Domaine Pavelot, Pernand Vergelesses, by Gary Roshke
From the main road that runs down past the villages of La Côte, as it is referred to locally, from south of Dijon down through Beaune and beyond, Pernand-Vergelesses is tucked away on the west side, the back side, of the dominating Grand Cru hillside of Corton, and easily missed if you don’t get off the main road at Aloxe Corton. Located at the confluence of two valleys that run up into the Hautes Côtes, cooler air flows down through these channels toward the plains, and provides a moderating influence on the surrounding vineyards. South of the village, closer to Beaune, the terrain opens up and the vineyards have a fantastic, undisturbed, southeast facing exposition, and this is where you will find the most prized vineyards of this village such as the highly regarded, Premier Cru Île des Vergelesses.
The Pavelot family name is woven into the history of Pernand-Vergelesses and the land registries dating back to the 17th century and beyond. At present, brother/sister team of Luc and Lise Pavelot manage the winery, which has evolved considerably since Luc assumed his lead at the domaine in the early 1990s. Lise came on a few years later. During this time, they have doubled the surface are under vine, and today are edging close to 10 hectares, including all four appellation classes, in both red and white. A rarity to find such breadth in Burgundy under any single roof!
This topography is important in helping to better understand the wines of the village. The whites maintain a racy, dynamic edge, with a leaner profile than one typically encounters further south in Meursault, for example. The reds likewise, often maintain a cool, red-fruit profile, with suggestions of sous-bois or forest floor, and demand a few years in bottle in order to really flourish and show off the best that they have to offer. Recent warmer vintages however, like 2017 and 2018, if they are indicative of what climate change might bring to this region, might be the beginning of a succession of great vintages for this often under the radar village with fruit reaching greater levels of maturity, and the resulting wines tending toward greater fullness and plusher, more satisfying palate profiles.
Evolution in the winemaking and raising of the wines has been equally as noteworthy; the introduction of sorting tables for one, rather widespread now in Burgundy, underscores a much more careful selection of fruit that begins in the vineyards at harvest and then continues on the vibrating sorting table before anything goes into vat or tank; introduction of larger format barrels, for the whites but equally noteworthy for the reds, helping to accentuate the focus on fruit not wood, and offering more energy, precision and purity to the wines, most notably in their youth. And then, the most significant transformation being the philosophical redirection toward organic production and obtaining their certification in 2009. There is nothing unique here other than the desire to exercise a greater degree of respect for the raw materials, in this case the land, friends and family who work on that land, which led Luc back in the early 1990s to stop all herbicide treatments and to further his commitment to a sain or healthful way of working and eventually, to obtain organic certification.
One thing which has not changed however, through the generations, are the wicker panniers still used during harvest, and pictured on their label. While most of the wineries in the region have gone on to employ small plastic bins for harvesting their fruit, Domaine Pavelot has remained true to this regional tradition, much to the chagrin of those who are charged to haul these double barrelled baskets, over shoulder, often weighing up to 45 kg, down the hillsides to the reception vehicles. In spite of this one strong connection to those who came before, the Pavelot wines have evolved and today offer quality and value in a region where rising prices make appreciating fine Burgundy wines a more and more expensive proposition.