“Monsieur Pacalet, faites un vin avec un joli parfum.” – Jules Chauvet, 1989
Philippe Pacalet is one of our most cherished producers. He has pioneered natural winemaking in Burgundy for over thirty years, crafting wines that are at once hedonistic and minimalist. These bottles are highly sought after, especially in Japan and Scandinavia, for their unparalleled clarity of fruit and transparency of terroir. Pacalet’s seductively scented Burgundies are among the most unadorned yet luxuriously elegant wines you’ll ever taste.
Philippe started out his career without the necessary land or funds to become a vigneron, but with two invaluable connections: his uncle Marcel Lapierre and his mentor, Jules Chauvet. He worked and studied natural fermentations alongside these legends until Chauvet’s death in 1989. Then, after graduating oenology school, he joined the equally infamous Henry-Frédéric Roch, the late co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, to work at his newly established Domaine Prieuré-Roch.
Pacalet ended up being the Priory’s head winemaker for almost ten years, when the time had come for him to start his own business. In 2001 Pacalet set up his own operation and in 2006, after years of squatted cellars and other makeshift arrangements, he finally settled in his current facilities in Beaune.
From the start Pacalet has meticulously curated a range vineyards plots in a long list of appellations. He maintains strict contracts regarding (organic) farming with the owners, oversees the vineyards throughout the year, and operates the entire harvest with his team. All vineyard work is aimed at promoting the health of the vines and the native yeast populations that environ them, and both thrive only in carefully worked, chemical-free and biodiverse soils.
In the cellar, practices are possibly even more gentle. Those precious yeasts which – in Pacalet’s view – render complex data contained inside the grapes into a language readable and enjoyable to the human senses, are allowed to carry on their work undisturbed by additives or intrusive technology.
For both reds and whites Pacalet uses all whole bunches, fermentations are carried out without sulphites, and élevage happens (equally unsulphured) on fine lies without interruption for up to two years. It is only at bottling (unfined and unfiltered but clear due to long natural settling) that he likes to add a toch of SO2, like a painter who applies a final varnish to keep his work from blurring.
The resulting wines are marked by great aromatic complexity and pleasure, deep-flavoured but extremely digestible. Both reds and whites are thick-juiced yet lithe on the palate, with a unique balance between energy, fruit and umami. Every true lover of unadulterated, terroir-driven wines should experience the magic of Pacalet at least once in their lives, but ideally more often.