We began importing Domaine Larue, the Saint-Aubin specialist, with the 2014 vintage, but Kermit’s first foray in the village brought out a wine from the 1976 vintage, about which he wrote: “A superior wine from a lesser appellation is more satisfying than an inferior wine from a superior appellation. Or, it’s the singer, not the song.” When Kermit wrote those words in these pages more than forty years ago, one could easily understand why Saint-Aubin was seen as lesser, as it had only obtained status as an appellation a few years earlier. Yet today Saint-Aubin is still overlooked in both France and abroad. Sure, it’s sandwiched into a valley hidden between the superstars Chassagne and Puligny-Montrachet. But what surprises me is that, while many Burgundy drinkers seek wines with precision, minerality, and grace, from steep and rocky terroirs, their eyes don’t immediately turn to Saint-Aubin. Large chunks of Chassagne and Puligny sit on flat ground, with rich soils, near the main road. Nearly all of Saint-Aubin, village and premier cru alike, is composed of rough-and-tumble rocky parcels edged in wherever they can fit, steep and narrow, seemingly drilled directly into the limestone bedrock. The valley of the village has all different kinds of expositions, altitudes, and geology. You’d think the multitude of premiers crus here would be household names, studied and pored over by oenophiles, as has been done with the famous neighbors. And the price, too—Saint-Aubin is lagging way behind its neighbors there as well (fortunately for us). It’s never too late to dive in, though, and one wonders how long this can really last. To get to know Saint-Aubin a bit better, start with Domaine Larue. This village is their specialty, their backyard, and they sure know how to tease out the best of each small parcel they own. We import a multitude of Saint-Aubins from the estate, blanc and rouge, but I would suggest these three to start: Les Eduens for the rouge, with a high-altitude acid crunch, supple and fresh tannins, and an earthy perfume; for the whites, Sous Roche Dumay, a study in the salinity of this minuscule, rocky terroir, often the favorite of those who enjoy very taut and precise white Burgundy; and next, Les Cortons, another lesser-known parcel, with the more lemon, mint, and brioche aspects the village has to offer. These are just the tip of the iceberg, really. It may indeed be more about the singer than the song, but when you’ve got the finest of both . . .
Discovering Saint-Aubin in Burgundy is a little like stumbling upon an outstanding, but unknown and well-priced restaurant or jazz club tucked back in an alley along your town’s main drag. Wines from this appellation would be as sought after as many others from the Côte de Beaune if Saint-Aubin weren’t essentially hidden behind the towering giants of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet. For Burgundy lovers on a budget, however, this is a blessing. You can still experience incredibly classy Côte d’Or reds and whites without biting off a sizable chunk of your paycheck. Even though the majority of Saint-Aubin is planted to Chardonnay, reds like Domaine Larue’s Les Eduens prove that the terroir here is also beautifully suited to Pinot Noir. What does “Les Eduens” mean? The Larues named this bottling after the population that lived in the region during the period of the Roman Republic (up until the first century B.C.). This medium-bodied rouge, with notes of freshly crushed black cherries and cranberries filtered through stones, would be sublime alongside any kind of grilled or roasted fowl. I poured a glass, grilled some maitake mushrooms, and stuffed them in a grilled cheese sandwich, which was pretty perfect, too.
Didier Larue and family live in the small hamlet of Gamay, in the hills behind Chassagne-Montrachet, surrounded by an amphitheater of steep, stony, hillside vineyards. This is prime Saint-Aubin country. These hillsides produce taut, mineral-laden Chardonnays that, in the right hands, can challenge the wines of nearby Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet. Case in point: this wiry premier cru sculpted from Burgundian limestone.
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