In 1834, Pierre Guillemot purchased a sizeable estate in Savigny-les-Beaune, known today as Domaine Chandon de Briailles. The domaine, which has remained in the family since that time, is the epitome of Burgundian grandeur. Behind the estate’s elegant Louis XIV manor house, built in 1704, lies a regal garden designed in the style of those at Versailles. During the 1940’s and ‘50’s, Chandon de Briailles enjoyed a great reputation and its wines were sold to top Parisian restaurants such as Prunier and La Tour d’Argent. The Countess Nadine de Nicolay took control of the estate in 1984, but by this time the quality of the wines had greatly declined. A lively woman with great determination, Nadine immediately set out to improve the domaine. The dying vines were removed from the vineyards and extensive replanting was begun. Every step of the winemaking process was overhauled and the wines quickly improved. Nadine’s daughter, Claude de Nicolay Drouhin, joined the team in the late ‘80’s. Claude now oversees the domaine, which is once again regarded as one of the finest in Burgundy.
Located just west of the imposing hill of Corton, Chandon de Briailles owns a terrific array of the area’s best vineyards. In addition to a basic village cuvee, the domaine makes wine from two premier cru sites in Savigny. A red and white cuvee are made from Aux Forneaux (1.68 ha.) and are both are lush, richly textured wines. Les Lavieres (2.61 ha.) produces a deep, rustic wine that demands a decade or so in the cellar. The estate is the largest producer in the Pernand-Verglesses premeier cru Illes desVergelesses, a vineyard that some, including Clive Coates, feel should be considered for grand cru status. Chandon harvests both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the vineyard. The Illes des Vergelesses (0.65 ha.) blanc is a restrained, intensely mineral wine. Elegant and refined, the rouge cuvee (3.13 ha.) shows concentrated red fruits on the palate. Below Illes des Vergelesses sits Les Basses-Vergelesses, from which a lighter, but similarly styled wine is made. In Aloxe-Corton, the domaine owns a small parcel in the premier cru Les Valozieres (0.28 ha.). Located at the base of Corton, this vineyard produces a full, spicy wine that bears a resemblance to its more famous neighbors.
Chandon de Briailles is one the leading sources for the grand cru wines of Corton. A rare Corton blanc is bottled from grapes located in the lieu-dit Les Bressandes and LesRenardes. This full-bodied wine often shows ripe, red fruits on the palate. There are only five barrels of the domaine’s Corton-Charlemagne, which comes from a plot in Le Charlemagne (0.39 ha.) located just above Coche-Dury’s. The wine is intense, mineral and capable of aging for many years. Three different red wines are bottled from Corton. Marechaudes (0.40 ha.) is a rather humid, warm vineyard and it produces a robust, fruity wine. Bressandes is one of the largest and best of the grand crus of Corton. From their plot (1.71 ha.) in this vineyard, Chandon bottles a full-bodied, complex wine. Perhaps the best site on the hill is the one once owned by the King of France, Clos du Roi. Chandon’s cuvee, from a parcel of 60 year old vines (0.45 ha.), has all the power and concentration expected from a Corton, but with more refinement.
Since 2005, all the vineyards have been farmed using biodynamic principles. Through rigorous debudding and green harvesting, the yields are kept to 35 hectoliters per hectare on average. Relying on traditional techniques, the winemaking uses a large portion of the stems in the vinification. Temperature for the fermentation of the red wines is kept at a maximum of 32 degrees celsius, 22 for the whites. The wines then rest in the domaine's 13th century cellar for 18 to 24 months, with only a small percentage of the barrels new. Bottling is done by gravity without filtration. The domaine is now producing top level wines that represent some of the best values in Burgundy. Through the hard work of two generations of de Nicolay women, first Nadine and now Claude, Domaine Chandon de Briailles is once again one of the leading estates of the Cote d’Or.