The 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques boasts one of the more extravagant bouquets with licorice infusing the dark cherry fruit. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and an abiding symmetry and poise. This is very fine, rounded and perhaps one of Pacalet’s most showy wines at the moment.
This was my first visit to Domaine Philippe Pacalet, whose winery is located not far from the Beaune train station, purchased from the de Montille family in 2007. His Brazilian-born wife Monique was there to greet me, then Philippe himself, busy with the 2013s that had recently been harvested. His face somehow reminded me of Roman Polanski, albeit with wilder hair; a garrulous, opinionated and passionate man that I suspect does not take fools kindly. It is a rudimentary facility, functionality over aesthetics. Philippe has a feisty personality, not afraid to air his occasionally controversial, but always considered views. As the nephew of renowned Beaujolais producer Marcel Lapierre, Philippe has been grouped in the brigade of natural winemakers, but that would be too simplistic. Discussing his approach, there is a pragmatism afoot here, and there seemed to be a realization that the machinations of the cosmos is irrelevant if, for example he espoused, the monoculture of Burgundy is creating excessive degeneration of Pinot Noir. Then there is the fact that despite his family having been involved in winemaking since the 18th century, Philippe does not actually own any of his vines, but instead manages quite a large portfolio through long-term fermage agreements. Philippe expressed a sense of confidence about his 2012s. “I think we did a better job in 2012 than 2005 because of the polyphenols,” he said. “We commenced the harvest on the 26th of September. We had good acidity levels, coming in at a pH of around 3.15.” Philippe uses whole clusters because he finds that the stems offer a natural fining process. He also rolls his casks in order to mix the lees. He believes that it protects the wines and “dresses” them again in the tannins. I asked Philippe his attitude toward sulfur. “I am not against sulfites. But I try to keep to minimum though, because there are lots of reaction proteins and the sulfites can interfere with them. I don’t like too clearer wine. When you have a little turbidity, you have a ‘reduction power’ that can be preventive against oxidation.”