Nathalie Richez

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Burgundy has always been at the heart of Rosenthal Wine Merchant’s identity. Over our 45 years of existence, we have witnessed seismic shifts in the market, as blue-chip wines that may have merely strained the wallet a few decades ago are today practically inaccessible to all but a miniscule and uber-wealthy few. While such deservedly coveted wines do comprise a small portion of our Burgundy portfolio, we have always taken great pride in seeking out wines from less heralded corners of the region. Not only are these Burgundies more accessible to a broader range of enthusiasts, but they paint a truer picture of the region; after all, love of only the most coveted crus is not a love of Burgundy, but a love of trophies.

We discovered Nathalie Richez through a bottle of her Bouzeron during a quick lunch in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Struck by its frankness and its satisfying depth, we arranged a visit for our next pass-through, and indeed both Nathalie and her simple setup proved to be a breath of fresh air. In a region dominated by the landed, Nathalie—not born into a winemaking family—built up her 12-hectare domaine from scratch beginning in 2011, acquiring small plots in unheralded appellations here and there as she could afford them. Nathalie is guided by her deep love of Burgundy, and while it must perhaps be tempting for a newcomer to stamp their wines with an abundance of personality, hers are egoless, unassuming, and strikingly transparent.

Nathalie’s home is the little town of Chagny, on the border of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte Chalonnaise; she vinifies her wines in a spartan room adjacent to her house, in steel and fiberglass tanks, and her barrel cellar is a couple of gravel-floored chambers beneath an old stone shed in the backyard. Except for the Aligoté for the Bouzeron, all her wines, from humblest to grandest, pass 18 months in 20% new oak—low-toast barrels from a tiny local one-man operation. She destems everything fully, allows fermentations to proceed spontaneously, and only applies sulfur after malolactic is complete—an utterly nonradical regimen that well serves her wines’ sense of classicism. She works without chemical herbicides in the vineyards and regularly aerates the soil, but she chooses not to adapt a “practicing organic” label, as she wants to retain the flexibility to employ her best judgment in every situation.

Nathalie’s vineyards encompass holdings in both the southern reaches of the Côte de Beaune (Santenay and Maranges) and the northern portions of the Côte Chalonnaise (Bouzeron and Mercurey), and of her 12 hectares she only currently bottles three and a half hectares’ worth, selling the remainder of her fruit to Drouhin and Jadot. We hope to work together to help her shift that balance over time, as we have done numerous times over our decades of work in the region. Like Nathalie herself, her wines are friendly, frank, unassuming, and immediately likable—Burgundies that may not reflect a deep family history of winemaking, but are as irresistibly pure as they come.

Bouzeron : Bouzeron, the northernmost village in the Côte Chalonnaise, is situated just five kilometers south of the grand crus of Chassagne-Montrachet. This unique appellation is solely for Aligoté—specifically, a local strain known as Aligoté Doré which tends to be spicier, rounder, and more complex than the more commonly planted Aligoté Vert. Notably, Aligoté in the appellation of Bouzeron is planted exclusively on slopes, whereas in many other parts of Burgundy it is relegated to the flatlands. Nathalie owns 0.45 hectares worth of Aligoté here split among two parcels, one planted in the 1980s and the other in the 1950s, and she ages it on its fine lees for a full year entirely in stainless steel (she dislikes oak influence on Aligoté). Generously textured but with ample tension, it displays seashell-like minerality beneath fruit that veers between citrussy and borderline exotic.

Bourgogne-Côte Chalonnaise Rouge “Petites Combes”: Nathalie owns a 0.5-hectare parcel of early-1980s-planted Pinot Noir in the village of Fontaines, bordering Mercurey’s northeast corner and abutting the well-known premier cru Clos des Myglands (a monopole of Domaine Faiveley). Her just-so touch with extraction is evident here, as this is breezy without being slight, presenting its pretty Pinot fruit with tenderness yet also possessing enough depth and structure to tie the earth-kissed flavors into a nice clean package. This spends 18 months in 20% new oak.

Maranges Rouge “Les Regains” : This well-situated vineyard in the commune of Cheilly-les-Maranges is nestled in the southeast corner of Maranges very close to the border of Santenay, and Nathalie owns a 0.4-hectare parcel of Pinot Noir here. Aged for 18 months in 20% new oak, “Les Regains” displays an iron-tinged minerality and a muscularity of structure not unlike that of a Nuits-Saint-Georges, yet its black fruit is delivered with energy, tension, and lift. Tannins are punchy but not rude, and the overall balance is noteworthy, particularly for an appellation prone to rusticity.

Santenay Rouge : Nathalie owns 1.4 hectares of Pinot Noir in Santenay, split among three parcels: Les Vaux Dessus, Les Charmes Dessus, and Bievaux. Her Santenay Rouge, aged for a year and a half in 20% new barrels, is the kind of effortlessly soulful, meat-and-potatoes red Burgundy that can only be made by a grower who knows how and when to get out of the way of the terroir. It shows terrific balance; it is pure of fruit without feeling fussily pristine; its telltale sous-bois notes are well-integrated and rendered with clarity; and its acidity is pert and true.

Santenay Rouge 1er Cru “Beauregard” : The premier cru Beauregard sits mid-slope in the northeast part of Santenay near the border of Chassagne-Montrachet, and Nathalie owns 0.3 hectares of Pinot Noir here. If her village-level Santenay is a case study in pure Burgundian Pinot Noir, Beauregard is—as one would expect—more particular in its personality: darker and more somber in its fruit (yet still fresh), with a more succulent texture and a tinge of smoke. Typically yielding four barrels of wine, this sees slightly more new oak (25%, or one out of four new casks) than the other red wines but is in no way unbalanced by it.

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