We are delighted to start working with Nicolas Pavie who works just 1.8 hectares by hand in Theize, southern Beaujolais. Nicolas is thoughtful, contemplative character and as is often the case the wines seem to reflect this. These are elegant, balanced and pure Gamay's with quite astonishing length and power, wines that open up beautifully over a few hours and even into the next day. I thought the best way to introduce him aside from opening one of his wines, was through a little interview we did through email. You can find Nicolas' wines here.
Where are you from Nicolas, and how did you get into wine?
I am from Normandy where there are almost no vineyards.
After long studies (Masters in Biochemistry and Language Science) looking for something to do with my life while working and many years of tasting and visiting winemakers, I worked in a wine cellar for 10 years before deciding to leave the city to be able to live in the countryside and work the land. Having no training or experience in this field, I started working in the vineyard because I was passionate about wine. This without knowing if I would have the physical and mental strength to do it. And here I am!
How did you learn how to make wine? Did you work with other winemakers/growers before making wine yourself?
During a good fifteen years of tasting, reading and visiting, I have accumulated a lot of theoretical knowledge.
Then, there are two winemakers whose wines I love and whom I have questioned a lot. I spent time with both pruning and one of them harvest also. The conclusion was "simple". The most important thing to work without sulfur: pruning and control of the yields and an excellent sanitary state of the grapes at harvest time.
Then I plunged into the unknown of the practice, not without stress, of making wine from pruning to harvest in 2015. With a single harvest of which I divided the fermented juice and 4 for test maturation. 1 cuvée without sulphur, one with 1g (to see the difference) , one cuvée in cask with 2g and one cask of 400 liters (1500 bottles in all).
Not having a tractor, I worked a bit with a pickaxe. The grelinette arrived in 2017!
Nicolas & his grelinette
You have a great respect for nature and work the vineyards just with a grelinette, can you tell us a little about your vineyards (which look beautiful) and the way you work and why?
Child of the Norman countryside, I found myself in the city for my studies and for work. As soon as I had free time, I went to the vineyards to see the wine growers or to walk in the forest.
The world lacks spirituality which makes it crazy of growth and egocentrism, I often found harmony and appeasement in nature.
Growth and speed make us lose our mind. In working the vine, I try to live as much as possible at its pace and the grelinette is a great way to do that. No noise but slowness. The grass being part of the ecosystem. I limit myself to remove it at the beginning of the season (2 and a half months of grelinette) but not obsessively and only at the feet of the vines.
The goal is not to have bare earth on which the vines grow, so that insects, animals and birds live well there, participating in the balance and harmony of the whole. That the grass and the vines harmonize without competing too much. And that I also participate in this harmony.
This certainly limits the yields but as I told you we produce too much, consume too much which forces us to mechanize (thus pollute) to enlarge again and again without caring about what it costs in terms of pollution, time and social imbalance.
And above all, I think that I would not make the same wines.
That's why I don't plan to grow too much ( 0.5ha max.). However, I would like to replace the missing vines in order to optimize my surface.
I know that the whole is very fragile, especially economically. We will see
Let it be!
Why did you choose to make wine in Beaujolais and this part of the region?
A mixture of: chance mostly, cheap vines, bad images of Beaujolais (especially in Normandy), see what can be done with Gamay, a brother living one hour away from Beaujolais, beauty of the landscape.
I find your wines strikingly balanced, pure and with incredible length, what is it you look for in a a wine?
I would be lying if I said that I was not looking for balance, purity and length.
But above all, I have focused my work on the vineyard, hoping that it will promote balance and richness in the grapes and that this will be reflected in the wine.
Determining the maturity of the grapes (and therefore the date of harvest) is still difficult for me.
I work a lot on slowness and stress management in order not to send too many bad vibes to the vineyard and the wine (the vineyard and the wine finally heal me!) so that the fermentation goes well.
Why always three weeks/three and a half weeks of maceration? I don't know!
Why almost 2 years of maturation? The praise of time and slowness maybe.
I will soon taste the 4 barrels of the 2019 vintage that experienced hail (at least 75% loss) to know if they have supported the aging and will support it for a few more months. I keep my fingers crossed!
Why no sulfur? Why not?
Why almost everything by hand? To be present to what I do and respect it.
Small precision. I am neither a monk nor Buddha! The first years were chaotic and the stress is still very present even if less violent!
A life's work!
Thank you Nicolas