Tuesday, 9 September 2014

New discoveries in Burgundy

We are just back from our summer holidays during which we worked tirelessly to find exciting new wines to bring across the channel to the discerning UK consumer. Something like that, anyway.

Actually, we left with no plans to buy any more wine than was strictly necessary for the time we were away but, inevitably, things didn't quite work out that way. On day one of our trip, I received an email from a young Burgundian grower that pricked up my ears and, given that we were in the region, just half an hour away from his home in Santenay, I felt obliged to pop along to meet him.

I arranged to meet with Justin Girardin, winemaker (and everything else) of Domaine Jacques Girardin. Jacques' brother is the renowned Vincent (who retired a couple of years ago although his eponymous enterprise lives on with much the same team in place as before).

Jacques started the estate with just 3ha but this has risen to 17ha of vines which are organically cultivated if not actually certified as such. From 2012, his son Justin took over the helm and it was this serious young man we met on a cool August Tuesday with a range of well-crafted wines - proper Burgundies - on the table.

Of the two whites, I much preferred the Santenay 'Les Terrasses de Bievaux' from steep, terraced, chalky slopes which is minerally, citrusy with stoned fruits and just 20% oak providing support rather than flavour. As someone who generally drinks red wines, even on southern French evenings when the thermometer has failed to slide under 30 degrees, you will appreciate that I really do like this wines when I say that most of the box I bought from Justin failed to last the rest of the trip.

The reds were almost universally to my liking - only the Savigny 'Gollardes' needed time to shape up and show what it has to offer. The Santenay 'Vieilles Vignes' from 50-year-old vines is well-rounded with a good Pinot nose and just a touch of oak building to a long, silky finish.

There are three premier cru wines from Santenay here and all follow the same vinification techniques, so a good lesson in terroir (along with the Joblot range from Givry). 'Beauregard' offers classic Pinot character in a fairly opulent style with smooth tannins giving it good length- archetypal Santenay. 'Maladiere' is more tightly wound, more structured with a more evident tannic backbone. More feminine on the nose but more muscular at the finish (no comparisons with female tennis players please). Finally, 'Clos Rousseau' has more depth on the nose and beautiful fresh fruit and is somewhat easier on the tannins than the previous wine. Very elegant.

Elsewhere, the family has small holdings in Savigny-les-Beaune whence its 1er Cru 'Les Peuillets' is rounded and accessible with a sweet nose, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 'Morgeot' (floral nose, big wine, quite creamy oak and slightly smokey - very small production) and Pommard with a 'Tete de Cuvee' which is spicier, richer, more refined but also more tannic than the earlier wines, demanding a few years hiding away in the cellar.