Burgundy’s northwestern reaches, near Chablis, might not be the first place you’d think to look for delicious red wines. With prices rising in the Côte d’Or, however, we are grateful to find refuge for affordable and charming Pinot Noir in AOC Epineuil. There, the Savary family—who otherwise grows Chardonnay for its exquisite cuvées of Chablis—cultivates Pinot Noir for the domaine’s lone bottling of Bourgogne rouge. Epineuil is an AOC that almost didn’t survive the wars and urbanization of the first half of the twentieth century. The town’s tenacious postwar mayor ensured its persistence, though, and in this bottle you can taste what he sensed of the appellation’s potential. Ethereal and bright, with the notes of cherry and earth that get red-Burgundy lovers’ hearts racing, this Pinot Noir is yet another testament to finding tremendous value by looking where no one else does: in this case, Epineuil.
The Savarys have earned the recognition for their hard work, and are highly regarded in the appellation. The clay-limestone hillsides of the Kimmeridgian chain are excellent for growing dazzling, complex Chardonnay. However ideal the soil, Olivier brings his own brilliance to the table. The grapes from his vineyards throughout the Chablis appellation are blended into one fabulously complex village wine cuvée. He also bottles an extraordinary premier cru from Fourchaume, as well as a separate cuvée of old-vine fruit in heavy, wax-sealed bottles after élévage in demi-muid. These exquisite wines are quintessential Chablis, with unmistakable aromas of ancient crushed shells and a pronounced, racy mineral structure.
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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