Fanny Sabre runs by herself 4,5-hectare estate in the Côte de Beaune. Her winery is one of the two or three last to have their faciilty located in the old city center of Beaune, most having moved outside along the years for space and convenience. As soon as you open the large wooden door on the cobble-stone street (rue Oudot) you find yourself in the vatroom with everything at easy reach : the wooden vats, several sizes of stainless-steel vats, a pump, the small press, the 4-spout gravity bottle-filler and an old sink on the side, with a wooden statue of Saint Vincent overlooking the whole scene. There's even a manual corker as she bottles the wines by herself....
This is indeed a relatively small room to do all the winemaking but she uses the available space as is, optimizing the space by moving the empty vats up when not in use, and let's remind that she has only some 4 hectares of vineyards, even if this translates into many small-batch cuvées.
Fanny Sabre handn't planned initially to become a vigneronne and a vintner but life and fate put her on this path and at the age of 25 she is already among those Burgundy vintners who make a wide range of terroir-rooted cuvées.
I met her and tasted her wines last december and liked her wines and also the passion that I felt she had for the vigneron's life, from the rigorous vineyard management to the samely-rigorous if un-interventionist winemaking.
To remind the facts, Philippe Pacalet left Prieuré Roch to set up his Négoce in 1999, and as Fanny's father passed away in 2000, there was a need for someone to help, Fanny who was the eldest of the children being still in school then. Philippe Pacalet came here to help and vinified Domaine Sabre's wines. Fanny helped at each harvest and vinification, and with Pacalet she learnt a different winemaking style from what was previously done. The vinifications at Sabre had been very conventional, in cement vats (which make also good containers, she says, they keep well in temperature and they're neutral on the wine) with external yeasts and enzymes, and Fanny and her mother liked very much the result of Philippe Pacalet's work and approach, these wines made on their wild yeasts and without additives yielded a plus in the glass. This was a complete turnabout in the Domaine Sabre winemaking practices. She says that she likes for example the semi-carbonic maceration on the Pinot Noir, she corrects : she likes particularly the start, then they work naturally on CO2 because they make some cap-punching and pumping over the Bourgogne way, but she likes the start and the whole cluster too.
We walk to the other end of the vatroom where the vinification take place : there are 4 wooden open vats there (Grenier vats if I remember), one 40-hectoliter, two 20-hectoliter, and an old 45-hectoliter vat (in the background on the picture on the right - looks really old) which she bought to an old vigneron in Saint Aubin in 2009 to vinify her generic Bourgogne because she hadn't any other available vat for that wine. The vigneron had always had a single cuvée in his winery, so the wooden vat had been maintained in perfect conditions. She didn't have to renovate it and it makes a very good vinification job [Proves that it is still possible to buy old wooden vats here and there when you look hard]. This is an old style wooden vat that you can tip by removing a wooden wedge underneath, it's very convenient.
Then, there is the new wooden vat that she bought from the Autrian cooperage Stockinger (on the right on the pic above). It looks like the Grenier vats with the stainless-steel door and lid, It has a 20-hectoliter capacity and she uses it for both the fermentation and the elevage. Right now, it's full of wine by the way. It's like a very large cask.
The resin vat standing high on its feet in the center of the picture is used only for the bottlings, so that she can fill the bottles by gravity alone (no pump). She uses this simple 4-spout bottle filler to bottle her wines. She invested also in a very good and smooth peristaltic pump to bring the wine back from the underground cellar at the end of the elevage in casks.
She also bought this very important tool on the left : a lenticular filter which is very soft on the wine. It can even been processed by gravity if necessary. She says a "hard" filtration can harm the wine and this type of filter is very respective of the wine instead. She filters the whites with it. She usually pumps the wine first from the casks downstairs, then they rest a while in a vat, then they get their filtering by gravity before the bottling stage proper
She puts some SO2 at bottling, and now also after the malolactic fermentation, and when she pumps the wine back at the street level at the end of the elevage. At the time of Pacalet, he used to add some SO2 at the bottling stage only.
The casks are mostly old casks, and she buys each year some 15 casks from 2006 or 2007 for example.
We now tasted a few wines from the casks. She says that it's always very difficult to fully apreciate the last vintage so early, so she heads to the 208 wines :
__Fanny Sabre, Volnay 2008. This wine will been soon be racked upstairs (during this winter). Clove aromas, fruit notes also. This wine is probably at 9°C, like the cellar, very cold to taste, I try to warm it up in my hands. She says that while the 2007 was had vegetal notes, the 2008 is very classical. Digressing to the 2009, she says that it's like a shooting star, with the malolactic fermentation which was completed very quickly and the wine ready very early. With its temperature rising, the Volnay yields a nose with complexity. In the mouth, the tannins are gentle, it's supple. This Volnay vineyard borders the Pommards. There a small stream in between them, and she has a small plot of Pommard on the other side, on Pommard les Poisots. And even if vinified the same way, the wines are very different because the terroirs on the other side of the stream is so different. The Volnay 2008 costs 26 € (public prices).
__ Fanny Sabre Aloxe Corton 2008. She says that the color of this wine is never very bright because the vineyard is in the Aloxe basin, and it's not because of the yields, they make 30 ho/ha there like for the Pommards. And as she doesn't use enzymes, she doesn't intervene on the color and it stays this way. Nice red fruits notes, acidic cherries too. Well on the Pinot side aromaticly, a nice wine which goes down well. Costs 27 €. She tastes like me and likes also the mouthfeel of this wine. There's also a nice spicy or peppery feel on the nose. Very gouleyant. She has 4 casks of this wine, like for the Volnay and the Beaune 1er Cru les Chouacheux. Speaking of the pruning, she changed a bit her cutting compared with her beginning, she now prunes longer so as to have more space between the canes. While she learnt much from Philippe Pacalet for the vinification, she learnt by herself for the vineyard work and she now understands how to do the vineyard management. She also favors higher trellising for a good aeration of the foliage and grapes. She says that the topping and trimming is also very important, the first in the season is manual and she manages to let the foliage go higher than she would have allowed in the beginning. She says that this stage is very important. And she didn't learn that in the school, but on the spot as she followed what the vineyard management companies were doing on the family vineyards, and also with her grandfather who told her what he had learnt along the years.
__ Fanny Sabre Beaune 1er Cru Les Chouacheux 2008. Relatively clear Pinot Noir. Some reduction notes on the nose. Vivid feel in the mouth. That maybe the climat that she prefers, she says. It's at the border with the Pommard and nearly every vintage during the elevage, there is this reduction nose happening, not always at the same time, but it's a trend. There's never a problem in the mouth, but well, this is it. Nice mouth even if it's not the best time to taste and drink it. 29 €.
__ Fanny Sabre Beaune 1er Cru les Chouacheux 2009, for comparison. Really a young kid she says, but already finished, meaning malolactic fermentation made. Actually, she says, she proceeds to the entonnage (the transfer of the wine from the open vats to the casks in the cellar) with still a little sugar in the wine, that means, it is still fermenting. It will finish its fermentation in the casks, that's why she notes with chalk on the casks the evolution of the density and temperature. This Beaune is lightly gazeous but the fruit is noticeable. And that goes down so easy in the throat, a very round wine. It's powerful in the same time, there's everything, very nice indeed. The new press helped a lot here : with the whole-cluster vinification, she blends as usual the press juice and the free-run juice, and she noticed this autumn that the press juice was exceptionally beautiful, it was easily surpassing the free-run juice in terms of quality, with very thin tannins. She credits the press also for its precise work.
__ Fanny Sabre Aligoté 2009. Back to a white in the other cellar room. Alcoholic fermentation completed. Malo not yet. She never blocks the malo ferm, sometimes it stops during the cold months then starts again when the temperature rises again. Nose : grapefruit. Still some sugar felt on the palate. It has a Chardonnay feel at this stage, she says, with this sugar. She says that she likes very much the Aligoté because this vineyard sits on Pommard, it was actually formerly a Pommard (i.e. planted with Pinot Noir and thus was then labelled as Pommard). And there's a substance in this wine that makes it largely comparable with an Aligoté from Bouzeron. By the way, she is friend with Pierre de Benoit of Domaine De Villaine and she likes to tease him about how well her Aligoté fares, even compared with his Bouzeron which is the flagship of the tiny Appellation... We digress on the natural wines, the vins nature as they are also called here, she doesn't like the concept, she says that she tries to make wines which are alive, without adding chemicals or additives, now if a vintage asks for chaptalization, she will not abstain. She wants foremost her wines to reflect their respective terroirs, she for example wouldn't like a white that tastes apple. Pieere de Benoit helped her in the search of wines which reflect the terroir Bourguignon. Also, all her wines sit on their lees, including the 2008 and the reds. She stirs the whites once, and also later she blows once lightly and shortly through a pipe into the cask to help the lees move. otherwise her wines aren't disturbed and spend their elevage maturing quietly in this cellar. Her Aligoté costs 10 €.
__ Fanny Sabre Passetoutgrain 2009. Very brut, rough, she says at this stage. She has 6 casks (pièces) of this wine. Some gaz, even lots of it right now, she says. Very enjoyable in the mouth, pleasant and gourmand. The Gamay and the Pinot Noir of this blend are actually complanted on the vineyard, so it's harvested (manually, like the rest) together and fermented together, and it's hard to figure out which yiels each variety makes exactly. The Pinot Noir helps soften the wine here, she says, because the soil in Burgundy is not perfectly fit for Gamay, and the result is a clean wine, easy to drink, if short compared to other crus. It was a hallow vineyard that needed two years to get to work again and her first wine with it was in 2008, two casks (in 2007 she picked only three buckets in the whole plot...), and in 2009 (what we taste) she made 6 casks. Good value, a wine that will be at probably 9 Euro at the winery.
Fanny Sabre's wines are exported to several European countries like Denmark and Italy, and to the United States through the Margerum Wine Company in Santa Barbara.
Fanny Sabre and her family also manage several chambres d'hôtes (rooms to rent) in Pommard (12 place de l'Europe 21630 Pommard).