau did some 200 shows before he decided to focus on winemaking again in 2010.
– In 2010 I got 0,80 hectares of red Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and 0,16 hectares of Nuits-Saint-Georges, Aux Saints Jacques, explains Julien Cruchandeau. I have a friend, whose family bought the Nuits-Saint-Georges parcel. I make the wine and then pay them the rent in wine. In 2011 I got 0,22 hectares of Les Petits Picotins in Savigny-lès-Beaune and half a hectare of white Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. Then this year I got 0,55 hectares of Les Ranches in Ladoix. It’s planted with pinot noir and 2012 will be my first vintage.
As the numbers show, Domaine Cruchandeau is small, even by Burgundian standards. With not quite three hectares in all this is basically a one man operation. The winery is located in Chaux, a small village with some 400 inhabitants up in the the Hautes-Côtes just above Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Land is not cheap in Burgundy and not much is available. Julien Cruchandeau has experienced the difficulties of starting from scratch in this region. It takes time and money to get where you want. In order to be able to make a living as a winegrower he needs four hectares. So for the time being he is working as a sound engineer at various shows as well.
– Friends have asked me why I don’t sell some of the grapes to the négociants instead, says Julien Cruchandeau. That would improve the cash flow. But no. That’s not my idea of this job. I want to do everything myself. I want to start in the vineyards and then two years later have some bottles of wine to sell.
Julien Cruchandeau originally set out o become a chef, but he missed being outside, so he changed track and enrolled at wine school in Beaune. After school he got a job in Gevrey-Chambertin, at Domaine Seguin.
He points out that whether you are cooking, playing music or making wine there are definitely some similarities.
– The methods are different, he says, but you are using instruments to transform raw material into a product. And you are working a lot with your senses.
Bouzeron is the only village appellation for the aligoté grape. It is at the top of the Côte Chalonnaise. Elsewhere in Burgundy the only available appellation for the aligoté grape is the regional Bourgogne Aligoté. Bouzeron is the only place where the aligoté is grown on the slopes.
– Many people say that Bouzeron is not an easy wine to sell because the consumers are not familiar with the name Bouzeron. They are familiar with appellations like Nuits-Saint-Georges and Savigny-lès-Beaune. My wine merchant in Québec says it’s a wine you have to defend. You have to talk about it, you have to explain to people what it is. It’s a complex wine, less easy to understand than a chardonnay. But if the grower doesn’t lower the yields and if he harvests by machine you’ll just have lots of acidity and not much aromas.
The Bouzeron at Domaine Cruchandeau is an old vines cuvée. The youngest vines are 60 years old. The oldest are considerably older, something like 90 years old. Julien Cruchandeau is not sure. The yield is low, just 40 hl/ha. Regulations has 65 hl/ha as a maximum.
– For the elevage I put 90 per cent of the Bouzeron in tank and 10 per cent in new barrels, explains Julien Cruchandeau. In the tank I want to keep the minerality and the freshness of the wine. In the barrels I treat the aligoté like a chardonnay. I want have a richer wine. Just before bottling I blend the two.
The low yield philosophy is applied on the whole range of wines at the domaine. Up in the Hautes-Côtes, where the upper limit is 54 hl/ha, Julien Cruchandeau only produces between 30 hl/ha and 35 hl/ha.
– There is a lot of work to be done in the Hautes-Côtes, he says. You’ll find a lot of diluted wines here. I hate the kind of red wine that is not really red, more like halfway between a rosé and a red. There is no fruit. Nothing. I prefer to have lower yields so the wines become more concentrated.
The red Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits at Domaine Cruchandeau comes from a plot in Chevannes called Les Valençons.
– It’s a very steep slope, says Julien Cruchandeau. Clay and limestone. Not much soil. The exposure is south-southwest. The wine sees ten per cent new oak; the rest is three, four or five year old barrels.
A couple of kilometres east of Chevannes is Segrois. This is where the white Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits comes from. The lieu-dit is Les Martennes.
– Half of the grapes are pressed immediately. Half of them are destemmed and kept in tank for 24 hours before pressing. The results are completely different. The pressing is all about minerality and fruit. The second is much more aromatic.
The tiny parcel of Nuits-Saint-Georges, the Aux Saints Jacques, is located on the Vosne-Romanée side of Nuits-Saint-Georges, just at the bottom of the slope. There is limestone and much clay.
– My goal is to make a Nuits-Saint-Georges without hard tannins, says Julien Cruchandeau. Some wines have very hard tannins and I don’t like that. I try to have the power and concentration, but with relatively soft tannins.
The most recent acquisition is the parcel in Ladoix, Les Ranches. You’ll find it in the northern end of the commune, between the D974 road and the premier cru La Micaude, facing south-southeast. The soil is limestone and clay. The vines were planted in 1974.
© 2012 Ola Bergman