With an irresistible perfume of peony and plum, Guillemot’s flagship Aux Serpentières effortlessly supports their point of view that beauty must be favored over brawn. When tasting at the estate, Vincent will likely pour you an older vintage of this cuvée from an unmarked bottle, and though I can’t predict the year he’ll draw, I suggest guessing a decade or two older than your first impression. This premier cru is a fountain of youth and, though delicate, is quite deceptively built to last.
The Guillemot family has worked Savigny-lès-Beaune vines for eight generations (!) and produces wines with classic Burgundian finesse and balance, all while leaving us a reminder of Savigny’s rustic character. But do not be fooled into thinking that this means they lack aging potential; the Guillemots are very proud of their old wines and thankfully have the foresight to set aside a good supply and follow their wines’ development over the years. A recent tasting at the domaine included a 1989 and 1975 Savigny Blanc, as well as the ‘90, ‘88, ‘85, ‘82, ‘76, ’72, and ‘64 Rouge. There was not a single tired bottle in the bunch. We challenge anyone to find a better deal on Burgundies that are built to last like these!
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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