Full-time vigneron, part-time philosopher, Laurent Martelet has something of a clairvoyance about him when he shares his meticulous observations of nature and their effects on his vineyards. He remembers and can recount minute details about any given vintage, effortlessly producing exact dates in the cycle of the vine. With its mysterious complexity hidden within a very pale, almost translucent robe, the 2017 Genelotte, he says, is a rare wine that has benefited from the climate changes of the last few years, as the depth of the vines’ soil and the high percentage of clay allow the roots to store water throughout even the worst droughts. On the palate, the fruit notes are extraordinary, astonishing—almost sweet. In my experience, this bottle becomes even more interesting the second day, when its stony minerality fully reveals itself, but I wouldn’t count on there being any left over to find out.
The lost hamlet of Blagny, up in the hills between Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault in the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, is home to Comtesse de Chérisey. This almost magical, lost-in-time corner of the world boasts a unique microclimate, with a slightly different average temperature, exposition and soil than the rest of Burgundy. In our humble opinion, our friend and vigneron, Laurent Martelet, creates the most haunting masterpieces that emerge from this terroir. All of the de Chérisey vines are premier cru, are at least 60 years old, and they encircle their ancient cellar in the Hameau de Blagny.
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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