Philip Day discusses Domaine Naudin-Ferrand, produced in Burgundy. Philip’s article includes the vineyard’s history, the top vintages produced and the viticulture.
Throughout Burgundy, Claire Naudin is considered to be one of best female winemakers and is deservedly known for the high quality wines originating from her vineyard Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand.
Like all great Burgundy wines, her wines generally make for easy drinking, demonstrating an intense fruitiness.
Situated in the village of Magny-lès-Villers, Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand can boast of an exceptional location, given that it is the only village of the Hautes-Côtes which straddles the boundary between the two appellations of Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. The domaine covers some 22 hectares of vineyard (54.4 acres), of which some prestigious parcels are to be found in: Aloxe, Ladoix, Flagey Echezeaux, and Nuit St Georges.
Claire Naudin officially took over the management of the Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand in 1994, quickly moulding it to reflect her own personality and style. She is a firm advocate of sustainable winemaking, favouring a viticulture that rejects many of the ‘chemical practices’ prevalent at many commercial vineyards. She totally rejects the use of chemicals throughout the vineyard, not only because they affect soil quality in the longer term, but also because she is concerned that they are detrimental to the health of vineyard workers.
As a pioneering female winemaker and passionate mother of three, she has also been a vocal campaigner arguing against some of the appellation standards over a number of years, expressing a widely felt opinion that some of the rules are detrimental to the quality of the wine. Whilst the wines she produces are deeply rooted in Burgundian tradition, they also reflect all of her sensitivity and concerns about sustainability and the promise of a better environmental future.
The Pinot Noir wine grape is justifiably considered the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, varietal in the world. It demands optimum growing conditions, preferring warm days that are consistently supported by cool evenings. Pinot Noir, however, is vulnerable to extreme cold, extreme heat, rot, moulds and other vineyard pests. Additionally, the relatively thin skins of the grapes demand gentle handling to prevent damage to the final wine.
Pinot Noir is also more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping, since if yields are excessive, taste concentration and varietal character can disappear rapidly.
Nevertheless, when grown successfully, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to lovers of red wine. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils, such as can be found in Burgundy.
Thanks to the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines tend to be lighter in colour, body and tannins. However, the best wines that exploit the characteristics of the grapes to maximum effect have balanced tangy acidity, earthy complexity and an intensity of fruit rarely found in wine from other grapes.
The aromas of a young Pinot Noir are evocative of freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants, lending the wines almost sweet notes. Achieving maturity, the best wines made from the grape acquire a sensuous, silky mouth feel with intensely deep fruit flavours and earthy game-like notes mixed with hints of piquant spiciness.
Although produced in a number of countries, the best examples still hale from Burgundy as can be witnessed with the wines produced at Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand.
The domaine has been in the same family since 1500.
“Many generations of winemakers have built our domain. One after the other, they knew how to work the vine and express the best of the fruit. Each new generation has been a source of renewal and dynamism, of questioning and new projects.”
In 1922 Claire Deroye, daughter of wealthy farmers from the plains of Auxois married Henri Naudin Sr. and thanks to her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial flair, she encouraged her husband to plant more vines and acquire more land. Not wishing to expand too far from Magny-lès-Villers, they buy back some of the lands bequeathed to the village by one of the ancestors of Henri Naudin Sr.
It is not long before they regularly sell their wines as far as the Loire region under the label Henri Naudin-Deroye.
Of their three children, Claire and Henri (Sr.) transmitted their passion for wine-making to their son Henri (Jr.). He quickly followed in their footsteps and in 1947 at the age of 16, he made his first wine with his father. Gradually, Henri (Jr.) went on to buy additional parcels of land of his own and planted his first vines.
In 1964 Henri (Jr.) married Liliane Ferrand and together they produced and sold their first wine under the Naudin-Ferrand label that year. At the same time, Henri Naudin Sr. continued to make and sell his own wines from his own vines, until his death.
Henri was such a hard worker, that by the end of the 1960s, he planned to reclaim a further plot “en Bully”, on land previously cultivated by his ancestors. This is the vineyard that will eventually give birth to ‘Orchis Mascula’ wine, some forty years later in 1998.
Liliane and Henri had three three daughters: Anne, Marie and Claire.
Today the youngest, Claire Naudin is in charge of the prestigious domaine, which she assumed overall responsibility for in 1999.
Claire had often dreamed of making wine, following in her father’s footsteps but needed to come to the decision in her own time. After studying oenology and agronomy, she travelled and worked in vineyards in both Australia and New Zealand, undertaking a five month internship, before returning home definitively to the domaine in June 1992.
In September 1993 her father decided that Claire should lead the domaine team. The following year she was appointed manager of Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand, three months before Henri decided to retire. Following the retirement of Liliane in 1997, Claire bought back her parent’s shares in the domaine and became the sole owner in 1999.
|Appellation||Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune|
|Planted Acreage||Total: 22 hectares (54.4 acres)|
|Grape varieties||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gros, Aligoté and Gamay|
|Wines produced||Domaine Henri Naudin-Ferrand Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune Orchis Mascula, together with a number of other award winning wines. (See website for details)|
|Vines here are largely planted on sites with marlstone sub-strata, rather than the chalky soils which dominate the lower slopes. Vineyards in the Hautes Côtes are most often planted on south- and west-facing slopes which benefit from maximum exposure to the sun’s warmest rays.|
|Top Vintages Produced||1998, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010,|
2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018.
The terroir of the Hautes Côtes, particularly regarding the climatic influences, differs noticeably from those of the lower slopes to the east. The generally higher altitude of the vineyards (280–550m/920–1800ft) means that the grapes sometimes struggle to ripen fully, which can lead to less richly flavoured and less-complex wines. In order to minimize the impact of these cooler climate conditions, the vineyards of the Hautes Côtes are more often than not planted on south- and west-facing slopes to benefit from maximum exposure to the sun’s warmest rays.
Regarding soil conditions, the vines here are largely planted on sites having marl-stone sub-strata, rather than the chalky soils of which the lower slopes are mainly composed. Although, the occurrence of outcrops of bright white limestone can be viewed in various places of the landscape.
Over the last three years, all the parcels of land are treated with organic labelled products. Moreover, for the last two years, Claire has experimented with methods in order to decrease the amount of copper and sulphur. This is to cease using chemicals as soon as possible. This is more acceptable to local villagers who are keen to ensure less air and soil pollution.
Claire works as natural as possible, focusing on an ethos of sustainable viticulture.
Removal of grass and the use of chemical weedkillers in the vineyards have been dramatically reduced over time. Grass retention in the vineyard enables a reduction of top soil erosion, particularly where steep slopes are concerned, as the roots help to keep the soil in place and protect it from heavy rain, whilst subsoil burrowing worms and other vertebrates allow better drainage.
Additionally, Claire and her team gently work the soil to break the top root network, which forces the vine roots to go deeper to find sustenance. So in times of heavy rainfall, the vines absorb less water and the grapes do not swell as much, thereby reducing yields naturally, allowing the terroir to express itself better, giving their wines a better balance.
When spraying the vines is deemed necessary, low impact approaches are adopted to take consideration of the health and safety of the workers, Low pressure sprays are used to better target the vines and avoid any detrimental impact on the natural flora and fauna. Wherever possible organic methods are employed, such as using products that respect the auxiliary fauna (for example by using pheromones to undermine pest reproduction). Some parcels are treated exclusively with organically labelled products.
At harvest time, 90% of grapes are picked by hand, depending on the variety. The press is then loaded with the grape bunches still on their stems, since the flow of the juice is facilitated by their presence and extraction of any unpleasant phenol compounds is avoided as there is no need to increase the pressure during the pressing process, although it requires a longer period of time to complete the operation.
As the overall quality of the grapes has improved thanks to the results of her team’s work in the vineyard, it has enabled Claire to lower the amount of sulphite in red and white wines. This reduction has been further aided by a rigorous sorting of the grapes (to reduce sulphite you must press only grapes that are 100% healthy and perfectly ripe, eliminating those with any small imperfections.)
Claire sees this as part of her comprehensive approach to respecting the natural aspects of wine.
She also uses only natural yeasts, as opposed to cultured ones, and the cellar is gravity-fed, meaning grapes are not damaged before they begin their fermentation.
Wines from the domaine are allowed to mature on the lees, to preserve all the natural qualities of the tannins and the fruits, without losing clarity. Débourbage – a process that eliminates the need for filtration, by allowing the wine to settle, is performed prior to transferring the wines into barrels, employing the natural gravity-fed method.
No fining of the wine is undertaken, following Henri Naudin’s practice who decided to stop fining since the process took too much out of the wines and often rendered them harsher on the palate. The wines undergo only a light filtration before bottling, or no filtration at all if the wine is deemed sufficiently clear and stable. This means fewer traces of additives and a much more natural wine.
For the last two years, 100% of the corks are natural and analysed one by one, to decrease the risk of cork taints (goût de bouchon). The provider is Parramon Exportap.
For the communal appellations, the crus, and the Haute-Côtes intended for ageing, they selected a bottle with a special 50mm collar, rather than the usual 45mm, using a longer cork to improve ageing. ‘Yes, the bottle is a bit more expensive but we want to give our wines all the chances of ageing in ideal conditions.’
While Claire works organically, she’s purposefully not certified. As she explained:
“We are not ‘organically labelled’: we use organic methods as often as possible but do not want to be labelled organic. Indeed, we want to remain free of our options. Some synthetic molecules can be very effective at very low doses, while offering a very low persistence in the soil. They can help, sometimes, to save a harvest. We want to be able to use them if it is absolutely necessary.”
All of the care and attention to detail that Claire and her team bestow on their wines ensures they are more stable, rendering them clean and elegant. If you are a new-comer to natural wines, any of the wines from Naudin-Ferrand are certainly a great place to start but for that special something The Pinot Noir “Orchis Mascula” is fantastic without food because of its superior, juicy character, but it equally serves as a good accompaniment with poultry or light meat dishes.
Address: Domaine Naudin-Ferrand, 12 Rue du Meix Grenot, 21700 Magny-les-Villers, France
Telephone: +33 3 80 62 91 50
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- Johnson, Hugh (2018) Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2019, Octopus Publishing Group, London.
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- MacNeill, Karen (2015) The Wine Bible (Second Ed.) Workman Publishing Co., Inc, New York USA.
- Johnson, Hugh & Robinson, Jancis (2013) The World Atlas of Wine (seventh ed.) Octopus Publishing Group Ltd. London UK.