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A magnificent terroir, rediscovered

When Delphine, one half of Maison de la Chapelle, gives a hot tip, we listen. So when she said she knew of a ‘magnificent terroir, forgotten, but being rediscovered’ we jumped. 

Domaine de la Paturie are found in the village of Champlitte, around 60km north-east of Dijon. In the past it was a center of viticulture, surrounded by vineyard covered hills, its wines well known across northern France. Before Phylloxera there were over 600ha of vines here. After the devastation of the louse and the upheavals of the early part of the 20th century almost nothing was left; the hillsides, the town’s pride for 400 years, unplanted, viticulture abandoned. Despite this, St Vincent’s day, the patron saint of wine growers, was celebrated each year, still deeply embedded in the local culture.  

Champlitte’s modern story begins in the late 1960s, when a group led by Albert Demard, the curator of the local museum, decided it was time to bring Viticulture back to the region. In 1974 they planted a south facing slope known as ‘la Paturie’. The vines grow on clay over limestone bedrock, similar to the terroir of Burgundy. However the limestone here is unique – it forms plates, or Lavieres, in the past much quarried for roof tiles and dry stone walls. This fractured structure allows the vines’ roots to delve deeply in search of minerals and water, in turn seeming to give the wines their saline mineral freshness.

The Joyandet family, led by winemaker Julia, took over the vineyard and started Domaine de la Paturie in 2017. In 2020 they finished the conversion to organic farming and will be certified next year. It is very exciting to be working with Julia and her family as they re-establish the reputation of this once famed terroir. The wines share some character with Burgundy, and Chablis, of course, but also seem to have a unique signature of their own. Delicious now, it will be fascinating to watch them develop in bottle.

Par Amour Chardonnay 2020 IGP Pays de Franche-Comté 
The Par Amour wines are made to reflect their grape varieties, and the Joyandet family’s love for their vineyards. 15% of the Chardonnay is given six months in older 600ltr French barrels, while the rest is made in concrete vats. Chabliesque nose, pure, fresh and mineral. Lots of energy and drive on the mid palate, with crisp orchard fruit alongside citrus, it is taut and chiseled, though has the fruit to avoid austerity. Very fresh and moreish on the finish. Probably my favourite discovery of the year so far! 
Coeurs de Loups Chardonnay 2019 IGP Pays de Franche-Comté 
(£143.00 per unmixed six)
From the highest section of the vineyard – where the wolves used to pass. The best terroir, complex limestone and clay which the family thinks gives them their most characterful wines. 50% in barrel, again the larger 600-ltr demi-muid, and 50% in concrete. Lovely sense of lifted freshness, floral, ‘tres calcaire’ as the Julia says. Saline and racy attack which expands across the mid palate to become a little Meursault-like in its breadth, before a structured, mineral finish that shows a touch of almonds and white flowers.
Par Amour Pinot Noir 2020 IGP Pays de Franche-Comté 
(£116.00 per unmixed six)
Vintages here are similar to Burgundy, 2020 was warm and ripe, yet retained freshness. Classic earthy and sweet red fruit Pinot nose, good lift, feels very unforced and full of life. Drunk cold this shows a sinewy, precise structure from its limestone roots, but as it warms up in the glass it becomes more generous, with dark red fruits, raspberry, and rich floral elements coming to the fore. A beautiful expression of pinot noir.
Gueules de Loups Pinot Noir 2020 IGP Pays de Franche-Comté 
(£143.00 per unmixed six)
From the same high section of the vineyard comes this age worthy Pinot, made in Burgundy barrels, 30% of which are new. Floral nose, with deep red fruits and violets. Quite rich and full on the palate, yet built around a tight structural spine which gives punch and poise, the limestone visible in its salinity. There’s some dried herb complexity from 30% whole bunches, and a spicy, peppery note on the finish which is long and attractive.