Hard to believe, but there was a time when Burgundians had to make an actual effort to sell their wines. Unlike today, when clients come begging for drops, vignerons of a century ago often had to go door to door and pitch their goods on the cheap. One such vigneron in Marsannay, just after the First World War, had the novel idea to make rosé. No one was doing it, no one wanted to buy his rouge when they could go to Gevrey-Chambertin down the street, and he figured Pinot Noir had the potential for aromatic and delicate rosé, so off he went and the village soon followed his lead. Before long, it was the beverage of choice for movers and shakers, and all wanted to be seen en terrasse in Dijon sipping Marsannay rosé. Given that this happened long before social media, it took a while for the trend to spread, but spread it did and continues to do so. Now exported around the world, Marsannay rosé is recognized not as a novelty but as a serious wine built for the table. Ice cubes need not apply. Think of it as a pale, delicious Burgundy. Remember, all the great Burgundies of yore were once pale, as revealed in texts from the eighteenth century that sing the praises of Romanée-Conti’s clear, pink hue. It’s not the color, it’s the content that counts!
Régis Bouvier in Marsannay achieves a rare hat trick in Burgundy, the mastering of all three colors–red, white and rosé, through reasonable yields and high quality terroirs. Bouvier makes the best Burgundian rosé that we have ever tasted, his whites are delicious, with their own particular character completely unlike other Chardonnays from Burgundy, and his reds are his crowning achievement, managing to be wild and exciting while refined and elegant at the same time.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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