Fanny Sabre didn't plan to be a winemaker...

She was at university studying law when her father sadly passed away in 2001. It was then that the highly regarded Philippe Pacalet stepped in for 6 years while Fanny completed her studies. He made significant changes, turning the estate to organic and introducing a hands-off approach to the winemaking. At the age of 22, Fanny returned to the estate and worked alongside Philippe Pacalet to run the then 4.5-hectare estate based in Pommard but with vines in Beaune, Monthelie, Savigny, Volnay and more recently Meursault for which she says she will be in debt for the rest of her life but that it's totally worth it! Today Fanny tends to 7 hectares of organically farmed, hand-harvested vines in 34 different parcels!

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Q&A

with Fanny Sabre

We talk to Fanny about her inspiring winemaking story, what it was like to be a 22-year-old woman taking over from Pacalet and how she feels that she has honed her own distinctive winemaking style. 

How did it feel to change career paths, are you happy with how things turned out? 

Yes, it was a happy twist of fate! It's what I was destined to do! What’s exciting about this job is that the wine has evolved with my personality. When I was 22, I was all over the place trying to work out my style but one of the great things about getting older and being a mother of 3, is that I know better about who I am and what I want in my wines. 

Having said that, there are two elements that I haven’t changed and that I’ve stood by since the very beginning and that is to make my red wines using whole bunch fermentation and only to work with indigenous yeast. I stand by this because it brings an important balance between nice ripe vegetal notes and fresh fruit.

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Why is working organically so important to you?

Primarily it’s because of the planet's future, but there is a consensus in Burgundy to maintain a healthy ecosystem because each plot of vines are all so close together like a patchwork quilt if you like. With global warming and rising temperatures, we seek to sustain the fresh style that is indicative to cool climate wine-growing regions like  Burgundy. Essentially the aim is to get the healthiest grapes into the cellar, so that very little work needs doing by me! The initial costs of working this way are higher, as everything is done by hand, so it’s an investment.

The main aim is to get the little white dust that you see on the grape skin to be as healthy as possible - this way, you really get wines that reflect their terroir. 

What's new at Domaine Fanny Sabre? 

We are sensitive to changes in the market, with huge price increases, we are really trying to look at wines that we can make that are more affordable so that there is something for every budget. This is why we launched the cuvée Anatole.

Also our new labels! That we launched for the 2018 vintage, created by artist Michel Tolmer whos work is ubiquitous within the world of natural wine. Together we worked on a design that reflects the Côte-d'Or in different seasons, showing the different colours of the soil that all fit into one another like a puzzle. The idea was to create an elegant, simple label that reflects the wines appellation and its terroir. What’s great is that my winery is my own creation; I don’t have a father or grandfather who created a label that I have to respect.


We really believe in creating quality, entry-level wines. We make a Bourgogne Rouge like a Pommard and a Bourgogne Blanc like a Meursault.


 

How would you describe your signature style?

My wines are precise and balanced. I aim for length and aromatic complexity; there is also a saline character even in the reds. The wines are moreish and make you want to eat and drink! 

What’s one thing that you would like people who drink your wines to know?

As a person, I’m quite straight forward, and I love spontaneity, I don’t like to get caught up in deep analysis and critique of the wine. For me it’s about sharing, whether you’ve had a good day or a bad day you can open a bottle of wine a drink it - don’t waste 5 hours for the wine to open up!


It's about spontaneity and pleasure. This is why we make wine after all.


 

What is it like being a female winemaker in such a male-oriented environment?

It is getting better, but honestly, it hasn’t been easy. As a tall blond 23 year old who wasn’t embarking on the project with my husband and who liked to wear nail varnish people didn’t take me seriously. Showing your femininity was alien as a female winemaker 20 years ago. If you worked outside with your hands, you were expected to be ugly! And when you’re 23 you take things more personally, it was hurtful, but I just kept my head down and got on with it. I make the wines the way I want to make my wines, and I work the vines the way that I want to work my vines.

But what did make a difference was the increase in foreign female winemakers that have come over from the likes of Australia and New Zealand. I really think that it’s great that the imbalance is being addressed and that we’re seeing more women working in Burgundy.

What would you say to your 23-year-old self?

Don’t change! Stick to your guns! You have to take the rough with the smooth, the good times with the bad times to really learn and advance. I’m pretty feisty and headstrong, once I’ve decided on something I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen or at least I will try so that I don’t have any regrets.

What is the single most important thing to you in the whole process?

For me, it's about creating a strong identity for my wines, for people to drink my wines and know that they are buying Fanny’s wines - not just a Pinot from Burgundy. Over the years, I’ve really honed my style, and my clients continue to be loyal. But also for me, it’s really about making wines that I want to drink, I don't follow trends, and of course, the taste of wines is subjective! 


I have the complete creative freedom to create something that represents who I am as a winemaker. 


 

Which wine are you the most proud of and why? 

The Beaune Clos des Renardes is my absolute favourite!

I fell in love with this parcel when I bought it in 2016 - it’s a 2 hectare parcel in Beaune village which took me over 6 months to buy. It took a lot of effort to get it over the line because it was very expensive, but there’s something about the taste that it gives to the wines that is everything that I love about Burgundy!

Finesse, elegance, a great complexity and aromatic profile. It's a well-priced wine too, people who drink it won’t feel as though they have been ripped off! 

What are the secrets of your success?

Hard work and authenticity but also knowledge of the vines and confidence that comes with age - of course, you learn every day, but with age and experience comes wisdom.

What is your favourite food & wine pairing?

The Pommard and dark chocolate goes really well together! But in all honesty, I don’t like to impose my opinions on people because each person has their own taste and preferences. Having said that what’s great about Pinot and Chardonnay is that it is capable of pairing with so many dishes. For example, in Asia both the Pinots and the Chardonnays are drunk with raw fish and beef - they’re varietals that marry well with so many flavours because they’re not high in alcohol and they're elegant in style which won't overpower the food - we’re really lucky in Burgundy that Pinot goes with most things! 

Producer Box

2018 Selection of 6 Bottles

£250

"2018 was a great vintage in Burgundy" says Fanny Sabre, “we got quality and quantity - everything went really well, we didn’t have to deal with the strikes and the weather was good to us. All the conditions were perfect - you really can’t get better! The 2018’s are super easy to drink right now, so maybe you’ll tuck into this box and drink straight away, or perhaps you’ll open over the course of a few years, say every 6 months and see how they evolve? Don’t forget that wine is alive!"

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