Just a few kilometers south of Villié Morgon, there's a small village named Cercié, this is where Christophe Pacalet based his winery. Unlike most of his peers, he doesn't own vineyards but he purchases the grapes from selected terroirs. In that sense he shares another trait with his same-name cousin, Philippe Pacalet, who makes wine further north in Burgundy without owning land there.
Christophe set up his winery, we'll call it a négoce (but he vinifies all his wines himself), in 1999. Purchasing grapes adds a bit of uncertainty on the whole enterprise but on the whole, his contracts are pretty stable, the Côtes de Brouilly comes from the same vineyards since 2001, the Chiroubles since 1999, the Moulin à Vent is made from the same 3 plots since 2000. For the white Beaujolais, there's no history yet, as this is the first year he makes one. Julienas is very regular too, he buys from the same place since 2004, there's only Chenas he says, which is oddly changing almost every year in spite of a slugging wholesale market for these grapes. For some reasons, the growers aren't selling much grapes, so he has now and then to find new growers for this terroir.
Christophe Pacalet makes wines today from a total surface of about 8 hectares of vineyards, split Julienas (0,2 hectare), Chiroubles (1 hectare), Moulin à Vent (1 hectare), Chenas (0,6 hectare), plus larger surface equivalences for the white, the Beaulolais Nouveau and the Beaujolais Villages, which he counts in purchased-grapes weight more than in vineyard surface.
He always used a courtier, an agent, to find the vineyards when he was looking for some, and it worked well.
We walk into the chai where the wooden tronconic vats and the press sit. These open-top fermenters allow him to vinify his different terroirs individually. I note that here also, the chai is well aerated, with a non-insulated roof allowing the air to come and go.
Speaking of the grapes, they're harvested by hios own team of pickers as said above, and the sorting is made while picking, he considers that the sorting tables don't work well on Gamay, the best sorting is on the spot. If the owner of the vineyard wants to do something with the grapes that they didn't select, the pickers harvest with two buckets, one for the good grapes, the other for the unfit ones when the vineyard owner wants to use them. But most of the times, they just leave these bad grapes on the ground.
After then, they take the clustered grapes out of the open vats with forks and fill the press, blending in general the press juice with the free-run (jus de goutte) juice into the same tronconic wooded vat. The press stage will last about 10 hours in general.
He'll make his first bottlings in spring, for Easter, usually the Chiroubles for example. Also the Côtes de Brouilly, the last being the Moulin à Vent, the Chenas. These last wines were bottled last october for the 2009 vintage, but there's no fixed date, every year is slightly different, the previous years it was more like mid-july or august. In 2009, the sugar had taken more time to be transformed into alcohol (he of course uses indigenous yeasts), and he had thus to wait longer and reschedule the bottlings.
__ Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2009. Bottled last june. Lots of character, fruit. 1st wine that we taste that day, not easy. A bit of reduction at the beginning. No SO2 here, Christophe says. Most of his Chiroubles wines, which make usually only 11,5° in alcohol, are exported to Japan. The 2009 one is exceptionally high, with 13°.
__ Christophe Pacalet Fleurie 2009. Bottled last april. Seems much more opened, but that's the second wine and it's always easier. This wine is feminine and elegant. Christophe Pacalet says that it's like the Chambolle Musigny in Burgundy, same easy pleasure. Here there was some SO2 added just before the bottling, with between 0 and 3,5 grams total and free. The level allowed by the Appellation rules is 18 grams. He didn't add any SO2 in the Chiroubles that we tasted before, because it's a wine that is supposed to be drunk earlier. This fleurie makes 13° in 2009, which is rare also. Very tasty wine indeed.
__ Christophe Pacalet Moulin à Vent 2009. From vineyard with lots of granite and manganese in its soil. Fruity nose, plum. Complexity. Pleasant mouth, with elegance. Good acidity. 14°. Length. This wine has time on its side, Christophe says that in 20 years from now, it will still have things to say.
__We go taste wines in the casks : the Moulin à Vent 2010, then the Fleurie 2010 and the Juliénas 2010. The Fleurie has been in casks for a week, it has not yet made its malolactic fermentation, that's the first time it happens.
__ Christophe Pacalet Chenas 2009. This terroir easily reaches high alcohol levels because of its clay soil. 14,5° in 2009, first time he reaches such a level, usually it makes 13°. Very open, very tasty wine. A little known story about Chénas (according to this article in French) is that some of the Chénas production disappears regularly from the statistics because some Burgundy wineries buy it to blend it with their Bourgogne wines and thus enhance their Pinot Noir alcohol level.
__ Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais Villages 2009. Delicious simple wine. He bought the juice from a vigneron in Lantignié.
__ Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2008. That's how Chiroubles really tastes, Christophe says. Delicate aromatic nose, some smoky taste. Right time to drink it, he says. 12°. The smoky side comes from the bacteria that start to attack, as there's no SO2 at all in this wine. Not a problem for me anyway.
__ Christophe Pacalet Côtes de Brouilly 2008. Difficult vintage, he says, they had to do lots of sorting and dumping in the vineyard on harvest day. Nice mouth and nice length, proves that difficult vintage doesn't mean second-rate wine. Nice color and transparency, 12°.
__ Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais Villages 2010. Nice peppery nose. No SO2 at all in this wine, made from young vines. 800 cases will be shipped november 2nd to Japan to be ready for the 3rd thursday of november.
__ Christophe Pacalet Moulin à Vent 2008. That's a very nice wine to drink.
Chistophe Pacalet and his wife have two young daughters.
Christophe Pacalet sells two-thirds of his wines outside of France, first in Japan (Oeno-Connexion), then to the United States (Winebow), to Holland (Vleck), Belgium, Canade (Rezin in Quebec - Ontario, Michel Rethors and Racine Wine Imports in British Columbia), Denmark, Italy, the latter being in small volumes, in Spain too through Lavinia. Then, he sells to cavistes (Lavinia, Caves Augé...) and restaurants (Cave de l'Os à Moelle, Chez Michel, le Comptoir, Chez l'Ami Jean...). More and more people come buy wine also at the winery.