Franck Follin-Arbelet bottles a pure, unadulterated expression of Aloxe-Corton’s terroir. Only a few lucky growers work this holy plot, a small clos in front of the Aloxe church in the center of town. Franck’s style brings out its charms and presence faithfully. His reds ferment naturally in old wooden vats, and are then racked by gravity into barrel for a long and patient élevage in the domaine’s deep, cool cellar. With a total purity of flavor enhanced by subtle hints of earth, Clos du Chapitre graces the palate with the utmost finesse. While still tightly wound, its sensuous texture and silky-fine tannins impart a graceful, ethereal harmony to the wine. Follin’s wines are le vrai Pinot, one of the holy grails for wine lovers, Pinot as it can only be produced here in Burgundy.
Having grown up in Burgundy’s famous Côte d’Or, Frank Follin-Arbelet was always attracted to viticulture, but his family’s vines were all rented out to métayeurs (share croppers), and they did not make their own wine. In 1990, when the opportunity came to join his father-in-law’s domaine in Aloxe-Corton, Franck jumped at the chance and in 1993, after André retired, and Franck took over the direction of the domaine. Franck and his wife Christine are fortunate to produce one village wine, four premier crus, and four grand crus in Aloxe-Corton (their hometown), Pernand-Vergelesses, and Vosne-Romanée. When asked what inspires him the most, Franck responded, “wine that represents its terroir and a job well done.”
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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