When in uncharted territory, most wine buyers stick to the well-trodden path, writes Christy Canterbury MW. That means there is plenty of room for discovery, even in a fairly small region like Burgundy. A lucky benefit of taking the road less traveled, is that road’s lower prices.
Up for adventures in chardonnay and pinot noir? From north to south, here we go.
Twenty kilometers northeast of Chablis lies the petit village of Épineuil, where wine is made in all three colors. These wines are whisper weight with racy acidity. NB: These wines aren’t easy to find but are truly perfect for summer sipping.
A nicely aging rouge from a ripe vintage, this Épineuil boasts amplified aromas: winemaker Dominique Gruhier always uses a significant portion of whole clusters during vinification. Blackberry and black cherry fruits are sprinkled with tart cranberry undertones. Fine but moderately firm tannins structure the innate succulence of this cuvée.
P.S. If you happen to find recent vintages from Olivier Savary, Domaine du Val Grevin or Domaine de Marsoif, do snap them up!
At the northern tip of the Côte d’Or sits Marsannay. Marsannay produces predominantly red and rosé with a smidgen of white. I find the reds the most enticing. Marsannay rouges sport an appealing rustic side – earthy and gamey – supplemented by a juicy mid-palate. They’re loaded with color, often purple-hued.
Mineral, floral and exuberantly youthful, l’Ancestrale shows lighter fruit flavors of yellow plum and red raspberry. The wine’s nervous acidity and slightly coarse tannins make the palate feel tight-knit, but this is balanced nicely with a lovely vinosity. Spice undertones appear on the short-plus finish. Produced from vines averaging 80 years in age.
Upon arriving in the Côte de Beaune, climb into the hills east of Beaune to arrive at Pernand-Vergelesses. Aesthetically charming, this village makes elegant and fairly delicate reds and whites at the village and Premier Cru level. These wines are mid-weight and definitively mineral, exhibiting ample ripeness.
Sous Frétille comes in white and red, but only the blanc can be Premier Cru. Fresh squeezed lemon and lime mingle with pink grapefruit pulp on the nose. Hay and blanched almond join on the palate. The core is simultaneously solid yet plump, and the vivacious acidity carries the mineral-driven palate to a fruit-focused medium finish.
It’s been said that Saint Romain is the poor man’s Meursault. While there are no Premier Crus here, there are a handful of producers whose wine quality challenges that AOC limitation. Production is rather evenly split between red and white, but it is the white that ignites my taste buds. Top Saint-Roman possesses a creamy palate, refreshed by marked acidity with aromas of lime pulp, white flowers and minerals.
First and foremost, this wine is pure, mineral and taut, firmly corseted by vivacious acidity. The aromas include ripe white peach and fleshy melon with bamboo and fresh mushroom. This wine shows a particularly powerful energy considering its provenance. Produced from vines averaging 30 years of age in Les Jarrons and Sous Roches.
Perched above and west of Puligny-Montrachet’s famous vineyards, Saint-Aubin produces extraordinary whites. You’ll find lean, Chassagne-Montrachet-esque reds here, too, but it’s the whites that really enchant. Beguiling, if sometimes restrained, in their floral and mineral notes, they range in body from lithe to supple, but are never voluptuous.
En Remilly is, in my view, the ultimate expression of Saint-Aubin. I’ll take it over many Puligny-Montrachets any day. Lamy’s wine explodes with peony and acacia, preserved lemon and ripe peach. Bracing acidity structures the round and mid-weight palate.
Slipping into the Côte Chalonnaise, the large cliffs to the west disappear and the landscape rolls into gentle hills. Our last stop is best known for its reds. Givry reds are more perfumed, graceful and charming – and more to my liking – than the huskier, meatier, more drying style of neighboring Mercurey.
Overt pastis and Kirsch liqueur aromas figure prominently on the nose with freshly turned earth lurking underneath. Seemingly polished on the nose, the lightly chunky tannins show that this bottling is a few wipes short of being perfectly polished, which lends additional charm and authenticity.