Sometimes, you can tell a lot about a domaine by how they spend money. Jean-Marc and Anne-Marie Vincent spend their precious euros on labor—skilled workers who harvest their fruit in multiple passes, bunch by bunch, to get each grape at the perfect moment of ripeness. That ain’t cheap. The Vincents can’t command Meursault- or Puligny-level prices for their beautiful, stony Santenay blanc from the premier cru Gravières vineyard, but they make it with that level of quality anyway, and that tells me all I need to know.
Anne-Marie and Jean-Marc Vincent inherited most of their vines, principally located in and around the village of Santenay in the southern Côte de Beaune, from Jean-Marc’s grandfather, André Bardollet-Bravard. They produce three premier cru reds and two premier cru whites from Santenay, in addition to a red and a white Auxey-Duresses.
The Vincents’ wine operation is a family affair and A-M and J-M split their time between the vineyards, cellars and their young children. All of their wines are a testament to the importance of vigneron talent in a given appellation. While a great vigneron can make over-achievers from any appellation, a great appellation will never be great in the hands of mediocrity.
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.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.
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