We met (and tasted the wines of) Frédéric Magnien in the Grand Tasting 2007 which gathered dozens of the best winemakers in the basement of the Louvre (the next one is this weekend). I can't find my notes but we were impressed by the serious work and quality of his wines. Our tasting at his small stand was a milestone of this wine-tasting event. Frédéric Magnien is the fifth generation of a vigneron family, and he has a dual activity : he is a vigneron for the Domaine Michel Magnien (his father) and he developped a Négoce activity to fully experience his vintner's job, as buying grapes allows him to vinify many more Appellations than if he counted only with the family-owned vineyards. Frédéric Magnien makes quite a lot of small-volume cuvées, with a preference for the Cotes-de-Nuits, from vineyards that he could work on, thanks to an arrangement with the owners. He also makes Chablis even if he considers it is only for the intellectual sport, the distance from his Morey facility making it a not very profitable venture (3 hours to commute there, including for his workers). Also, he buys the Chablis grapes according to the quantity of wine that he will make, meaning that he virtually buys the wine in bulk there in spite of the fact that he also pays for the harvest costs, the vinification and elevage, but the Chablis growers sell their grapes at rates of "wine in bulk", and as wine in bulk costs about the same price than bottled wine in Chablis these days, he is obviously disadvantaged in terms of price margin potential.
His favorite spare-time activity is to discover the Cotes-de-Nuits region to select the available purchased grapes there, finding interesting terroirs along his ramblings. Frédéric Magnien's workaholic ways can be measured in his very wide range of cuvées : no less than 40 to 45 different cuvées every year, each offering a distinctive terroir expression.
He wants to make more qualitative cuvées, wines that are closely connected to their terroir. That's why since 2008, 30% of the purchased grapes (all the 1st Crus and one third of Grands Crus) are organicly farmed thanks to a parnertship with the vignerons : he remains a négociant and didn't make the step to rent the vineyards but he proposes them vineyard-management services AND his vinification services. At the end, with the qualitative leap that he gave to the wine, he pays the vignerons a good price per kilogram compared to the bulk rates.
When is looks for a vineyard, he takes into account the vineyard looks, the vinestock, the apparent quality of the pruning and vineyard management, the vigor and age of the plot. Of course, he is at ease with the intertwined climats (in the Cotes-de-Nuits at least) and can walk in the vineyards and know without a detailed vineyard-map (like Charlotte Fromont's book) to which micro-Appellation a given plot belongs and even to name the owner...
__Frédéric Magnien, Bourgogne, Pinot Noir 2007. Bottle, no label. Nice intensity in the nose. He says his wines are based on maturity, he doesn't like wines that are too acidic. 2007 is the type of millesime that he likes in this regard. 2003 was his preferred, the result of this atypical year on his wine turned to be really good. It has been often said that 2003 wines would not last long but sommeliers begin to have second thoughts because as time passes they are very stable year after year. For him, the 2003 reds will be like the 1947, that is a milestone millesime in spite of very uncertain beginnings. In 1947, many vignerons hurriedly sold their wine in bulk to get rid of what they thought would be a problematic wine. The 2006 wine is sold 9,95 Euro.
__Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny Old-Vines 2007 (winethief-blend from two casks, a new cask and a one-year old). Nice deep nose, some gaz. The wine has not finished its elevage, he says, and it will be marqued by its elevage durung one year after bottling. He noticed that with older vines, the wine gets austere and tight in its youth. Very nice, classy mouth. The new-cask wine was racked into this cask after it completed its malolactic fermentation. This wine will be blended in a vat next month and bottled january/february 2009. He takes into account the lunar cycles for the racking and bottling, and it is even more important because he doesn't use additives like gums or fining agents. He doesn't need additives because he doesn't look for pre-formated wines. What he really looks for is a different expression for each cuvée. The 2006 wine is sold 27 Euro.
__Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle Musigny "les Baudes" 2007. A climat under Bonnes-Mares, very rocky soil. Marked tannins. Here the terroir brought this rugged side, this proves that Chambolles aren't always these feminine wines they're always advertized to be.
__Frédéric Magnien, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru les Cazetiers 2007. On the slope. 5 casks of this wine. Very nice, depth and concentration. Malo-ferm finished last september. Only wild, indigenous yeasts and bacteria for his fermentation. He says that for Chablis wines, the philosophy is different and the winemakers uses the same external yeasts in a given vathouse to best differenciate the different terroirs betweem themselves. Density, earthy notes, says B. He uses only François-Frères casks to avoid having cooperage differences meddle in the wine styles. The wood for these casks (fine- & very-fine grained) comes from the Allier forests and dried 3 years in the open air, and the staves got a medium toast. He prefers to use the same containers so that the cask factor will not add another parameter in his small-batch cuvées. He had never to face a bad-tasting cask until now. The 2005 wine was at 45 Euro.
__Frédéric Magnien, Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2007. Very nice aromatic depth. Very nice mouth too, onctuous. Nice structure, says B, with chocolate, tobacco and jammy fruits aromas. We both love this one. Comes from a 1,8-hectare vineyard on Morey-Saint-Denis along Clos de Tart. He says that the soil is clear there (terres blanches, in French. The 2006 wine is sold 98 Euro.