Monthelie stands in my back, and in the distance, smoke from wheeled barrel-stoves point to where workers are busy pruning and burning the canes between the rows. The village on the left is Auxey-Duresses.
We are on our way for a short visit at Annick Parent's small size (working on 5 hectares) winery.
The good thing when you live in Paris is that you have countless opportunities there to meet vignerons (or vigneronnes) and taste their wines. This is at such a tasting (small size, 10 wineries invited), on a barge ( Le Calife, near the Pont des Arts) on the Seine that we recently met Annick Parent and delighted with her Volnay and Pommard. The rustic wood panelling and dim lights of the barge interior provided a cozy ambiance, but the strong polish smell was maybe not the best-suited environment for appreciating wine. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the wines and while in Burgundy called for a visit at her winery in Monthelie. We arrived in the village with the sun. While colder parts of Burgundy were still snow-blanketed, the area was in a break from cold temperatures, the snow had melted, and workers were resuming their winter tasks.
Annick Parent welcomes us in the main room of the chai whith the vertical press, the tronconic wooden vats and the casks all around us
The trail to Parent's ancestry in the wine activity in the region goes as far as the 17th century. After her grand father Gabriel, her mother managed the winery and went to the Davaillé Viticulture School to get additional training. Annick has witnessed herself considerable cultural change in the way people work around here, she remembers everything was so different even 10 or 20 years ago. Even though she still works a very traditional way, some even more rustic tools were still used not so long ago, like this wood-and-leather hand pump she recalls was used for racking...
Working on Pinot Noir, she notes the extraordinary ability of the grape variety to let the geology, the terroir express itself through different millesimes and conditions. In that regard, she looks much more for elegance and complexity in the wine than extraction and tannins.
Harvest is done by hand by local people. She can't accomodate the harvesters because of these french laws which ask a hotel standard for the bedrooms, which most vignerons can't afford for the 2 weeks duration of the harvest. Another law asks for a costly building inspection for asbestos, which seems weird as the whole building dates from the 19th century... She also employs two people part-time around the year for the different tasks on the 5 hectares vineyard, and she works herself occasionally in the vineyard.
The vertical press (in the background in the second picture above) is a very simple, old style one. She says the Vaslin de-stemmer is the only modern machine she uses. Thanks to it, she can keep her grapes barely pressed at this stage, which allows her to use very little SO2. She tastes everything all the time, the grapes of course, but also the stems while checking the vineyard plots. She avoids the herby side that may come with the stems. She destems 90% of the clusters usually, but if she feels some of them have something interesting, she adds a few boxes of whole clusters in the press. SO2 along the process, 1L per metric ton. It is so low it is not detected in the lab.
On the ground : No herbicides at all in her vineyard, where she occasionally plows between the rows. She says it is amazing how you can see the difference between the earth worked this way and the earth worked the traditional "chemical" way. When she kneels down to grasp some earth on her plots, she can do it, the earth comes in pieces. Elsewhere, due to years of chemical treatments, the ground is hardened. Plus, it has a sort of crystallized structure. This is a sterile, regressing soil.
Not many new casks used, she does not look for the woody side in her wines. The wine stays 18 months in casks and is then blended and bottled. Bottling is done by an external service company, which is the best solution for her small size winery.
We taste now from a bottle :
__Annick Parent Monthelie Premier Cru "Clos Gauthey" 2003. Nice dark red colour. This is 2003 and the Pinot Noir turned darker with the heat wave. Harvest august 20th to 25th. Great fruity nose. The blackcurrant stands out. The wine retained its Pinot Noir typicity with only 13° alcohol when around here many in 2003 turned toward "Rhone wines", with much higher alcohol levels.
Her Pommard plot is very well exposed, so she usually harvests as soon as the "ban de vendange" allows the vignerons to begin the harvest [The "ban de vendange" date is decided by the french wine authorities after consultation of the comittees of wise men in each village ].
And we had tasted several other wines in Paris :
__Annick Parent Volnay 1er Cru "Fremiets", a climat. This Pinot Noir is silky, with softened tannins. Fruity. She uses one new cask for 8 older casks for this cuvee.
__Annick Parent Pommard 1er Cru "Les Rugiens" 2000. Nice wine. After the malolactic fermentation was completed, she let the wine on its lees until bottling, with one racking only (15 days before bottling).
__Annick Parent Pommard 1er Cru "Les Rugiens" 1999 . Still young, has to be carafed some time before serving. Nice, strong mouth. Even after emptying the glass, great, complex nose.
She makes some Chardonnay, but very little as the plot in production has a 14,7 are (0,147 hectare) surface, about 3 casks or a little less than 1000 bottles.
(Thank you Annick for the visit.