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Théo Dancer and Roc Breïa

Dispatches from Burgundy’s Cutting Edge
Théo Dancer and Roc Breïa

There can’t be many young growers in Burgundy creating more hype than Théo Dancer. Théo is the son of Vincent Dancer, whose small Chassagne-based domaine has been releasing some of the Côte de Beaune’s most fought-over whites for many years. To the surprise of many—his father is very much in his prime—Théo took the keys of the domaine from the 2020 vintage. It speaks volumes that Vincent felt his son was ready to carry such responsibility on young shoulders. And he has already repaid the faith. In addition to his work with his family domaine, this inquisitive and ambitious winemaker now also works with a very exciting new project in the Mâconnais (called Roc Breïa) and has also started his own micro-négoce, sourcing fruit from several exciting vineyards across France.

Dancer assumed management of the Roc Breïa vineyard just before the start of the 2021 harvest. With the help of full-time vigneron Bastien Cubillé, he immediately began raising the vineyard work to his exacting standards. As good as his 2021 releases were, they are not a patch on the 2022s: a consequence of both progression in the vines and a great Burgundy vintage. The wines are very much in his domaine’s pure, racy, earth-to-glass style, albeit with their own regional personalities.

Théo Dancer’s excellent négoce range is compact in every sense; the largest cuvée runs to a total of 300 cases—which, with the name Dancer on the label, does not stretch far. Our allocation this year comprises a Savagnin from Jura and a beautifully perfumed Grenache from vines near Cairanne. Yes, you read it correctly: a Dancer making Grenache! And a damn good one at that. Théo Dancer is increasingly recognised as one of Burgundy’s most exciting young talents—these wines explain why.

The Wines

Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022

Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022

The village of Bray lies in the north of the Mâconnais. It’s the zone that also includes Cruzille and Verzé and is one of the cooler, later-ripening areas of the Mâconnais. The Roc Breïa vines face west, and it’s windy, so there is little disease pressure. The Chardonnay is drawn from vines planted in the mid-1940s and mid-’70s. In the cellar, the winemaking is simple. The Chardonnay is whole bunch-pressed, and the wine ferments in used 500-litre barrels. It’s bottled unfiltered, and the only sulphur added is at bottling: a tiny 20 mg/L. Instead of taking the Mâcon-Bray appellation, Dancer has chosen to label the wine Vin de France, so he has no restrictions regarding picking dates. As for the wine itself, forget any stereotype about Mâcon; this is a juicy, punchy white Burgundy, atypically fresh and racy for the region.

“The 2022 Chardonnay has turned out beautifully, bursting with aromas of pear, white flowers, bread dough and hazelnuts, followed by a medium to full-bodied, fleshy palate with a satiny attack that segues into a charming, lively mid-palate, with good cut and a saline finish. Dancer sold off two-thirds of his crop in 2021, but the quality of his raw materials in 2022 should permit a less draconian selection.”
92 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022
Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022 (1500ml)

Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022 (1500ml)

The village of Bray lies in the north of the Mâconnais. It’s the zone that also includes Cruzille and Verzé and is one of the cooler, later-ripening areas of the Mâconnais. The Roc Breïa vines face west, and it’s windy, so there is little disease pressure. The Chardonnay is drawn from vines planted in the mid-1940s and mid-’70s. In the cellar, the winemaking is simple. The Chardonnay is whole bunch-pressed, and the wine ferments in used 500-litre barrels. It’s bottled unfiltered, and the only sulphur added is at bottling: a tiny 20 mg/L. Instead of taking the Mâcon-Bray appellation, Dancer has chosen to label the wine Vin de France, so he has no restrictions regarding picking dates. As for the wine itself, forget any stereotype about Mâcon; this is a juicy, punchy white Burgundy, atypically fresh and racy for the region.

“The 2022 Chardonnay has turned out beautifully, bursting with aromas of pear, white flowers, bread dough and hazelnuts, followed by a medium to full-bodied, fleshy palate with a satiny attack that segues into a charming, lively mid-palate, with good cut and a saline finish. Dancer sold off two-thirds of his crop in 2021, but the quality of his raw materials in 2022 should permit a less draconian selection.”
92 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022 (1500ml)
Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022 (3000ml)

Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022 (3000ml)

The village of Bray lies in the north of the Mâconnais. It’s the zone that also includes Cruzille and Verzé and is one of the cooler, later-ripening areas of the Mâconnais. The Roc Breïa vines face west, and it’s windy, so there is little disease pressure. The Chardonnay is drawn from vines planted in the mid-1940s and mid-’70s. In the cellar, the winemaking is simple. The Chardonnay is whole bunch-pressed, and the wine ferments in used 500-litre barrels. It’s bottled unfiltered, and the only sulphur added is at bottling: a tiny 20 mg/L. Instead of taking the Mâcon-Bray appellation, Dancer has chosen to label the wine Vin de France, so he has no restrictions regarding picking dates. As for the wine itself, forget any stereotype about Mâcon; this is a juicy, punchy white Burgundy, atypically fresh and racy for the region.

“The 2022 Chardonnay has turned out beautifully, bursting with aromas of pear, white flowers, bread dough and hazelnuts, followed by a medium to full-bodied, fleshy palate with a satiny attack that segues into a charming, lively mid-palate, with good cut and a saline finish. Dancer sold off two-thirds of his crop in 2021, but the quality of his raw materials in 2022 should permit a less draconian selection.”
92 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Roc Breïa Chardonnay 2022 (3000ml)
Roc Breïa Pinot Noir 2022

Roc Breïa Pinot Noir 2022

The Roc Breïa Pinot Noir vines are a touch younger than the Chardonnay and were planted between 1970 and 1985. This wine is vinified with some 50% whole bunches, followed by maturation in used 500-litre barrels. As with the white, Dancer makes a rigorous barrel selection, eliminating anything he doesn’t like from the final blend. It’s a wonderfully elegant Pinot and a great reminder of what the Mâconnais can deliver from this variety. And why not? It’s Burgundy, after all, with clay-limestone soils. This is already drinking well, yet it nonetheless benefits from plenty of air. Decant, serve and fall in love.

“Théo Dancer's 2022 Pinot Noir is rather deep and muscular this year, opening in the glass with aromas of plummy fruit and sweet spices, followed by a medium to full-bodied, deep and primary palate framed by sweet, powdery tannins. It's matured in used 500-liter barrels.”
92 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Roc Breïa Pinot Noir 2022
Théo Dancer Vin de France Jurassique Savagnin 2022

Théo Dancer Vin de France Jurassique Savagnin 2022

Ouillé (topped up). Dancer now sources his Savagnin from a conscientious farmer in Rotalier, the same Jura town as Ganevat and Julien Labet. The vines sit on chalk clay over Bajocian limestone subsoil. Emphasising purity and terroir rather than flor-aging notes, the winemaking involves direct pressing into large oak barrels, with no racking until the completion of fermentation, followed by a settling period in stainless-steel tanks before bottling. The resulting wine is superb and another step up from the inaugural 2021 release. It’s a mouth-wateringly racy, low pH-driven wine, yet with good texture and a lingering lime and verbena scented close. Magic. Drive, length and finesse: a talented Burgundy grower’s take on the Jura.   

Théo Dancer Vin de France Jurassique Savagnin 2022
Théo Dancer Vin de France Aragón Grenache 2022

Théo Dancer Vin de France Aragón Grenache 2022

We did see this coming. Théo Dancer, like his father, is a great fan of Grenache and wanted to make a wine from this variety last year (he simply couldn’t find the right source). Now he has. The site lies in a place called Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, between Orange and Montélimar and near Cairanne. It’s a beautiful, shaded vineyard that looks out to Mt Ventoux. The soils are littered with smooth ‘galets roulés (the rounded stones that dominate so much of the southern Rhône). A key attraction was that the vineyard had been managed organically for years. The fruit was harvested in late August. It’s a really engaging whole-bunch Grenache through a Burgundian lens. Fermented as whole clusters and raised in used 456-litre barrels, the stems are perfectly integrated, bringing freshness and lift to the wine’s ripe, fleshy-yet-floral core. It’s deep yet with excellent balance and interest. 

Théo Dancer Vin de France Aragón Grenache 2022

“Readers keen to remain on Burgundy’s cutting edge will want to secure some [Roc Breïa]!” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate

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