DOMAINE LOUIS PICAMELOT, RULLY/Saône
Louis Picamelot was an early pioneer in quality sparkling Burgundy, which until recently was sold as Bourgogne mousseux. He founded his winery in 1926 in the center of Rully, one of the four principal towns in the Côte Chalonnaise, and soon became famous for his sparkling wines. Since 1987 his grandson, Philippe Chautard, has directed operations.
At the time Domaine Louis Picamelot was founded, sparkling Burgundy did not enjoy a particularly high reputation. Far too often, it related to a sparkling red wine which may or may not even have come from Burgundy. Around the turn of the century, two alternate techniques were developed to produce sparkling wine in quantity: the Charmat process (also called cuve close), developed in 1910 to produce sparkling wine in bulk; and the Transfer process, developed around the same time in Germany, which eliminated the time-consuming practice of riddling (rotating) the bottles by putting them into a transfer machine in order to eliminate the yeast sediment. Although both processes can produce good wines, the best sparkling wines are still made by the original Champagne method, now officially called méthode traditionnelle.
When he established his winery, Louis Picamelot knew that many base wines in Burgundy are ideal for sparkling wines: they are low in alcohol and high in acidity, and thus are ideal for a second fermentation. Furthermore, when produced by the Champagne method, they have the same grape varieties as a good Champagne and can come remarkably close. But the term “sparkling Burgundy” became a generic term in the U.S. and Canada for a cheap red sparkling wine produced generically, and few in this country were aware of the quality potential in a good Bourgogne mousseux.
In 1976 the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (I.N.A.O.) in Paris created a new quality category for sparkling wines : Crémant. This word had previously been used in Champagne, but now described sparkling wines in the Loire and Burgundy regions that had to meet minimum standards: only the Champagne method could be used, and only grape varieties traditional to the area. Crémant de Loire relates to the Touraine and Anjou areas, where Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc are common; Crémant de Bourgogne relates only to Burgundy, and may only be produced from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligoté. Neither the Transfer process nor the Charmat method can be used for a Crémant de Bourgogne.
Louis Picamelot produces six different sparkling wines, and some good still wines as well. They make over 10,000 cases a year, and draw from as many as sixty growers in the Burgundy region, from the Côte de Nuits down to the Mâcon area. For my program I have selected the Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc Brut, which is largely Chardonnay, and the Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé Brut, which is made from Pinot Noir. Both are fresh, lively examples of quality French sparkling wine that can substitute for a good Champagne without the cost. Attesting to this quality is the great success they have enjoyed with three-star restaurants like Lameloise, which feature their wines, and numerous accolades in the press (Guide Hachette, Revue du Vin de France, etc.). I am proud to be their first New York importer.