Natural wines are very popular in Denmark, and the use of SO2 in the vinification have become very controversial among certain groups of winos.
In my view this hysteria have given us a lot of very poor so called natural wines – many of them are heavily oxidized and almost undrinkable. Some Sommeliers sadly seem to favour these faulty wines, and it’s very clear that only very few producers have the skills to make durable and pure wines without SO2.
One of the best producers of low SO2 wines is in my view Philippe Pacalet. I have followed the wines from Philippe since the first vintage in 2001 – and even before this, when he was making wines at Domaine Prieure Roch. The wines from Pacalet are getting better and better, and are now well ahead of most other producers of so called natural wines.
There are however quite a lot of discussions about low SO2 wines … how well do they age, will they keep … and are they more fragile than other wines with a higher SO2 content.
To answer some of these question the Danish importer of Pacalet – Vinrosen – made a small event with Philippe Pacalet, where Philippe had the opportunity to talk about the vinification, the vintages and the ageing of the wines in bottle. To spice this up Vinrosen served two older wines from the first vintages Pacalet produced – a red 2001 and a white 2002 – along with four Pacalet wines from the lovely 2011 vintage.
The two older village wines
The two wines chosen for this little experiment were the Gevrey Chambertin Village 2001, normally one of the lesser village wine in Pacalets large portfolio of wines, and the Meursault 2002 village.
Philippe Pacalet, Gevrey Chambertin 2001
The Gevrey 2001 village is still very much alive and kicking, with a good slightly rustic freshness so typical for this vintage. In the bouquet nice complex mature notes of red berries, orange, truffle peel and sous bois. On the palate quite intense and tight, still with a good nerve from the quite powerful acidity. In my view close to full maturity … a lovely glass of Burgundy with it’s focused and quite vibrant fruit.
(Drink Now) – Good+ (87p) – Tasted 07/06/2013
Philippe Pacalet, Meursault 2002
The Meursault 2002 village is a lovely mature wine – even more impressive than the Gevrey 01. The bouquet offer pure buttery yellow fruit – notes of apples, almonds and honeysuckle with some nice mineralic hints underneath. On the palate quite intense and rich nutty and buttery fruit, still quite fresh and vibrant without any oxidatory problems. It’s focused, pure with a long and quite complex finish … nice grape and coffee notes in the final. A lovely mature village Meursault.
(Drink Now) – Very Good (89p) – Tasted 07/06/2013
Both wines were lovely and close to their peak … the red was slightly tighter than I would have expected from a old Pacalet red, the white was surprisingly fresh … quite impressive.
Ageing potential of the Paclet wines
Based on these wines the ageing potential is fine – as both village wines are approaching maturity after 10 years. There are producers who require longer cellaring, but also produceres that produce wines with a shorter life.
I have tasted other Paclet wines from 2002 and 2004 and they confirm a good and quite normal ageing potential. Even Prieure Roch 2000 Clos de Corvees keeps quite beautifully – but is fully mature now.
Furthermore Pacalet mentioned that he expect that the latest vintages – after 2007 – will keep even better due to several improvements in the vinification. One of the improvements is rolling of the barrels in the cellar … to stirr up the lees (a form of battonage with the barrel sealed). This proces is now done more systematically and at the optimal time.
Storage temperature for low SO2 wines
The two Pacalet wines served at the tasting comes from ideal storage facilities, where they have been kept since the arrival to Denmark. Not all wines are however stored under perfect conditions.
There are some indications of low SO2 wines having a lower tolerance for high temperatures. Some collectors have mentioned that these wines tend to develop quite rapidly when stored under relatively hot conditions.
I never seen problems with a Pacalet wine due to a hot storage – but I would not recommend to store low SO2 wines under hot conditions or in a storage with a large short term variation in the temperature. Keep them cool … and they will develop more or less like other wines.
Dust and deposits
Wines from Pacalet and Domaine Prieure Roch can have quite a lot of deposits – mainly very finely grained dust. The 2001 Gevrey was remarkably clear, while other wines and vintages can be quite dusty when they matures.
These dusty bottles should be handled with great care – i.e. don’t transport or stirr the botle just before the tasting – handel the bottle very carefully while decanting.
The dust have some somewhat unpleasent bitterness … giving the wine some volatile hints and some rather rustic notes of tar and iron. So avoid transport of older wines just before tasting, and check the wine before pouring or decanting.