This bottle of Burgundy wine came on our table almost by accident : B.'s brother had met on a farmer's market somewhere in Burgundy one of his old-time acquaintances who had since become a vigneron. Benoit Delorme (that's his name) was selling his Côte-Chalonnaise red Burgundy wine and a couple of bottles landed on our table. The only thing we knew when we drank this wine in Paris is that the guy worked on 1,5 hectare in the Côte Chalonnaise; the simple design of the label and the type of paper hinted at someone considering wine with a certain ethic and philosophy. This label, which is so stretched that it goes almost round the bottle, has an enigmatic drawing on its left end. I liked his wine from the first sip, we both liked it, this Pinot Noir was generous, it was earthy, and it was alive. I didn't even have to know how the vigneron worked here, this wine had its own life, it spoke to me. There are wines like that, they are not necessarily the most perfect wines, but when a wine is true and hasn't been forced to be what it is, it has a personality of its own and an unmistakable charm. That's the difference between an interesting-but-ordinary wine and a wine where you just finish the bottle (at two, don't worry...) without even noticing.
The Côte Chalonnaise is a lesser-known Appellation of Burgundy, the vineyards are located on the slopes and hills west of Chalon-sur-Saone (which lies in the plain). With other Burgundy Appellations being priced in the high bracket, that's where you can find affordable Burgundies in the region, like in the Côtes du Couchois or in the Maconnais. There may be also (am I right ?) the feeling that the region kept a low-profile, family-estate style in comparison with more flamboyant parts of the region.
Benoit's grand-grandfather was both a vigneron and a baker (boulanger) in Mercurey, and part of this heritage sort of bounced back in his espousing the wimemaking life.
Benoit felt as a teenager (in the seconde class, that is 2 years before the baccalauréat) that the life of vigneron was the one he wanted to live, he had always been in love with nature, climbing cliffs and mountains in his free time, and he needed this outdoor life close to nature. As he was living in Chalon-sur-Saône, he had friends who were sons of vignerons and got to know better this life. After the Bac, he got a BTS at the Viticulture school of Beaune (Lycée Viticole) and arrived in the wine world in 1986 (but he had already taken part many times to harvests in the region). Then he travelled, spent time in the Matanzas Creek winery in California for 4 months, then worked in Alscace at Kühn, a négociant, then at Olivier Merlin in the Maconnais, then at last at Verget, a Maison de Négoce of Burgundy. In the United States, he discovered the use of advanced technology and found that marvelous, it made the work very comfortable. He says that there is a country where there is even more technology and it's here in the old Europe, in Spain, where huge investments have been made, he says they can make three different wines from the same grape there, and also hard liquor, and he finds that fantastic...He had the opportunity both in Alsace and at Verget to work with great terroirs. He settled in the Beaujolais first, from 1995 to 1998, an episode which ended by personnal problems and a divorce (he also has two sons). After working some time in a speculative buy-and-sell company dealing with Bordeaux and other expensive bottles, he contacted Guy Chaumont to see if some vineyard plots were available around there. In 2003-2004, he found and rented these vineyards in this side of the Côte Chalonnaise.
Another thing he may not do anymore is selling to the Négoce because the prices for wine in bulk to the Négoce have been falling sharply lately : for example he heard recently that a cask (pièce) of Aligoté [he doesn't make any Aligoté but that's just for the information about the rates] which would have sold 500 Euro last year sells now 250 Euro. He didn't hear about the price rates for Burgundy reds in bulk but it follows probably the trend. There is really a problem here, maybe with this economic crisis and with his small surface he really must sell everything in bottles. The Négoce option is the easy way to get quick cash but it gest less interesting if the prices get too low
__Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Benoit Delorme 2005. Red. Bottled in 2007 after 24 months of elevage. I like this nose, even if there is a bit of gas here. Mouth with red fruits aromas. Benoit says that he prefers the mouth to the nose here. He says that the tradition among the grandpas of the Côte Chalonnaise around here was to bottle the wines after two years in casks and that they would be considered as tasting well after 5 years. He says that it may not work on all vintages but he finds this quite accurate on the whole. There's a density with the tannins and the harmony comes with time spent in the casks. He didn't destem at the beginning and now destems partially from 2006, like 20 boxes on a total of 80 boxes for a vat.He tried to fully destem on a vat in 2006 but was he not satisfied with the result even if it made the wine more easilly accessible. The stem brings savor and also some mineral elements and without any stems, something lacks. After a first year of elevage, he feels the positive side of the stems part, particularly on the aromatic complexity.In 2005 he sold one cuvée to the Négoce, then had some other wine bottled at the end of 2006, and the one that we taste now which was the most achieved and that he bottled later in august 2007. The different climats of his 1,4-hectare vineyard make their way separately in the casks and he blends them the way he feels it at the end of the cellar road. As often, as we take a sip again 5 or 10 minutes later of this same bottle, we feel more richness in terms of aromas and complexity. B. says that she feels now floral aromas like peony notes. The sad thing is that he has virtually no bottle left for this vintage 2005. Thank you so much for opening this bottle, Benoit.
__Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Benoit Delorme 2008. Red. From a cask. Comes from the south-exposure plot, with the productive clone. This wine hasn't seen any SO2 since the beginning and no racking since the harvest. A bit perly in the mouth. Fineness. Lighter in alcohol. The malolactic fermentation is on the wane here. The year 2008 was cold and humid but the late season was good and the harvest weather was beautiful. The cold didn't bring a good maturation elsewhere but on his vineyard which is organicly farmed, he had kept a good foliage volume and all the weeds on the ground which helped a lot for the health of the grapes, just that the alcohol was lower this year (12° instead of 13°) and that the acidity was high.
__Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Benoit Delorme 2008. Red. From a cask. Comes from the eastern-exposition plot with the low-yields clone. 3 weeks maceration here, compared with 5 or 6 days for the previous wine of the same year. Reduction notes on the nose. In the mouth, a feel of life, I like that. Benoit is suprised by the color because elsewhere for 2008 the wines have very clear and pale robes. He added some lees from 2007, one liter per cask for this cuvée, as if he wanted to say to the wine : here is your roots, stay connected.... He uses old casks, the oldest dating from 1993 and the newest from 2002/2003. He rotates usually 5/6 casks a year. He says after a moment that he is suprised, this wine tastes well.