I wish you could have seen me when Monsieur Guillemot filled his pipette from a barrel of this black Pinot and squirted it into my glass. My eyes bugged out, then I smelled it, tasted it, and started a victory dance in his cellar. ‘‘I want it all,’’ I said. This was early after the harvest and I asked if any of his other clients had tasted it. No, no one else knew that he had, for the first time, vinified a Bourgogne rouge.
“Well, then,” I said, “no one will even know what they’re missing if you sell it all to me.” He looked puzzled, trying to find a flaw in my logic.
—Kermit in the June 2005 newsletter
Almost two decades after Domaine Pierre Guillemot blew Kermit away with its Bourgogne rouge, this Savigny-lès-Beaune-based domaine—and this wine—continue to embody the qualities that enchant and thrill us most about Burgundy. The incredibly affable and down-to-earth Vincent and Philippe Guillemot, who lead the domaine today, continue to prize pure, soulful, and elegant Pinot Noir above all else. Every cuvée, from the domaine’s “entry-level” Bourgogne rouge all the way through its grand cru Corton, stands as a testament to its terroir, around the village of Savigny-lès-Beaune. This Bourgogne rouge delivers the Guillemots’ highly dinstictive and alluring house style, characterized by ambrosial aromas and flavors of perfectly ripe berries, blood orange, earth, and spices. Its gorgeous personality, versatility at table, and value, place it in that loftiest of categories: this is the kind of red wine you should always have on hand.
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.
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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