Who: Andrew and Emma Nielsen
What: Savigny Les Beaune, Beaune, Monthelie, Mâcon-Villages, Fleurie and more
When: Since 2011
“My vision for Le Grappin is to seek out special sites in the over-looked, under-appreciated reaches of Burgundy, that tell a story. I search out viticulteurs as maniacal as me, who tend their vines throughout the year, who know their sites and how best to make the site shine. My job is to ensure the wine reaches it’s true potential, working by hand, with small lots, giving each wine as much care and attention as my viticulteurs have paid to the vines. I believe one finds a sense of detail, purity, and focus in my wines as a result. I hope you enjoy the stories my wines have to tell.” – Andrew Nielsen, Le Grappin
What a story indeed. In 2006 Andrew was living a comfortable life as an advertisting executive in Los Angeles when his head was turned by a bottle of Dujac Clos de la Roche. He immediately told (or rather asked permission from) his wife Emma he wanted to make wine; sell up, become a winemaker and eventually make great wine in Burgundy. Since when it was a long, arduous journey but here Andrew is, in Burgundy, making great wines. He spent the following 3 years after his Damascene conversion working in Australia and New Zealand and California (Coldstream Hills, Felton Road, Kosta Brown, amongst others) and then quickly fell in with Simon Bize in Savigny Les Beaune. Pretty quickly, in 2011, Andrew and Emma acquired one small parcel to work with in Savigny, both red and white. In 2012 they acquired some Beaune Premier Cru red and white. They were on their way.
Given the difficulties to acquire and astronomical prices for vineyard in the great sites of Burgundy, from the outset the Nielsens took a keen interest in vineyards adjoining the great sites, looking for plots that over-deliver, and plots that are worked organically or sustainably, at any rate without chemical attrition. This strategy also allows Andrew and Emma to tell a much bigger story than the obvious one of the great site. The great sites are based on soil of course but there’s often a blind, unquestioning following of any produce of a great site. Andrew and Emma aim to tickle the tastebuds of all of us who care about the soil and are not interested in the label for its own sake. In a way the story of the vines is being told more transparently.
In the cellar Andrew follows a natural strategy with lots of little tactics, learned from a multitude of colleagues from Simon Bize to Philippe Pacalet. He uses lots of oxygenation on the whites, big and small barrels or no wood at all according to what fruit he’s working with, a very gentle approach to bottling, by air pressure, a sort of reverse suction, to avoid tiring the wine in any way on its way to bottle.
Wines labeled Du Grappin are intended to be “easier”, less meditative.