Chisa Bize at Domaine Simon Bize in Savigny-lès-Beaune.

es Serpentières is where it all began. This particular Savigny-lès-Beaune premier cru marks the starting point for the reshaping of Domaine Simon Bize. It has been a little more than a decade since Chisa Bize, with the help of Anne-Claude Leflaive, took her first steps along the biodynamic route.

– I was the one who initiated the experiments with biodynamics, she explains. My husband Patrick was old-school. He had a hard time changing his ways of thinking. Still, it was he who gave me the go-ahead to try new things.

That was in 2008. Today Les Serpentières is still the ”laboratory” of the domaine, where the new ideas are tried out. In recent years the three parcels in Corton-Charlemagne have also been included in the development of the vineyard practices at Domaine Simon Bize.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, Burgundy.– I have chosen Les Serpentières and Corton-Charlemagne because they are difficult parcels, explains Chisa Bize. That makes them ideal for experiments. There is no reason to experiment with the easy vineyards. If I can make it work under difficult conditions it will work anywhere.

Initially vineyard work and winemaking were not part of the plan. Back in her native Japan Chisa Bize had been working in banking. But Patrick Bize passed away in 2013, only 61 years old. Since then Chisa Bize has been running the domaine together with Patrick’s sister Marielle Grivot-Bize.

– When I arrived in Burgundy I didn’t work at the domaine, says Chisa Bize. I was a housewife and took care of the children. My husband didn’t want me to work at the domaine.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, Burgundy.– However, I realised there was something that was not working at the domaine. Financially there were difficulties. So being a banker I spent 2007 getting everything in order.

The following year was when Chisa Bize began working in the vineyards. While their children had been at school she had taken the opportunity to take a number of courses focused on Burgundy and winemaking. One of them was at Anne-Claude Leflaive’s wine school in Puligny-Montrachet.

– That was how I learnt about biodynamics, she says. As I learnt more I became interested in trying it myself.

– After a while Patrick became curious. Towards the end of the vinification of the 2008 vintage he said OK to continue. That was a good sign.

Chisa Bize at Domaine Simon Bize in Savigny-lès-Beaune.Depending on the vintage between three and five hectares of Domaine Simon Bize are farmed biodynamically. According to Chisa Bize that is as much as they are capable of at this point. Beyond this they will need to employ more people and invest in additional equipment.

– Les Serpentières is at the bottom of the slope. The problem is that there is a lot of water there. You have springs up in Les Godeaux which surface in Les Serpentières. Warm and dry years there are no problems, but in cold years a lot of work is required.

The two Corton-Charlemagne parcels of Domaine Simon Bize are located in the westernmost part of the appellation, in Pernand-Vergelesses.

Savigny-lès-Beaune, Burgundy.– Compared with the other parts of Corton-Charlemagne these parcels get less sun, explains Chisa Bize. This Corton-Charlemagne is not a rich one. Instead it is a very tight, mineral one. Both our parcels there are very difficult to access because it is very steep. If conditions are good you can go there with a tractor. If not, you’re in for a lot of work by hand.

– Experimenting with a grand cru is of course scary. Obviously you don’t want to lose the harvest. But this far results have been very good.

Domaine Simon Bize has a total of six premier premier crus in Savigny-lès-Beaune. The majority of them are on the northern side of the appellation, towards Pernand-Vergelesses – Aux Guettes, Les Serpentières, Les Talmettes, Les Fournaux and Aux Vergelesses.

The Corton hill, Burgundy.– Les Marconnets is the only rive droite, Beaune side, we have, explains Chisa Bize. It’s where the river turns slightly to the right. The soil contains more sand there. It’s well-drained, so in dry years the vines suffer.

– Aux Vergelesses is our flagship, she continues. You’ll find it right on the ”corner” where the slope turns towards Pernand-Vergelesses. It’s really a magnificent parcel. Very little soil. The bedrock is very close to the surface. We have three parcels in Aux Vergelesses. One at the top, one at the bottom and one towards Savigny.

– To me, what defines Aux Vergelesses is the wind. The northwind and the wind from the west meet there, and both are very important for us. The wine is very strict, at times almost too strict. That’s the character of the wine. It’s almost as if it’s saying ”Leave me alone!”. It’s never generous.

Aloxe-Corton, Burgundy.Les Talmettes is right next to Aux Vergelesses. When Chisa Bize’s mother-in-law bought their parcel there in the 1950s it was marked Les Talmettes (Vergelesses) in the cadastral plan.

– I think it was because the type of soil was the same. It was called Talmettes, but you were allowed to label it Vergelesses if you wanted. Today that is not an option.

Les Talmettes is protected from the northwind. The wine is less strict, more generous.

– Aux Guettes is further west, above the village. It’s the same altitude as Aux Vergelesses, but the soil is deeper. This produces a wine with more power. Aux Guettes has more richness.

Then there is Les Fournaux, which is not far from Aux Vergelesses. It is mid-slope, just across the road to Pernand-Vergelesses.

– Les Fournaux is always very demonstrative, says Chisa Bize. Some say it’s sauvage, but I find it charming. It shows very very well already the first years. It’s still a Savigny, but in terms of character it’s a bit closer to Aloxe-Corton.

© 2020 Ola Bergman