Remembering Patrick Bize – A Grand Winemaker

Patrick.  One of the most charismatic winemakers I have ever met, he was so funny.” I was telling Chisa, Patrick’s wife lunching at Alfie’s with her and Sebestian Chevalier (from Sarment) in HK last month, in fact, her first HK visit after Simon’s heart attack and  unfortunately passed away last Oct 2013.

The news of Patrick’s death, at only 61 years of age, when Sebestian (close friend of Simon’s family) told me the news, has come as a terrible shock and sadness, Burgundy has lost one of its most talented winemaker far too soon.

Patrick barrel tasting with me at his cellar
The talented Patrick Bize barrel tasting at his underground cellar during my visit in 2013

Patirck Bize, a talented winemaker with a great characters and sense of humor.  The first time I met him, which was too late in life during May in 2013 at his Domaine Simon Bize.  I was prepared for something like an usual wine journalist visit, we say salute, go to the winery, then, typically a vertical tasting of the domaine’s wine.

With Patrick was different.  He looked serious shaking my hand.  His hand was rough yet firm.   His stern straight face stiffen me up then he somehow burst into a smile, “Let’s go drink some good stuff!” I immediately realised that was just a fun act.  He took his time showing me in great depth of how each wine were made, tasted together every single different wine from barrels telling interesting stories around his wine making; we then moved on to taste the bottled wine while he showed a black and white family photo hanging on the wall of the tasting room with his dad standing next to a very young Patrick Bize in their vineyard.  “This is my dad and this handsome boy is me!” Chisa passed by and he bowed “I should present to you, my boss”.   We ended up laughing so hard that I almost cancel my next winery visit wishing day could be longer.

going through all his cuvee in barrels at his underground cave
going through his cuvees one by one in barrels at his underground cave, an amazing experience with Patrick that I would always remember and missed
"This is my dad and this handsome boy is me!", Patrick pointing at himself standing in middle of vineyard took in 1937
“This is my dad and this handsome boy is me!”, Patrick pointing at himself standing in middle of Savigny les Beaune vineyard took in 1937

Patrick was warm, genuine and generous, he was just simply great.  And one can find the same qualities in his wine.  It was a fact I only met Patrick once, but just that one time, I was impressed with his honesty and honesty in his wine.   “There are no Grand Cru vineyards in Savigny-lès-Beaune, but we have Grand Vine here” Patrick raised his glass of wine.

Patrick Bize`s family have been in Savigny les Beaune since the 1880s – his great grandfather was a butcher and maintained some vines as well. Now they have expanded from few rows to 22 hectares of vines and their domaine is unquestionably the finest in the village. Patrick made his first wine at the domaine in 1974 and had been working his wine with the talented winemaker, Guillaume Bott, previously of Domaine Etienne Sauzet in Puligny.  It is a little-known fact, but this domaine has some of the oldest vines and the highest average vine age in all of Burgundy. There are few domaines that could boast a Bourgogne Rouge made from vines planted in 1963, 1971 and 1980; or a 1er Cru Vergelesses made from vines from the ‘30s – ‘60s.

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Patrick is careful in his use of oak in order to preserve the inherent elegance and balance of fruit in his wines. He maintains a flexible approach when determining how long to age each wine in barrel, meticulously following the evolution of each wine and adjusting the maturation according to the richness and weight of each cuvée.  Patrick also stressed heavily on harvesting the perfect fruit and low yield.  Despite Savigny wines are traditionally not very highly regarded, patrick excels in producing exceptional ones. His wines are firm, rich, and harmonious and unlike most wines from Savigny, it surely can age.  Patrick turned the Domaine into biodynamic in 2008.   His produced wine list is long and contains not only a bouquet of amazing Savignys but also a trio of Bourgogne Blancs, a splendid Aloxe Corton, and a few casks of Corton Charlemagne.

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One may be concerned about who will be taken over the winemaking now when Patrick and Chisa son, Hugo is still a teenager now at 16 and daughter Naska at 14.   Chisa affirmed me that the wine making will continue to be exactly the same as before, as Domaine Simon Bize has always been a great teamwork rather than “single winemaker” system and she will be overlooking the Domaine like always, just a little more focus than before.   Their son despite being at 16, had recently decided to become a winemaker in his future which is one exciting news for the Domaine and whoever loves Bize’s wines.

While Patrick’s charming Corton Charlemagne 2011 is around 150-200 euro/bottle, I certainly enjoy his amazing Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru Aux Vergelesses and aux Grands Liards (its clay and gravel soils make for more masculine, powerful wines than are usually made around the village of Savigny) which is of amazing value between 40-50euro/bottle.  His entry level white is of the best buy at 20euro/bottle!  If you are a wine lover and haven’t had a glass of Domaine Simon Bize, you should!

The wine world lost a talented winemaker, and our thoughts are very much with his family and so wherever you are, let’s raise a glass of his amazing Grand wine to remember and celebrate Patrick Bize, one of the Burgundy’s finest!

simonbize
Chisa (on right) confirming everything at Domaine Simon Bize is on good hands during our table for 3 (onLeft: Sebestian Chevalier)during her April 2014 visit in HK
wine we enjoyed with Chisa
wine we enjoyed with Chisa

 

Few Of My Tasting Notes Here: 

Domaine Simon Bize et Fils Bourgogne Blanc Les Perrieres 2010 – Les Perrieres is located on the north-western hill overlooking the village of Savigny As the name suggests, Les Perrieres is a very stoney vineyard giving this wine mineral and floral on nose, flinty with lovely acidity.  Surely can drink this everyday. These Chardonnay were planted in 1967 and 1968. 90/100

Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru les Vergelesses Blanc 2007 – Peachy, zesty, whisper of vanilla, balanced, focus and classy! 94/100

Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru aux Grands Liards 2008 – Very open even it was first opened.  dark cherries on nose with good intensity.  Bize’s vines in the Aux Grand Liards appellation are old plantings; the youngest are over 40 years old and the oldest were planted in 1939! These old vines add stunning concentration and smooth intensity to the already muscular structure of this wine. 94/100

Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru les Vergelesses 2009 – Opulent nose of red and black cherries roaring with violet, plum, wetstones with touch of smokiness and spiciness.   Firm and lively with elegant tannins. The vines had been replanted from the 1939 to 1978 (youngest being almost 40 years of age!)  93/100

 

Sarment
Suite 1301, 13F Lyndhurst Tower
1 Lyndhurst Terrace
Central, Hong Kong
hongkong@sarmentwine.com

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