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Average critic rating : 91.0 points
The 2012 Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Aux Murgers comes from 50 and 70-year old vines – just under half a hectare. It has a little more delineation on the nose than the Aux Thorey, perfumed and floral with distant scents of dried orange peel. The palate is medium-bodied with a succulent, candied entry. The acidity is nicely judged with blood orange infusing the red cherry fruit on the precocious finish. This is lip-smacking delicious. ||This publication is not faultless, though we all strive to be so. But I must confess that I was flabbergasted when I searched the Wine Advocate database to find no reviews for Sylvain Cathiard’s wines since the mid-noughties. The reason is that here in the UK, Cathiard’s reputation has been ascendant for over a decade and the name is presently revered as one of the top exponents of Vosne-Romanee. The domaine was established in the 1930s when their fruit was sold to local negoce as was common back in those days. According to Clive Coates, Alfred Cathiard moved to Burgundy in 1901 and worked at Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and yes, in case you were wondering, the family is distantly related to the Cathiard’s chez Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte. Sylvain’s father Andre ran the estate from 1969 until 1985, his son becoming more involved in the latter years. He began to rent his vines from his family supplemented by fermage agreements, before taking over his father’s own vines when Andre retired in 1995. The wines during the early 1990s were a little rustic, but throughout that decade Sylvain honed his style, producing refined, intense, terroir-driven wines that used healthy percentages of quality new oak to lend them a modern sheen, not unlike say Lalou Bize-Leroy nearby. This is when I myself became acquainted with the name, courtesy of my girlfriend (now wife) who was working for one of his UK distributors, Berry Brothers & Rudd. Back in the late 1990s, you could pick up one of his premier crus for around twenty quid and that was before her staff discount. Given my relationship with the domaine, which I have visited regularly, I made sure to redress this situation with respect to the 2012s, not that their wines are easy to obtain. Sylvain and occasionally his wife Odette, was always a congenial host, a noble paysan usually attired in the same old jumper with the calloused hands of lifetime labor. The reins have been handed over to his son Sebastian who has worked in Chablis, at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Fromm in Marlborough, New Zealand, undertaking his first “solo” vintage at the domaine in 2011 – always good to have a global perspective. As far as I know, the handover was not as smooth as it could be and the two endured what Clive Coates describe as “a difficult winter” in 2010/11. But everything has now been resolved between father and son and Sebastian is fully in charge. Indeed, from our first meeting when he barely uttered a syllable, he’s fast matured into an assured young vigneron, balancing the weight of expectation with fostering his own ideas for the new chapter, his new chapter. During this time he oversaw the construction of a new winery and cellars that were completed in 2008, relieving the somewhat cramped conditions that Sylvain worked in. They have a glittering array of parcels centered around Vosne-Romanee, including choice cuts of premier crus crowned by a glorious Romanee-Saint-Vivant, whose price has rocketed in recent years (and you can see why if you are lucky enough to taste it.) Sylvain’s modus operandi has always been minimalist intervention in the vineyard (lutte raisonee), the fruit completely de-stemmed after rigorous sorting, employing around 40% new oak for the village crus, 60% and above for the premier crus and 100% for the grand crus, with no fining or filtering since 2000. In a frank exchange with Sebastian, whose candor I appreciate, I think this is a domaine that is going to head in a new direction. He spoke about using less new oak in the future, something that has been leveled by Burgundy connoisseurs in the past, who felt that less new wood would create more terroir-driven wines. I would concur with that sentiment. While I would continue using 100% new oak for the Romanee-Saint-Vivant and perhaps the Malconsorts subject to growing season, I would tweak the oak for the other premier crus that occasionally do threaten to be overwhelmed by the new oak. We also conversed about whole clusters. At the moment everything is de-stemmed and although Sebastian expressed no plans to alter that practice, I did urge him just to consider experimenting a little with one of the premier crus...just to see if the results work out. If it goes wrong, blame me. Similar to other growers, the malo-lactics were late, in particular the Malconsorts and Aux Reignots that did not finish until July. As I have mentioned, these notes are probably more relevant to those in Europe where Cathiard’s major markets are located, but readers should be aware of this top-drawer grower who I suspect will be even more revered in the future. eRobertParker.com.December, 2013
Sylvain Cathiard: The Importance
“Cathiard is now among the very very best producers in Vosne-Romanée,” writes Steve Öhman, fully corroborating Allen Meadows’ judgements that “there is no one hotter in Burgundy these days than Sylvain Cathiard” and that “the Cathiard wines are hardly a secret anymore but they deserve to be better known still.” Indeed, Cathiard has completed an unusually rapid rise to fame in the last decade or less, as Neil Martin attests, “the name is presently revered as one of the top exponents of Vosne-Romanée” thanks to “a glittering array of parcels” in this village and beyond, also encompassing some very old vines Nuits-Saint-Georges and Chambolle-Musigny.
Sylvain Cathiard: The Insight
This small family domaine farms a total of 4.2 hectares split over 11 plots, so production is naturally limited, above all for the glorious Pinot Noir grown in the minute 0.18 hectare plot at the southern end of Romanée Saint Vivant Grand Cru (or RSV), hemmed in between the Domaine Dujac and Domaine Robert Arnoux, and conspicuously crowded by the large tranche belonging to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. In the hands of Cathiard it results in something very special, with “wonderful depth and simply superb length,” according to Allen Meadows, while for Neil Martin the Cathiard RSV is “a wine that God would make if he were a winemaker.”
The Vosne-Romanée Les Malconsorts vineyard has been gaining attention, particularly since 2005, when Dujac and Hubert de Montille snapped up and divided the old Domaine Thomas holdings here. Clive Coates reviews the newcomers like this: “These both produce excellent wine. So do Lamarche, Bichot (Clos Frantin) and Alain Hudelot-Noëllat. The best wines, however, today come from Sylvain Cathiard.” John Gilman even elevates this Premier Cru above the Cathiard RSV, calling it “the crown jewel in the cellar,” and Steve Öhman sees it the same way: “In my view the Malconsorts is sort of a signature wine for this fine domaine… yes I know the RSV is better… but it’s still possible to find and pay for the Malconsorts and experience the Cathiard magic.”
The same can be said of Cathiard’s other Premier Crus, such as Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots, situated between the Grands Crus of Richebourg and Echezeaux; Vosne-Romanée Aux Reignots, known for its elegance and shared with such growers as Louis-Michel Liger-Belair; and Vosne-Romanée En Orveaux, where Clive Coates again proclaims that: “the star in is the brilliant Sylvain Cathiard.”
Cathiard’s other holdings are impressive for their vine age. While most of his Premier Crus are 35 to 45 years old, the parcel in Chambolle-Musigny Les Clos de l’Orme was planted in 1951, producing stunningly perfumed expressions of the village. Meanwhile the two Premier Crus produced in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Aux Murgers and Aux Thorey, are both endowed with stunningly concentrated vines no younger than fifty, but sometimes sixty or seventy years old, offering intense earthy complexity. Cathiard also makes excellent Nuits-Saint-Georges and Vosne-Romanée Villages Pinot Noirs.
Sylvain Cathiard: The Background
The wines are made as one might expect at a small domaine, where from 1969 to 2011 everything was done by Sylvain, his wife Marinette, and his son Sébastien. The fruit gets completely de-stemmed after rigorous sorting, with no fining or filtering since 2000. In 2011 Sébastien Cathiard fully took over and oversaw the completion of a new cellar. Since then he has been impressing critics by refining the house style and slightly reducing the use of new oak.
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