Meet David and Naïma Didon, husband and wife, parents, and grape-growers and winemakers together in Chassey-le-Camp in the Côte Challonnaise in Southern Burgundy.
In 1995, out of pure curiosity, David took a course in biodynamics in Beajeu, the only school that offered instruction in biodynamics back then. The class further piqued his curiosity, and, to avoid mandatory military service, he became a conscientious objector and spent two years working on organic farms in Alsace. He settled at Michel Goujot’s domain in the Côtes de Toul in Lorraine, one of the organic farming pioneers in the region.
This was David’s first time farming vineyards, a transformative experience that led him to quickly thereafter enroll in the Lycée Viticole in Beaune (yes, also where Raphael from Domaine Bichery, Charles from Charles Dufour, and Christian from Domaine Dandelion all studied!), where he met his wife, Naïma.
In 2001, Etienne de Montille hired David to convert his family’s vineyards to organic and biodynamic farming. Since then, he has been working for de Montille; today, he’s chef de culture (vineyard manager) at Chateau de Puligny Montrachet.
Over these years, David got to know Dominique Derain, Julien Altaber, and Patrick Meyer in their vineyards, cellars, and at dining room tables. They further introduced him to natural wines, and the farming and winemaking behind them. He considers them friends and mentors; they influenced him to set out on his own, and finally, in 2017, David and Naïma found a 2-hectare, contiguous vineyard on the southeast-facing slope above the entrance to Chassey-le-Camp.
Here, the Saône River effectively runs through the Côte d'Or just south of Chassagne Montrachet. The Côte Chalonnaise starts on the other side of the river - a series of more stratified, but very similar, southeast facing slopes. Chassey-le-Camp is the hamlet just above Bouzeron (the only village in France appellated for 100% Aligoté) at the northern tip of the Côte Chalonnaise.
David and Naïma Didon have the town's prime vineyard, lieu-dit “Les Vignes Blanches” – two hectares of Pinot Noir, Aligoté, and Pinot Blanc planted between 1947 and 1960 in Burgundy's classic clay-limestone soils (over gray marl). If the monks had settled further south, this would be prime Premier/Grand Cru slope aspect.
David plows by horse, and otherwise works his vineyard manually to minimize any machines (no tractors!) in his vineyard. He is a seasoned, and passionate, biodynamic farmer. He uses biodynamic preparations (and dynamizes each one) in the vineyard “to give information to the vines;” and to add a “cosmic force” to the earth.
The cellar is just below the vineyard. Inside, David and Naïma are completely hands-off – no additives (not even sulfites), and they use a mix of neutral oak, stainless steel, and fiberglass vessels for fermentation and aging.
Their wines are pure and crystalline – even cosmic – and it’s powerful and eye opening to see the consummation of David’s lifelong labors in someone else’s vineyards in his family’s own parcel. Ever the freethinker, he’s now free to make the detailed, life-affirming choices in the vineyard that bigger domains would never risk. The future is particularly bright for wine lovers as he and his friends Julien Altaber, Dominique Derain, and Morgane Seuillot redefine quality and terroir in Burgundy through their conscientious farming.