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Misty Monday in Savigny-lès-Beaune

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Feb 10, 2009 3:21pm ET

I headed toward Savigny-lès-Beaune in the mist, with the smoke from the burning of vine cuttings illuminated against the hills. It was my last day in the Côte d’Or.

The cellar was cold at Domaine Chandon de Briailles, where Claude de Nicolaÿ-Drouhin gave me a tour of the 2007s. We started in Savigny, moving to Pernand and finally the grands crus of Corton.

The bottling began in November at the domaine, two months earlier than usual. “I wanted to capture the freshness of the vintage and, because we use whole berries, the wines can get dry if you leave them too long in barrel,” explained Nicolaÿ-Drouhin.

“[The wines] were kind of thin after the vinification, but gained richness after the malolactic fermentation. The lees did a really good job,” she added.

Some wines were still in barrel; others had been bottled. The SLB Aux Fourneaux, for example, was in barrel. It showed rich, red cherry notes, bright and juicy, with firm but well-coated tannins (86-89). Its cousin, the SLB Lavières, had been bottled the previous week. Full of spice and red berry aromas, it was elegant and supple, with fine length (87-90).

Moving up the valley, the Pernand-Vergelesses Les Vergelesses (bottled in November; from vineyards planted in 1956 and 1959) displayed ripe, macerated cherry and spice flavors on a round profile, with density and a spicy finish (86-89). The Iles des Vergelesses, still in barrel, offered spice and licorice flavors on a firm, intense and light-weight frame (87-90). Chandon de Briailles owns one nearly 10-acre parcel, with 2.5 acres of 60-year-old vines.

There are three Cortons in the cellar: Les Maréchaudes, Bressandes and Clos du Roi. The first two were already in bottle. Les Maréchaudes is lower on the slope and the red soils have more clay. It can be a little rustic, but the team at Chandon de Briailles has been working hard to keep yields down and de Nicolaÿ-Drouhin feels the biodynamic viticulture and plowing by horse has resulted in a more elegant Les Maréchaudes. It was meaty and dense, with loam and spice aromas, a core of cherry fruit, turning more elegant and firm on the finish (88-91).

Vine cuttings burn in the vineyards of Savigny.  

The Corton-Bressandes, bottled in December, showed floral, wild strawberry and cherry flavors, sweet fruit on the midpalate and a long, elegant finish (89-92). The Clos du Roi, from 60-year-old vines, was still resting in barrel. This is a more exposed site from the top of the slope, always more structured and reserved compared to the other two crus. Notes of wild berry and mineral were firmly etched into the tightly wound structure. The tannins were well integrated and the aftertaste long (89-92).

My next visit was to Domaine Bonneau du Martray in Pernand-Vergelesses. Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Morinière only makes two wines, a Corton-Charlemagne and Corton red, but with 27 acres of grands crus, this is an important estate.

Le Bault de la Morinière was pleased with 2007 in the end. “It was a difficult year for the vigneron,” he began. “It was hot and dry in April, which was difficult for the young vines, but in the end they survived and were quite healthy. We thought we would pick in August, but we started in September to get more ripeness.”

The yields in 2007 were lower than in both 2006 and 2005.

He noted that the fermentations went easily and the malolactic conversions were late. The barrels were racked mid-September into tank. He plans to bottle around the beginning of April, after a second racking and final blending of all the lots.

The Corton-Charlemagne displayed lemon, apple and mineral notes. There was still a touch of vanilla (only one-third new oak barrels are used), and the overall impression was a tense, refined mineral-based white, with a very long finish (90-93).

The Corton started out with violet, black currant and blackberry aromas and flavors. Despite its density, it was elegant and refined, with supple tannins, a mineral style and long (89-92).

Bruce Dunlop
Ottawa/Canada —  February 10, 2009 8:26pm ET
Bruce,I can't help but notice that your scores for Burgundies in general, even Grand Crus, tend to be lower than say, your colleague James Suckling's scores for top Barolos or Bordeaux. Are you just a more critical marker, do you guys just prefer beefier wines, or are Burgundies just generally less deserving of high scores than Bordeaux or Piedmont wines? This is something I have always noticed - WS rarely gives mid to high 90 scores to Burgundies but frequently gives them to Barolos or Chateauneuf du Papes.Thanks very much - I really enjoy your blogs - brings back memories of my trip through Burgundy in 2006 (I visited Pierre Damoy in Gevrey and Maurice et Anne Chapuis in Corton).Cheers,Bruce Dunlop
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  February 12, 2009 2:01pm ET
Bruce: Top red and white Burgundies are among the best wines in the world and certainly deserving of high scores. I don't necessarily prefer beefier wines; great wines come in all styles. I do think my ratings are more conservative and sometimes I think I'm too tough on the wines I review. That said, I did a little research for you. I rated 44 2002 red and white Burgundies 95 to 98 points; 25 2003 red Burgundies 95-98 points; 40 2005 red and white Burgundies 95-97 points; and to date, 9 2006 red and white Burgundies 95-97 points. Bear in mind also that some of the top domaines do not submit samples for our formal review process. Thus, the only opportunity I have to taste them is non-blind. Most importantly, as a wine lover, you must decide if you agree with my reviews or not. I hope they help you to make informed buying decisions, especially considering the prices of some of these wines.

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