uits-Saint-Georges is red wine territory. It is the pinot noir that has made this part of Burgundy well-known across the world. But there is some white Nuits-Saint-Georges. Quantities are tiny and the surface area planted is only just above two per cent of the whole appellation.
– In general the soil in Nuits-Saint-Georges is better suited for the pinot noir, explains Patrice Rion at Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion. It is deeper, with a lot of clay. But there are some pockets with different soil.You have a total of six hectares of oolite blanche. It is white soil, a bit like chalk. This type of rock gives a soil without clay. Very sandy and very light. As a result you don’t get very good pinot noir in these places. It is much better for white varieties such as chardonnay, aligoté or pinot blanc.
You will find Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion in Prémeaux-Prissey, just south of Nuits-Saint-Georges. The village does not have an appellation of its own. Instead you have both premier cru and village Nuits-Saint-Georges here. The domaine has a large part of its vines here. The majority of the remaining vines are in Chambolle-Musigny.
Their Nuits-Saint-Georges premier cru Les Terres Blanches is one of the few whites, a blend of 80 per cent chardonnay and 20 per cent pinot blanc.
– A touch of pinot blanc brings a smile to the wine, says Patrice Rion. In the past the pinot blanc was used by the winegrowers of the Côte de Nuits to bring more aromas and complexity to the wine, even for the reds.
Les Terres Blanches is at the top of the slope in Prémeaux-Prissey. It is steep and difficult to work with a tractor. It is just below the forest, which means part of the vineyard gets slightly less sun than the rest of it.
– Because of that we chose to plant pinot blanc, says Patrice Rion. With the pinot blanc you are more likely to have good ripeness even with slightly less than ideal conditions. The pinot blanc ripens earlier than the chardonnay. There is usually a difference of three to five days.
– The chardonnay and the pinot blanc are harvested, pressed and fermented separately. We decide on the proportions and do the blending two or three months before bottling.
During World War I Les Terres Blanches was abandoned and it was not recovered until the 1970’s. For Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion the first vintage was 2005, before that Bouchard Père & Fils had been responsible.
It was back in 2000 that Patrice Rion decided to split with his family domaine – Domaine Daniel Rion, also in Prémeaux-Prissey – and set up his own. Initially all he had was one hectare in Nuits-Saint-Georges premier cru Clos des Argillières, Chambolle-Musigny premier cru Les Cras and Bourgogne Les Bons Batons.
– Today we have six and a half hectares, says Patrice Rion. We rent one hectare and we buy grapes from other growers. When we buy grapes it is from lesser appellations like Bourgogne blanc, Bourgogne rouge and Côte de Nuits-Villages.
In Prémeaux-Prissey is also the monopole of Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion, the Nuits-Saint-Georges premier cru Clos Saint-Marc. It is 0.93 hectare in size and the vines are between 60 years old and 80 years old. It is right next to another Nuits-Saint-Georges premier cru of the domaine – Clos des Argillières.
– The soil in Clos Saint-Marc is very different than in Clos des Argillières, explains Patrice Rion. It is much deeper in in Clos Saint-Marc, but with less clay and more sand. So there is always a large water reserve and we always achieve good ripeness. The wine is more tannic, but it also has more silkiness. It is a wine for keeping.
In total Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion works 16 appellations, with an average annual output of 70 000 bottles.
– During vinification I treat all the wines the same. Still, every wine is different. For me that’s important. Each wine has to be readable, you must be able to see the quality of each, to easily recognise the appellation.
– In general we use 50 per cent new barrels and 50 per cent barrels that have already been used for one wine. That is for the village appellations and the premier crus. For the regional appellations we use five to ten per cent.
– We always de-stem 100 per cent. It’s my taste. I don’t like the green taste. It’s difficult to have a perfect vintage in Burgundy, when everything is so ripe you can do the fermentation with the stems.
In Chambolle-Musigny the domaine is very well represented. A total of eight wines – generic Bourgogne rouge up to grand cru - come from this village. The grand cru is almost nonexistent. One barrel of Bonnes Mares is all there is. Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion produces four Chambolle-Musigny premier crus – Les Amoureuses, Les Charmes, Les Fuées and Les Gruenchers – and two village wines – Les Cras and an old vines cuvée. Then there is the Bourgogne rouge Les Bons Batons. It is within the regional appellation, but still in the commune of Chambolle-Musigny.
– It is the little brother of Chambolle-Musigny, even if it is just a Bourgogne rouge, says Patrice Rion. It is a wine with good acidity, very rich and complex. Totally different from other wines from the same appellation.
Les Bons Batons covers about five hectares. Other growers have aligoté here, but some, like Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion and Domaine Ghislaine Barthod, have planted pinot noir.
– It is always a wine with big colour, says Patrice Rion. The vineyard is flat, but the soil is not very deep. Underneath is river rock. The grapes are very small. Much smaller than the ones coming from our parcels next to Les Bons Batons. When I bought this vineyard in 1989 the owner told me it is pinot noir from Romanée-Conti. He was a mason who had been working for the DRC. I don’t know if it is true, but that was what he told me. What is true though is that it is a different pinot noir. The age of the vines is 40 years and the yield is always very low. For other Bourgogne rouge it is 48 hl/ha, for Les Bons Batons it is very often below 35 hl/ha. So financially it is not so interesting. But the quality is there.
© 2013 Ola Bergman