When I sat down write this, my plan was to focus on the cold climate of Chablis. To write about how the vignerons were forced to implement widespread anti-frost systems just to survive. Or about how the traditional Chablis barrel, the feuillette, is smaller than elsewhere in Burgundy because the local oak trees, stunted by wind and cold, never grew as big as their more southerly cousins. I was all set to paint Chablis as the wine region equivalent of Pluto, the outsider of the Burgundian solar system following its own orbit on the frigid fringes. And then the other night, after the kids had gone to bed, my wife and I opened this particular bottle, from one of Chablis’ oldest premier cru vineyards, for a nightcap. Yes, this is classic Chablis, where Chardonnay speaks with a clipped and flinty accent, but there’s also a beautiful, sunny aspect to this wine that I was not expecting. As I got deeper into the glass, I noticed a little floral note here, a touch of ripeness there, and before I knew it, my carefully crafted analogy crumbled. Then, pretty soon afterward, the bottle was empty as well.
Domaine Costal is a unique collaboration between the well-known Chablis producer Domaine Jean Collet and Kermit Lynch. The project began with a simple barrel tasting with Kermit and led to the first of now two cuvées, a custom label, and custom vinification and bottling process exclusively for the American market.
The vines are worked organically and Kermit and the Collet family together agree on a blend of stainless steel, foudre, and barrel vinifications. The skill of the Collets and their excellent terroirs combine to give us wines of extraordinary purity and finesse. There is no mistaking it—one taste and you are in Chablis territory: zesty minerality, wet stone, freshness and nervosity.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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