In a region like Burgundy, where centuries of strict rules of inheritance have carved up vineyard land into miniscule parcels, Domaine Chandon de Briailles is a gem, having been run continuously by the de Nicolay family since 1834. In addition to their strong viticulture heritage in Burgundy, the de Nicolays also have familial ties to the famous Champagne house Moët et Chandon. Chandon de Briailles farms 13.7 hectares of vineyards in some of the Côte de Beaune’s most prestigious terroirs: Savigny-lès-Beaune, Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Corton and Corton-Charlemagne.
Today, the brother-and-sister team of François and Claude de Nicolay show incredible commitment and know-how, weaving their own list of accomplishments into the domaine’s history. Most notably, the two began converting the vineyards to biodynamic farming in 2005—then a rarity in Burgundy where the humidity makes such practices a challenge—and received official Demeter certification for the 2011 vintage. Like others in Burgundy who are making such healthy choices in their vineyard management, the de Nicolays have seen an increase in the acidity levels of the grapes. Yields here average a mere 30 hectoliters per hectare.
Chandon de Briailles seeks to use whole-cluster fermentation for their reds whenever possible: 30 to 50% in their premier crus and 50 to 80% in their grand crus. Red wines are fermented in open-top, cement tanks where the maximum fermentation temperatures are controlled at 30°C. Punch-downs take place twice a day. White wines are all barrel-fermented after settling for 48 hours in stainless steel. Fermentation temperatures are kept below 22°C without any stirring on the lees. The de Nicolays prefer the use of neutral barrels to best highlight the purity of their fruit and its terroir and age their wines for 18-24 months. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, with low doses of sulfur as permitted by Demeter. Tasting several different crus of Chandon de Briailles in a given vintage is an excellent way to experience the singular expressions of Burgundian terroirs, where individual parcels and microclimates produce wines of entirely unique character.