It was almost yesterday. It's been 10 years since Philippe Pacalet set up his négoce venture. To mark this anniversary, he organized a festive reception at the winery facility in downtown Beaune. Friends, importers, customers, many people came here to enjoy this beautiful june sunday. There was no discourse or other formality, but it was a treat from whatever point you look at it, and the fact that you were poured different Pacalet wines all day was not the least of them...
After working 10 years for Prieuré-Roch (1991-2000), Philippe Pacalet, who as the nephew of Marcel Lapierre didn't lack a rich background to inspire his winemaking vision, started his winery in 2001, using the best selected terroirs of Burgundy, although he didn't have the money or the financial backing to purchase any vineyard there. He would just let aside the property thing and concentrate on winemaking and quality, renting small plots here and there from vignerons he could trust regarding the vineyard condition. And going even further than just buying grapes, he would take care by himself of the vineyard side of the job, so that he could get the right quality of grapes on harvest day. This work scheme paid off pretty fast and the wines of this landless winemaker soon stood out, with most sales being for export from the start. Although this use of rented vineyards can be considered similar to the purchased-grapes scheme favored by commercial négoce houses, the focus of Philippe Pacalet was not to make large volumes from easy-to-sell Appellations. What he learned from both his uncle Lapierre and his former job at Prieuré-Roch was to make quality wines through a low-intervention, patient vinification mode.
The winery, for those who haven't been there is a simple, basic building with a large 19th-century cellar and was previously owned by the De Montille family. See this story, also this one or further, this one, to look at the facility (yes I know, I'm very lucky...). It sits along a quiet street near the Beaune railway station, just opposite a building housing Taransaud (the cooperage). When he purchased the place, Philippe Pacalet just modernized a few things inside but didn't turn it into a sleek and stylish shop window, and the facility stil has this real something with an authenticity feel.
The event was supposed to start at 11am, B. and I, plus her brother who lives in Chalon-sur-Saone arrived there at noon maybe. The Bourgogne Rouge was a good surprise, this light-colored 2001 Pinot Noir was savoury and easy, a good introduction before more elaborate wines, and it helped us all socialize in the best possible mood. There were many different people there, winemakers, restaurateurs, immporters from Japan, Italy and Brazil, a cooper (Grenier) and it was for us the occasion to say hello and chat with a few acquaintances.
Back to this anniversary day and the Pacalet wines that we were treated with : we had this Burgundy red 2010 that I liked, then a Gevrey Chambertin 2009, very nice, more classy. Then a Pommard 2009, comparatively more austere (after the Gev-Chamb) but Still in its infancy I think. B. liked the Pommard a lot and I trust her. Then we had some Puligny-Montrachet 2009. This Chardonnay was feeling like silk paper for me, with a light woody feel at the beginning. The nose was not woody at all, but precise and mineral. And as time passed and the wine's temperature in the glass raised (it was a hot day), the wine became more rich and opulent.
The last treat before we left was this Monthelie 1er Cru Clos Gauthey 2008. I don't know why but I liked very much this Monthelie, it was alive and fresh and joyous, and the spiraling temperature in my repeatedly-filled glass didn't hamper its character. Cheaper than the Puligny, I found several Pacalet retail prices on this page (a wine shop in Bordeaux), and this Monthelie cost about 40 € a bottle. Philippe Pacalet told me that he makes only 3 or 4 casks of it, and the vineyard is a nice walled clos.
Back to the sales : 10 years ago, he sold almost all the wine abroad, now still 80 % of the wine is exported. He didn't keep wines before, for longer aging. Now, he began to keep some vintages, like the 2008. He says that it's interesting for the people in a few years who will want to buy older vintages (in case they didn't stock up themselves). He also has a few Charmes 2007, Pommard 1er Cru and so on.
Japan is still a big buyer of Pacalet wines (the biggest), with exporters like Oeno Connexion (My Eriko Ito) and Nomura Unison (Mr Tetsuki Takezawa). Brazil (World Wine) is now second in terms of volumes, this speaks length about how this BRICS country grows... He says that it is also a question of agents and their dynamism, this can make a big difference. He sells well also in Belgium (R&R SPRL, Robert Vanderhove), Italy (Balan), Denmark. Both Italy & Denmark (Vinrosen) are where he makes his highest sales in Europe. In the U.S. the wines are sold through Louis Dressner Selections. Sales in Taiwan (New Century wine) are growng too, he says. They sell in Korea too. Imports should start in Shanghai soon with KC International, a new player bringing natural wines into mainland China.
asked about the season in 2011, Philippe Pacalet says that since early april the weather is beautiful, no stress, no disease pressure, everything fine. Things are one month in advance, precocious but balanced. They sprayed half less than usual. They just had trouble at times to find the workforce to tye because the foliage growth was unusually rapid. They only made two anti-mildew treatments so far, this is well under the rule at this time of the year. They tend to use only sulphur powder because the temperatures allow it, instead of diluted sulphur, it's softer.