In the midst of this golden age of Burgundy there is so much more to these Cote d’Or slopes than just the Premier and Grand Cru sites cultivated by the established superstars of the region. Le Grappin is a prime example of the new wave of vignerons who have been drawn to Burgundy by that "eureka" moment; that one special bottle; that paradigm shift where nothing has ever tasted quite so extraordinary.
Such vinous epiphanies often result in a lifetime of searching to re-live said cerebral revolution. In extreme cases, this can result in an individual quitting their career and embarking on a pilgrimage to the golden slopes… well at least this was the case for Le Grappin's Andrew Nielsen, after tasting a mind-blowing bottle of Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche in 2006. That one bottle was enough for him to give up a highly successful career working in advertising in LA and start seriously focusing on how he was going to broker an opportunity to somehow become a winemaker in Burgundy.
Andrew’s first move was to get some serious winemaking under his belt, resulting in a five year journey working for some of the world’s great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay artisans in California, Central Otago and Yarra Valley before ending up in Burgundy. the wineries he worked for included Felton Road, Coldstream Hills and Simon Bize.
While working at Simon Bize in the Cote d’Or he became aware of the potential of some of the lesser known vineyards. As the fruit came in from these single vineyard sites he could taste the very unique and distinct flavour profiles these Village AC grapes expressed. Finding hidden gems amongst Village wine parcels became Andrew’s pet project. Just from looking at the slopes he began to be able to identify particular topography and aspects within certain vineyard sites that could have the potential to produce wines of distinct character, beyond their basic Village status. After identifying plots he believed had potential, he began to approach vineyard owners to ask if he could tend identified rows of vines and purchase the grapes from them. And so Le Grappin was born...
Throughout his journey, Andrew had been convinced by the results brought about by organic farming and minimal intervention winemaking. Whilst the original land owners could not economically adapt to organic viticulture, he was willing to take the risk for them. The practices he adopted in the vineyard were carried through to the winery - initially a garage in Savigny Les Beaune!
With each vintage of Le Grappin, Andrew and his team hand-sort for over 16 hours. In total one tonne of fruit is sorted by two separate teams; one doing a negative sort (removing leafs and grapes affected by rot) and the other a positive sort (picking out the best clusters) to then be loaded in the tank at the top whilst the rest of the grapes are de-stemmed.
With a firm belief that any and every manipulation of the grape juice results in a loss of aromas and finesse, there is very minimal extraction of tannins and colour in order to protect these. There is no pumping over of the juice, no pigeage, no added sulphur, no nutrients and no chapitalization of the wines - all safety elements normally incorporated in Burgundy to protect the wine, whilst at the same time an additional manipulation losing a little bit of the complexity. This risky process for Le Grappin has produced some wonderful results.
When Andrew visited us at the F+R London office last month, his passion for Burgundy and his dedication to these single sites in Savigny Les Beaune and Beaune was utterly infectious and, on tasting, the wines were completely convincing, producing beautiful expressions of very pure Pinot and Chardonnay. Now into his sixth vintage, Andrew is producing wines with distinct Burgundian identity allied with some well managed minimal interventionist techniques and a touch of Antipodean creativity and technical prowess.
Don’t miss these wines that offer something different from Burgundy, at a fantastic price point, from villages you may be missing in your collection. Ignore Le Grappin’s village wines from Savigny Les Beaune and Beaune at your peril. Look out for our upcoming offer next week...