At the heart of Pommard: Fanny Sabre & Lejeune

Pommard in Burgundy has everything I desire from a village: a bakery, a café, a natural wine bar serving good food, peace & calm, and historic stone buildings.  It’s also home to two domaines renowned for producing quality natural wine: Fanny Sabre and Lejeune. We visited both with Clos Driver Wine Tours. These wines are the perfect balance between masculine and feminine.

AOC Pommard

Pommard is in the Côte de Beaune wine-producing region, on the Côte d’Or escarpment. Here, they produce red wines, made from Pinot Noir grapes. The power of the wines comes from the complexity of the soils and the iron-rich clays. The more pronounced, sun-exposed slopes, where the clay gives way to a stonier topsoil to allow for better drainage, produce the 1er Crus. There are no Grands Crus in Pommard.

Ask Anglo-Saxons to name a Burgundy, and Pommard is likely to be on the list. This is not just about the quality of the wine, but also, some say, the ease with which non-French speakers can pronounce Pommard. Marketing should not be sniffed at.

Open an AOC Pommard cuvée within 2-5 years and it releases notes of blueberries and blackberries; 7-10 years, plum, musk, leather and delicate old roses; and 10-15 years, musk, autumn forests and mushrooms. Drunk young, decant them to soften the tannins. Aubert Lefas, who manages Domaine Lejeune, explains this in an interview with Vins de Bourgogne.

Masculine-feminine energies of Pommard

Hocus-pocus or not, the great spiritual traditions of the world all prescribe a balance of masculine and feminine energies. When it comes to wine, AOC Pommard is famous for its strong tannins, placing it on the masculine side of the reds of Burgundy.

This structured, powerful masculine energy, for which the Pommard wines are so well-known, needs to be balanced with a seductive, flowing feminine force to make it a good Pommard. In wine language, this might be translated as achieving the right balance between tannins, acidity, fruit and aroma.

By the way, we are not talking men-women here. We all have a masculine and feminine side, according to many spiritual traditions.

Domaine Fanny Sabre

Fanny Sabre’s wines offer the perfect balance, whether between masculine and feminine, or between tannins, acidity, fruit and aroma.

She took over the family domaine of 4.5 hectares in 2005. As well as Pommard, Fanny has plots in Beaune, Meursault and Volnay.

Her cuvées include four 1er Cru: Les Charmots from Pommard, Charmes from Meursault and Les Chouacheux, and Les Sceaux and Vignes Franches from Beaune.

Her labels are also putting the feminine into wine production.

As shown in the featured image, the label of her Cuvée Anatole shows a coquettishly dressed woman bending over to (almost) reveal her derrière while playing boule. This comes from the French expression, faire Fanny, to do Fanny, to score no points in boule. The origins of the story behind this expression are unknown. The tradition in France is that when playing boule, the player who scores no points has to kiss the derrière of Fanny … hence the statues and pictures of Fanny’s bare derrière at boule grounds across the country.

Fanny Sabre, one of the most reputed natural wine makers in Burgundy.
A cask in Fanny Sabre’s cellar
Pommard has plenty of picturesque historic stone buildings with weathered white shutters.

Domaine Lejeune

The Jullien de Pommerol family has been making wine since the 18th century in this cluster of medieval buildings opposite the church in Pommard. The domaine is now managed by Aubert Lefas, who married into the family.

The domaine has that certain je ne sais quoi of style only found in France and Italy. The green snail sculpture that matches with the green Citroen car in the forecourt, the pastel tones of browns and greys, the mix of old and new. The wines are very stylish too, and like Fanny Sabre’s are found around the world.

Also like at Fanny Sabre, Domaine Lejeune uses natural yeasts, and the wines are unfiltered and unfined. As Aubert says, organic cultivation produces much longer roots, better able to tap into the soil’s water and nutrients, and hence making for a stronger plant. They also use horses in the vineyards, helping the structure of the soil which helps give the same softness underfoot as walking in the forest, Aubert says. The grapes are tread by foot (grape-stomping) and pushed down by hand during fermentation. Like with all producers such as Lejeune, this is a labour of love.

Thank goodness it was our last stop of the day, so I could drink without spitting out the domaine’s 1er Crus: Les Rugiens, Les Argillières and Les Poutures.

Aubert Lefas with the domaine’s Berger de Brie, or Briard, dog.
The 15th century cellar of Domaine Lejeune, opposite the church in Pommard.
The oldest vat in Burgundy, dating from the 17th century, made of oak and wrapped in white birch.
The symbol of gastronomy in Burgundy is the snail. A snail sculpture at Domaine Lejeune.

La Compagnie Fanny

One Michelin-starred meal in a day and I’m in heaven. Two Michelin-starred meals in a day and I start to suffer from the Law of Diminishing Returns (of enjoyment and satisfaction).

So it was with great pleasure that we had lunch at La Compagnie Fanny between our visits in Pommard. Yes, it is linked to Domaine Fanny Sabre.

We opened a bottle of Fanny Sabre’s Beaune 1er Cru before lunch, did some work and chatted, with Radio Meuh, my favourite music radio station (maybe too funky for some) on in the background.

The wine went perfectly with the blanquette de veau, veal stew, accompanied by a bowl of rice and green salad. This was home cooking at its best. And on the side was Moutarde Le Fallot, my favourite mustard, and the only independent, family-run mustard mill left in Beaune.

Blanquette de veau at La Compagnie Fanny
Artwork, Companie Fanny, Pommard, Burgundy
Wine artwork at La Compagnie Fanny, Pommard

That was my last day with Clos Driver Wine Tours following a week-long trip that took us through Champagne and Burgundy, meeting small producers, who most often produce their wines with minimum intervention and with much passion…  and to great acclaim from wine lovers around the world.

Next is was back to Lyon, and on the train to London…. to fly to Mauritius the following week.

To find out more about Burgundy wines:

Burgundy style: Chandon de Briailles & lunch in Gevrey-Chambertin (July 2017)

Wine & Food in Chablis: Patrick Piuze & Thomas Pico (July 2017)

From the Vineyards of Burgundy to the Olympics of Rio (May 2016, updated August 2017)

And to meet an up-and-coming producer:

Young, French & Making Waves: Etienne Julien (July 2017)

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