The 'New White Burgundy' We Can't Get Enough Of
It’s no secret that we love new ventures from pioneering winemakers that shake up the region from which they come – and it’s also no secret that we love Burgundy. When the two collide, our heads kind of explode in the best possible way. This past year, we’ve discovered some new projects that are showcasing a new side of White Burgundy (and we can’t get enough of them). Intrigued? Check ‘em out here.
Domaine Simon Bize - New ‘Sans Soufre’ Cuvées
Domaine Simon Bize has long been one of our go-tos for Burgundy, both red and white, here at Verve Wine. Upon Patrick Bize’s tragic and sudden death in 2013, his wife Chisa immediately stepped up, took charge, and is now leading the domaine in a direction that would surely make Patrick proud. Their wines are full of high-toned, soil-influenced, and a distinct reflection of the personality behind the bottles.
Which leads us to Chisa. Originally from Tokyo, Chisa uprooted and moved to Burgundy upon falling in love with Patrick and now runs the estate with his sister, Marielle. However, Chisa had a new idea for a range of small-batch wines. In addition to her pursuit of organic and biodynamic farming, Chisa decided to craft a line of wines using homeopathic methods in the vineyard, lower amounts of copper, and little to no added sulfur.
‘Akatcha’ is Domaine Bize’s skin-contact Pinot Gris, referred to locally as Pinot Beurot. The juice is loaded with aromatic flavors of pithy citrus, dried herbs, chalk, and sweet spice. This wine is bottled without any added sulfur. ‘Shirokuro’ is their still Blanc de Noirs (Pinot Noir), produced from direct-pressed Pinot Noir from 40-year-old vines in Savigny-lès-Beaune. ‘Shiro’ is its Chardonnay-based counterpart. The wine’s flinty reductive nature and zesty acidity are hauntingly thought-provoking on the palate – we haven’t been able to get it off of our mind since we tasted it. ‘Shirokuro’ and ‘Shiro’ are bottled with minimal (almost ignorable) amounts of sulfur.
These wines, like every other cuvée made at Bize, are crafted with meticulous attention to detail and show an immense amount of vibrant energy. Burgundy lovers looking for something equally top-notch and unique, this line of wines is the way to go.
Smith-Chapel - Aligoté
When we heard that our friends David Chapel and Michele Smith-Chapel were diving into the world of White Burgundy, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the fruits of their labor. Although known for their Gamay-based wines in Beaujolais, the duo had long been attracted to the idea of producing a white wine.
“We needed some white wine to serve at home and Aligoté is the best white wine grape in the region. It has charm like no other,” Michele Smith-Chapel tells us. David and Michele first vinified their Aligoté cuvée back in 2018 using grapes sourced from Fixin (Côte de Nuits). As of 2019, the duo sourced from a small grower in the village of Igé, located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Fleurie in the Mâconnais region. In both years, vinification and élevage remained the same: pressed without any added sulfur (which Smith-Chapel says allows for a strong natural yeast fermentation), vinification in steel, and bottled unfined/unfiltered.
“Aligoté is like an easy going child, almost too good to believe. Gamay is like a child that you adore strongly, but requires a bit more attention,” says Smith-Chapel. In 2018, only 1,200 bottles were produced, though with the attention it’s gaining (and seeing how good it tastes), we’re hoping they decide to make some more!
*Smith-Chapel wines have a different label than the Domaine Chapel wines to clearly distinguish purchased fruit (the former) versus estate fruit (the latter). All fruit, whether sourced or cultivated by the pair, is organic.
C Thiriet (formerly MC Thiriet) - Game-Changing Négociant
Camille Thiriet is a force to be reckoned with. This relatively new micro-négoce is just four years old, though the strides its making in Burgundy is nothing short of impressive. Both Camille (Burgundian) and Matt (Canadian) worked numerous years on the sales and production side of wine, then ultimately transitioned to their own label. This long experience working with some of Burgundy’s top names allowed them to create strong relationships with top growers across the Côte-d'Or, from whom they now source fruit. (Matt is currently still the chef de cave at Domaine de Villaine in Bouzeron.)
Camille Thiriet 📸: Vicki Denig
The project is based out of Château de Comblanchien, located just 15 minutes by car from Beaune. Their Chardonnays are produced with a minimalist mentality and strike the perfect balance between richness and zestiness, and the energy of the pair is evident in the juice within each bottle. Their Vézelay Blanc ‘Champs Cervin’ is rich, balanced, and loaded with zesty natural acidity. As of this year, Camille recently purchased some of her own vines in the Côte de Nuits-Villages, which will ultimately add another 3,000 bottles to her production next year. These two have totally captured our attention and we look forward to seeing what the long haul holds.
Marc Soyard - Pioneering Dijon
Marc Soyard’s story is one in a million. Just seven years back, the city of DIjon purchased a 160-hectare property called Domaine de la Cras and sought out the perfect individual to take care of its vines. However, the rules were clear. The vigneron(ne) in question must not come from a winemaking family, commit to farming organically, and welcome guests with open arms. Upon receiving Soyard’s application, it was clear that he was the perfect fit. Today, Marc is the sole winemaker at Domaine de la Cras. He takes organic farming a step further and farms the vines biodynamically, uses a light hand in the cellar, and produces some of the most delicious natural wines we’ve tased. To top it all off, Soyard is currently the only vigneron vinifying and labelling his wines under the Coteaux de Dijon appellation.
Fruit for Soyard’s Bourgogne Blanc is everything we want from delicious natural Chardonnay. The wine’s unctuous yet balanced palate is loaded with flavors of peach, lime zest, sea salt, green apples, and smoke. Soyard only makes a small amount of wine each year, so if you love Bourgogne Blanc, small-batch wines, and a damn good story, this bottle needs to be in your hands.
New Ventures from Chanterêves
Chanterêves is no new addition to our shelves, however, their lineup of wines (and the prestige of the juice in the bottle) is only getting better. The project was founded in 2010 by Guillaume Bott and Tomoko Kuriyama, a married couple who is based in Savigny-les-Beaune. Kuryiama, originally from Japan, met Bott while he was working at Bize, where he still makes the white wines today. Her decades-long winemaking background in Germany brings a unique zest to Bott’s native Burgundian style.
When the project was first realized, the pair exclusively worked with purchased fruit from all over Burgundy. A few years back, the duo purchased their first Aligoté vines, and as of 2020, will be adding 4.5 additional hectares to their holdings. The change in style of these wines is something worth noting, too.
For the whites, the biggest shift has come from the duo’s ability to convince the growers they work with to sell them grapes and not must (pressed wine). The major vinification benefits here, aside from the obvious of being able to execute the entire vinification process themselves, is that the wines are now produced with no sulfur on the press, the pressing cycle is much longer than before (up to six hours), and crushing takes place prior to pressing. In turn, the whites have become more focused, grounded, and show a newfound sense of energy that is undeniably Chanterêves.
We currently stock their Saint-Romain Blanc ‘Combe Bazin’ and Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc ‘La Morand,’ each of which makes us contemplate these unique and often underrated appellations, as well as keeps our palates salivating for more.
Bernard-Bonin - Longstanding but Revolutionary
Nicolas Bernard and Véronique Bonin have been vinifying wines in Meursault for over two decades now, though their wines are finally beginning to get the love they deserve. Like many Burgundian vignerons, the duo inherited a few hectares of vines from their family – however, they had different visions for their newly acquired plots. Steering away from the fully conventional ways of their families, Nicolas and Véronique decided to pursue what they call a ‘lutte intégrée’ mentality, which incorporates a bit of traditional, organic, and biodynamic farming practices. This farming strategy, coupled with a minimalist mentality in the cellar, is responsible for the energy and verve behind these dynamic wines.
What we love most about these wines is the way that they really express the vintage from which they come. Regardless of the concentration or acid levels of a given vintage, the wines always depict a serious sense of place and a unique edgy touch, one that is undeniably Bernard-Bonin. In the cellar, the juice always ages for 15-18 months in oak barrels and is bottled in conjunction with the lunar calendar. While these wines haven’t totally blown up yet, they’re certainly beginning to gain traction. We’d recommend getting in on them while you can.