Nicolas Faure – Legend in the Making

Handsome Nicolas Faure may be a member of the high tech wired-in digital generation but he is a farming purist of the old school.  Nicolas was born in Bordeaux in 1987.  His great-grandfather was a grower in Cotes de Blaye, so was his grandfather.  His father worked at a cooperage and then moved to close to Nancy and opened a wine shop.  Nicolas was exposed to wine at a very young age and started tasting with his father at 14.  He liked the smell of red wine but not the taste, white wine was much easier to understand.

When he started at university he thought he would like to teach athletics and studied for a sports education degree from 2002 – 2003.  He kept thinking about a career in wine and decided he wanted to enroll in the Lycée Viticole in Beaune. At this school he met young winemakers from across France like Aurelien Bailly of Bailly-Reverdy in Sancerre and the Champagne born Aurelien Gerbais and Maxime Cheurlin.  There were many more influential young winemakers from Burgundy in his class – including his future fiancee, Amelie Berthaut.

Nicolas set out to learn as much as he could about winemaking.  In 2007 he did an internship and worked for Agnes Paquet in Auxey Duresses – she taught him how to work in the vineyard, about the rhythm of the seasons and the vigor of the vine plant. He worked for two months pruning with Benjamin Leroux at Comtes Armand in Pommard and six months at Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Then he went abroad to New Zealand to work at the organic, dry farmed Fromm Winery where the owner/oenologist was passionate about wine and taught Nicolas a lot about winemaking.  Then back to France to the Cave Cooperative in Languedoc-Roussillon and in Saint Emilion at Chateau Valandraud.  At every stop he learned more and more – including a lot about styles of wines that he did not want to make.

Then he had the opportunity to work for 12 months for the great Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage.  Working by hand in the steep granite vineyards of Hermitage is really hard physical labor.  He had the fantastic opportunity to do a lot of winemaking at Chave along with some extremely challenging vineyard work on the slope.  Chave taught him about a completely different approach than what is practiced in Burgundy both in the vines and in the cellar.  When he got back to Burgundy he saw the work differently. Jean-Louis Chave is the best, their wines are better than all of their neighbors.  Jean-Louis had shown him another path to excellence.

Returning to Burgundy again he worked for Domaine de la Romanee Conti, this time for for five years, mostly driving a tractor.  Contrary to romantic notion, only part of DRC is plowed by their famous horses.   He then went to work for Frederic Roch at Domaine Prieure-Roch where he works to this day.  Nicolas is always learning about the individual styles of these varying producers but doesn’t want to copy any of them.

After working at all of these different places he has some things that he believes in strongly like never use any herbicide ever.  He is not convinced about no sulphur wines but seems to agree with low sulphur, a little bit at the harvest and just after malolactic fermentation.  He would like to see concrete scientific proof of the principles of biodynamism.  He questions the contrary practice of some strident organic or biodynamic domaines who then use 100% new oak barrels.  He has a refrigerated milk tank that he uses to cool the grapes down and then covers them with CO2 inducing a semi-carbonic fermentation.  He is finding his own individual path to greatness.

This is a very tough, athletic young man about to turn 30 years old. He has been planting vines on the steeply terraced Nuits Saint Georges vineyard “Coteaux du Bois” at the top of the slope.  It is so named because it has been reclaimed from the woods that overgrew the ancient vineyard land.  He was cutting a bent over sapling and it snapped back at him, breaking his nose.  Another time he slipped with the chainsaw and ended up with 17 stitches just below his left knee.  He hopes to have his first harvest from this parcel of Nuits Saint Georges in 2020.  Let’s hope he will remain in one piece.

He works all day, five days a week for other people and for himself at his own domain on nights and weekends.   He wants his domain to stay at the size that it is – one hectare split over 7 climats.   In 2011 he bought his little parcel of Nuits Saint Georges “Les Herbues”.  He owns a parcel of ancient Aligote vines in Pernand Vergelesses not far from Corton Charlemagne.  He owns some Haut Cotes de Beaune that is planted to 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Gouges. (albino pinot noir)  He has parcels in 2 lieu-dits in Aloxe-Corton, Caillets and Valoziere.  Some Coteaux Bourguignons near Nuits Saint Georges is planted to 100% gamay noir a jus blanc, a truly noble grape. He wants to do all of the work himself on his vineyard – the farming, the winemaking – I think he will ask his friends to help with the harvest.  He says that when you have very good balance in the vineyard that a plant with proper pruning in good health that you can achieve perfect ripeness and then you can do do whole cluster fermentation.

The next chapter for Nicolas Faure?   He is to become the vineyard manager for his fiancee Amelie Berthaut of Fixin and Vosne Romanee.   She will be the winemaker and cellar master.  There will be a lot of time spent on the tractor driving between parcels.  Nicolas’ tractor is from 1966 – 21 years older than he is – and it goes 17 kph.  Amelie’s tractor goes 25 kph. I don’t know how old her tractor is.  Considering that 4 new barrels cost him 1500 euros and how long it would take him to get to the top of Nuits Saint Georges from Fixin at 17 kph – perhaps someday a new tractor will be on order for Domaine Faure.  Or maybe a nice used one.

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