If you see Franck Follin’s bottling of Pernand-Vergelesses blanc on offer, don’t dillydally. We only get a few cases, due to a number of factors. For starters, Franck has less than a hectare of this parcel, which is never a vigorous provider. The slope at the base of the hill of Corton is steep and difficult to work, and yields are low and slow to ripen due to a somewhat shady exposition. While this may not sound desirable for a cool climate like Burgundy, in a robust, early ripening and sunny year like 2018, the respite is perfect. Ever the racy and mineral cuvée, this particular vintage is all silk and flesh, and a rare village treat from a producer of mainly premier and grand cru wines.
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.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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