hilippe Colin in Chassagne-Montrachet is a big fan of terroir. Every year he produces between 20 and 25 different wines. If he could, he would do more.
– I work a lot with terroir, he says. Each terroir, each plot, is very different. We have six-seven Chassagne-Montrachet premier crus in the family and it is very important to identify all of them. I’m always looking for terroirs we don’t have. A few years ago I made some Les Embrazées to see the difference in terroir. It is important to get to know all the terroirs in Chassagne-Montrachet.
Domaine Philippe Colin covers a total of 13 hectares. Two thirds are white, one third red. Focus is on Chassagne-Montrachet, but there are also wines from neighbouring villages such as Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin and Santenay.
– I don’t see it as a problem, producing as many wines as I do. It is very interesting to see the same characteristics in each wine come back year after year. The vintage is different, but the identity is always there.
Domaine Philippe Colin is roughly 50 per cent of what was once Domaine Colin-Deléger. When their parents decided to retire Philippe and his brother Bruno chose to split the domaine in two. The last vintage together was 2003. Domaine Colin-Deléger was 18 hectares. Nine went to Domaine Philippe Colin and four hectares has since been added.
– I think it was important for us to split the family domaine, explains Philippe Colin. It allows us to work exactly the way we want. Still, there has not been any big changes when it comes to the philosophy. There are details of course. We try new things every year. And that’s a lot easier now compared to when we were four. But whatever I choose to do the main thing is to have a lot of respect in the vineyards. I think the most important thing is to have good grapes if you want to make good wine.
Philippe Colin does not want to go biodynamic, but says he is keeping a close eye on what’s happening in the area. In the vineyards he is working along the lines of lutte raisonnée.
– I don’t want to completely stop the use of chemicals, but we use very small quantities, he says.
In the cellar there is a maximum of 20 to 25 per cent new oak.
– Since 2010 we have been using a lot of big barrels. The integration of the wood is better with barrels which take 450 litres or 500 litres. We use 50/50 big barrels and traditional 228 litres barrels. The amount of new oak is still the same.
Even if Philippe Colin loves the variations in terroir the white village appellation Chassagne-Montrachet remains one single cuvée. It comes from 15 different parcels around the village. Some are on the Santenay side, but most are on the Puligny-Montrachet side.
– Before the bottling we blend all of it to one single cuvée, but for the vinification we keep the cuvées separated. The wines from the Puligny side are lighter, more mineral. The Santenay side has more power. In the beginning we tried to work with separate cuvées all the way, but the blend makes a better wine. The Puligny side has too much of Puligny character, so when we blend we get a richer wine.
North of Chassagne-Montrachet, bordering on Saint-Aubin, Domaine Philippe Colin has three premier crus on the same slope, all lined up above each other starting with Les Chenevottes on the flat part, followed by Les Vergers and Les Chaumées a bit higher up.
– They are only 50 metres apart, says Philippe Colin. But they are very different. Les Chaumées is very rocky, mineral, but the wine is powerful. Our parcel is at the lower part of the slope. It’s a wine which is easy to drink young. Very expressive. And it’s the same thing every year.
Domaine Philippe Colin also has three parcels in Les Vergers. One is just below Les Chaumées and one is just above Les Chenevottes, but all three parcels always show the same characteristics.
– Les Vergers is always richer than both Les Chenevottes and Les Chaumées. There is less clay there, but it is still richer. Les Chenevottes is powerful, but it there is also a spiciness which is present every year. Les Chaumées is always explosive, easy to drink. Les Chenevottes has more character. Les Vergers is always closed when young, but will open after about five years. It’s the most reserved wine of the three.
Domaine Philippe Colin is one of the few to produce the Puligny-Montrachet premier cru Les Demoiselles. It is part of Le Cailleret, just north of Montrachet itself, but is rarely marked on maps. Annual production at the domaine is tiny, just 300 bottles.
– The soil in Les Demoiselles is very different, explains Philippe Colin. It’s a mix of different elements. You have clay there, but the soil is still very light. Even when it’s been raining you can go into the vineyard after just one or two days because it’s so well drained.
– Just by the look of it the soil Les Demoiselles should be heavy, but it’s not. You have Bâtard-Montrachet very close, where the soil is heavy. The soil in Les demoiselles looks very much the same, but it is lighter.
The grand cru of the Domaine Philippe Colin is Chevalier-Montrachet just a bit up the slope in Puligny-Montrachet. A large part of it was planted in 1978, the rest in 1955.
– Chevalier-Montrachet is always a powerful wine, but elegant at the same time, says Philippe Colin. Maturity levels are always high in both Les Demoiselles and Chevalier-Montrachet, so one has to be very careful to make sure the grapes are picked in time.
© 2015 Ola Bergman