Domaine Sylvain Morey

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Two of the hallmarks of Burgundy are the minuscule size and the fractured distribution of the small domains that line the Cote d’Or.  Centuries of division by inheritance and often family discord have fractured once-larger land holdings into microscopic parcels.  Domains have become so small (and their fractured holding so atomic) that it is has become doubtful how these domains can continue to be passed down to the next generation.  In the case of Domaine Sylvain Morey, this difficult tradition continues with the dissolution of Domaine Jean-Marc Morey. Jean-Marc’s son Sylvain and his sister Caroline split their father’s holdings in 2014, making this already small family domaine much smaller. (Domaine Jean-Marc Morey was founded in 1981 when Domaine Albert Morey was split between his two sons Jean-Marc and Bernard.)  We feel fortunate to continue our relationship with these familiar family parcels, however small they may be, through the impressive and thoughtful work of Sylvain.

Sylvain has spent the last few decades establishing his own domaine, Bastide du Claux, located south of Burgundy in the Luberon. His experience working on his own project, combined with the deep knowledge he gained working with his father, has matured Sylvain into a thoughtful and confident vigneron. He is someone who respects the traditional manner in which his father worked but also brings his own sensibility to the table. He plans to split his time between Chassagne and Luberon working in the romantic mold-filled cellar in which his father has always worked. Upon his first releases in 2014, his mark on the wines are evident. The wines have a bit more power than his father’s: they are more richly textured, while still retaining a firm mineral structure.  As done before, fermentations for the whites and reds are done with natural yeasts; grapes are always de-stemmed; and the percentage of new wood is small (about 20%). Sylvain claims to be a bit more gentle in the cellar, and his tendency is to leave the wines alone, doing little to no batonage. He has also increased the aging of the whites to 18 months, rather than bottling after 12. These changes result in wines that are bit more resolved by the time they make it into bottle.

Sylvain is content with keeping his domaine small, currently working fewer than 3 hectares.  Those of you who are familiar with the variety of wines Jean-Marc Morey produced might notice that Sylvain does not offer the same range. While he did split some particular parcels with his sister, they also divvied up a few whole parcels, since they were too small to split. Still, the bulk of Sylvain’s holdings are in Chassagne Montrachet, where he offers an impressive trio of whites: Chassagne Montrachet Blanc (.21 hectares from 2 parcels), Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Champs Gains” (.39 hectares) and Chassagne 1er Cru “Caillerets” (.34 hectares). In the reds, there are two Chassagne bottlings: Chassagne Montrachet Rouge (1/2 hectare from 2 parcels) and Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Champ Gains” (.16 hectares) and the always stunning Santeney 1er Cru “Grand Clos Rousseau” (.40 hectares).

Bourgogne Aligoté: Sylvain owns a mere quarter-hectare of Aligoté, planted in 1997, in a vineyard called Les Pierres whose upper section is classified as Chassagne-Montrachet Villages. The 2018, round but tense, spent 12 months in used 350-liter barrels, resting on its fine lees with no batonnage. Aligoté reaches a different textural register when given a proper élevage, and indeed Sylvain’s is of a piece with his remarkable Chassagne-Montrachet bottlings in that regard; this 2018 is a salty little dynamo. 20 cases imported.
Bourgogne Passetoutgrain: Sylvain’s minuscule-production Passetoutgrain fits neatly into three barrels: two of Pinot Noir, and one of Gamay, from vines planted in the mid-1990s. Assembled and bottled after 12 months of élevage, this 2018—like the Aligoté—offers a complexity rarely seen in such a humble appellation, a fact aided by its thoughtful and relatively lengthy aging. With its bright, soaring aromas, its evocative red fruits, and its high-tension but supple mouthfeel, this remarkable Passetoutgrain is of a piece with its big brothers below. 75 cases imported.
Chassagne Montrachet Blanc: Made from two parcels just below the village (Meix Goudard  and Les Pierres) and comprising just .21 hectares between the two of them, this wine in its total production is just a bit more than 100 cases a year.  Elevage is done in barrel, with about 25% being new.  About 25 cases a year are available for the US market.
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Champs Gains”:  Sylvain owns .39 hectares of Champs Gains located just south of the village.  The vineyards here are quite old, about 60 years old (as of 2016) and typically generate a wine that is quite full-bodied with a solid mineral structure.  About 20 cases a year are available for the US market.
Chassange Montrachet 1er Cru “Caillerets”:  Sylvain works .38 hectares from this prestigious climat on the slopes just above and south of the village. Known for its poor and stony soil, Caillerets produces a wine with profound minerality and finesse that always benefits from at least a few years in the cellar to express its true potential. About 20 cases are available for the US market.
Chassagne Montrachet Rouge:  Sylvain works two parcels (Les Lambardes and Les Chambres) totaling .26 hectares of Chassagne Rouge.  The grapes are de-stemmed and fermentations start with natural yeasts. This is aged in oak barrels (about 25% new) for 18 months before being bottled. About 30 cases a year are available for the US market.
Chassagne Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “Les Champs Gains”:  Hailing from a tiny .16-hectacre parcel, the Champs Gains Rouge a big step up from his basic Chassagne.  It is quite dense with chewy fresh cherry fruit, lively acidity, and a firm tannic backbone.  About 20 cases a year are available for the US market.
  Santenay 1er Cru “Grand Clos Rousseau”:  Sylvain was most excited to inherit this full .40-hectare holding from his father.  Planted in 1993, the Grand Clos Rousseau was always the top red wine from Jean-Marc Morey and always the most impressive old wine from his cellar.  Intensely aromatic, with rich red fruits, savory earthy tones and sweet tannins, this over-achiever often stands up to the best reds of the Cote de Beaune. Roughly 30 cases a year are available for the US market.

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