Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay, Burgundy
I first met Sylvain at the Natural wine fair in Saumur in the Loire. I had never heard of his wines, but I listened to him present to a Parisian restaurant owner and was impressed by his enthusiasm. When he was finished I tasted through his wines: I was a little surprised that he was showing 6 different cuveés of red Marsannay which could be a diifficult sell! I was very impressed with the purity and intensity of the wines but more importantly how each cuvee demonstrated different characteristics .
I followed his progress over the years and from time to time I would pick up a bottle on my travels. With each vintage, his wines seemed to improve. In January 2017, I flew over and met him in his cellar. He was presenting the entire range to two German gentlemen: He painstakingly went through each of his wines, white chardonnay and aligoté and all the different cuveés of red. When they left I asked who they were and he replied, ‘I don’t know, they wanted some wine’.
Sylvain is the first of the family in recent generations to make wine. The family lost their holdings after the 1st world war. He studied oenology and qualified in 1997 with his first vintage following in 1999. Jancis Robinson was very impressed at a trade tasting in London and said ‘This is a producer who is well worth watching’.
Our first allocation is small so I am in no rush to sell what we have. It appeals to me to see how his wines evolve. He is experimenting with different percentages of whole bunch v whole berry, depending on the site. He works hard to ensure that the wines are as site specific as possible. I like that a lot! These are elegant , focussed wines with a very good tension. They are defined by subtle mineral differences and are age worthy.