A new winemaker has arrived at Château de Pommard in Burgundy, writes Peter Ranscombe.
FEW things ever stand still at Château de Pommard.
The estate in Burgundy is not only busy building a five-star hotel, restaurant, spa, and wine school – but also new red and white wineries.
Given the pedigree of owner and tech entrepreneur Michael Baum, it’s not all that surprising that the château has such a strong internet presence.
Yet it’s in the vineyards that Pommard has perhaps made the most progress.
It’s one of the few estates in Burgundy to have a wall around its grape fields – which is important when it comes to organic farming.
To be certified as organic, a château must have a sanitary cordon around its perimeter – a gap between itself and the next vineyard, just in case the neighbouring farmer is spraying synthetic chemicals and the wind blows them over.
Having a wall helped Pommard to gain organic certification in 2019 for the wines made from its 20-hectare estate’s grapes.
But reaching that landmark hasn’t meant Baum and his team have rested on their laurels.
As well as its own Château de Pommard wines – the 2020 vintage of which will be released on Friday – the company also buys grapes from other vineyards up and down Burgundy, which it bottles under its Famille Carabello-Baum label.
During the 2020 vintage, Famille Carabello-Baum made wines from a record 27 appellations – or defined areas – within Burgundy.
Six of those wines made with other people’s fruit were also organic – and new winemaker Paul Negrerie wants to see that total rising.
Negrerie joined the château a year ago and brought with him 15 years of experience.
Having been born at Dijon in Northern Burgundy and studied winemaking in the region, Negrerie began his career in the Pommard region before spreading his wings and spending time in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Israel, and the United States.
After learning modern techniques abroad, he returned to his native Burgundy to work with the area’s legendary terroir – the combination of soils, aspect, and slope that influence the flavours in its grapes.
Negrerie was also tempted to work at Pommard because of the other development that’s been happening – the extension from organic farming into biodynamics.
While organic viticulture involves using copper and sulphur instead of synthetic chemicals, biodynamics takes it to the next level by employing “preparations” created from natural ingredients to tackle diseases and pests in the vineyard.
Pommard’s vineyards received their biodynamic certification in December, with the wines due to start carrying the designation on their labels later this year.
The next step will be for Negrerie to start using the château’s new wineries, once they’re completed.
“They’ll be a nice playground for a winemaker,” he smiled during this morning’s online tasting, which featured three wines from the growing Famille Carabello-Baum range.
Famille Carabello-Baum Santenay Premier Cru La Maladière 2020 (£46, chateaudepommard.com)
Negrerie was responsible for finishing off and bottling the 2020 wines during his first few months at Pommard, and so it’ll be interesting – in the months and years to come – to see how he makes his mark on the wines. He’s got a tough act to follow, with the Santenay showing excellent freshness, considering the warmth in which Burgundy basked during 2020. Picking the grapes early helped to retain acidity and added to the layers within the wine, with warm lemon curd and peach flavours still discernable amid the hot-buttered toast notes, before finishing with a seam of minerality.
Famille Carabello-Baum Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru Les Lavières 2020 (£44)
The fact that the pinot noir from Savigny is tipping the scales at 14.5% alcohol illustrates the toll that climate change is taking on the region’s grapes. Soaking up more sunshine means producing more sugar and eventually more alcohol, and so the balance now becomes retaining acidity and freshness, rather than hunting for ripeness. Around 60% of the grapes used here were left in their whole bunches, which helps to add freshness, along with some spicy notes. Ripe raspberry and a touch of blackcurrant on the nose were joined by some fruits of the forest aromas too. On the palate, the tannins are still a wee bit too chewy to enjoy the wine on its own, but will pair nicely with a fillet steak.
Famille Carabello-Baum Gevrey-Chambertin 2020 (£54)
Hailing from the north means Negrerie has a soft spot for the Gevrey-Chambertin area, and who can blame him when its wines continue to taste this good? Wood smoke, damp earth, more of those fruits of the forest, and an almost liquorice-like sweetness on the nose give a hint as to the concentrated fruit flavours on the palate, which have been kicked up a gear from the Savigny. There’s an inky depth here, but also a roughness to the tannins, which need more time to knit together. But, again, that added texture means there’s fun to be had with food and wine pairings in the meantime, with this Gevrey angling to be matched to venison this autumn.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer, and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.