Erwan Faiveley: ‘Wines made before 2012 don’t represent Faiveley today’

Erwan Faiveley, the seventh generation owner of one of Burgundy’s largest grand cru site holders, Domaine Faiveley, is making a sharp turn away from his father’s big and tannic winemaking style. After 13 years at the helm of the family estate, the dynamic Burgundy scion confessed that it was only in 2012 that he began to achieve exactly what he wanted in terms of style and concentration.

Erwan Faiveley (far right) talking about his family wines at a luncheon hosted by its local importer Altaya Group today

​”The vintages tasted today are 2006 and before that but they don’t represent what Domaine Faiveley is today, although it was the first vintage I did after taking over. The wines [today] are quite different than what they were before,” said the 39-year-old vintner, making reference to the four wines – Joseph Faiveley Volnay 1er Cru Santenots 2006, Domaine Faiveley Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Porets-Saint-Georges 2006, Domaine Faiveley Latricières Chambertin Grand Cru 2003 and Domaine Faiveley Corton ‘Clos des Cortons’ Faiveley Grand Cru 2000 – being poured at lunch in Hong Kong and which were made under the direction of his father François Faiveley.

​”My father favours wines that are big, tannic and my direction is the opposite,” Faiveley tersely summarised. The young winery chairman said he was trying to make more approachable wines with subtlety and finesse, a breakaway from what he calls his father’s philosophy of making wines of, “long cellaring potential”.

Since taking over in 2005, the winery has returned to a gravity system to make, “more refined and supple” wines, in addition to employing gentler wine pressing and prudent oak use as well as a new management team, he said. The result is, ​”since 2012 we have exactly what we want with the style and concentration, he declared.

Speaking to dbHK, Faiveley cited the 2010, 2015 and 2016 as three of the top vintages he has made for Pinot Noirs, despite extremely limited production of the 2016 vintage due to spring frosts and mildew pressure.

Calling the latest 2016 vintage an, “absolutely great great vintage” for reds, while for whites, he paints a rather different picture.

Its winery in Chablis, Domaine Billaud-Simon (purchased in 2014), lost two thirds of its crop in 2016 due to the severe cold snap. And the whites at Domaine Faiveley, although they have gone through a late evolution, they were were “very unbalanced” at the beginning.

Joseph Faiveley Volnay 1er Cru Santenots 2006, Domaine Faiveley Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Porets-Sain-Georges 2006, Domaine Faiveley Latricieres Chambertin Grand Cru 2003 and Domaine Faiveley Corton ‘Clos des Cortons’ Faiveley Grand Cru 2000. The wines available through its local importer Altaya.

“It’s very unusual. Had you had me the question when we harvested the whites of 2016 I was not pleased at all. The wines looked very unbalanced: the acidity was naturally high, the aromatics were not that impressive. For nine months, the wines did not show that well. I was not positive with the evolution,” he revealed.

Yet from September last year he said the 2016 whites had finally taken on a dramatic change.

Asked about Burgundy’s upward pricing trajectory, the vintner remained cautious, admitting there are, “some excesses” but if the prices continued to rise, it would hurt medium and entry-level Burgundy wine sales through the on-trade. “If prices continue to rise, we will lose this market, this position, we will be replaced by some of the wines from other parts in the world,” he warned. 

Overall, “I am confident the market can sustain though”, he commented.

As for the latest 2016 vintage, “From what we have seen, people are keeping the prices stable,” he said. 

The domaine holds about 10 ha of Burgundy’s 25 ha Grand Cru sites. It has been pushing for aggressive expansion since Erwan taking the helm, bringing its total vineyards in Burgundy to 141 ha.

The winery counts France as its main market where 40% of its wines are sold, with the rest exported to the US (20%), Europe (20%) and Asia (20%).

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