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In Adventures on the Wine Route, Kermit wrote of Chablis: “The white Burgundy that raises the hair on my back, that arouses passions ranging from teeth-gnashing to outrage to utmost euphoria, is not even from the Côte d’Or. It is Chablis, northernmost Chablis.” South of Chablis, but in the same orbit relative to the Côte d’Or, lies another Burgundian satellite called Vézelay that is similar in ways to its more famous neighbor. An hour and a half northwest of Beaune, this appellation is also capable of producing distinctive, world-class Chardonnay, especially in the hands of a vigneron as talented as Valentin Montanet, whose family domaine began to pioneer organic farming in the region around the turn of the twenty-first century. It is largely thanks to the Montanets’ lead and vintage-after-vintage success in crafting stellar white Burgundies that the INAO promoted the AOC from Bourgogne Vézelay to Vézelay in 2017—Burgundy’s first village upgrade since 1999. The climate this far north is relatively cold and is reinforced by a wind that sweeps down from the northwest across the vineyards of Vézelay, helping the grapes to stay dry, cool, and healthy. This climate, the domaine’s finest clay-and-limestone soils, and stainless-steel vinification are the pillars of Valentin’s La Châtelaine—“lady of the manor”—a divine rendition of pure, chiseled Chardonnay, bearing notes of orchard fruit, citrus, and oyster shells. Speaking of which, pair it with food as you would a Chablis: oysters, grilled seafood, roast chicken, or just a warm afternoon are perfect matches.
4 x 2018 Vézelay Blanc “La Châtelaine” • La Cadette $35.00
This climate, the domaine’s finest clay-and-limestone soils, and stainless-steel vinification are the pillars of Valentin’s La Châtelaine—“lady of the manor”—a divine rendition of pure, chiseled Chardonnay.
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.
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