After a quick croissant and coffee for breakfast in a lovely boutique hotel in the centre of Beaune the team set of on a 15km journey to the far south of the Cote de Beaune towards the village of Santenay.
Here we had a meeting with our current Santenay producer, Jacques Girardin. I have always considered his wines to be amongst the best value from our Burgundian range and after our morning visit that thought was certainly compounded. First impressions on meeting Jacques for the first time was that he was young, around 30 years old. However, going through the tasting it was obvious he has been engulfed by the winery his whole life. The commune of Santenay produces both red and white (Pinot noir and Chardonnay).
Two whites started us off, 2017 Santenay Villages and the 2017 Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot 1er Cru. From the off you sense the 2017 has been a good one. The Chassagne in particular being fresh yet creamy with fantastic balance. He only makes 4 barrels of this wine so snap it up if you can!
We then tried his 4 reds, a Santenay 2017 Vieille Vignes (Old Vines), his 1er Cru Clos Rousseau Santenay from 2016 and 2017 and lastly his red he makes from his small plot in Savigny les Beaune which is situated closer to the town of Beaune itself. The first red, the Vieille Vigne, was so light and fresh. The Santenay 2016 and 2017 (not yet bottled) both showed more weight and tannins and a luxurious finish. Of the wines tried the 2016 from the steeply sloped Premier Cru Clos Rousseau was my personal favourite.
Onwards and about 10km upwards onto our next call in the famous village of Meursault. Here we had an 11am appointment in the winery of Patrick Javillier. We meet with Marion, Patrick’s daughter who has taken a greater role in wine making recently. Before we started the tasting Marion explained the extent of the unusual climate over 2016 and how it has significantly decreased the volumes of wine produced. Low yield but high quality. Briskly we began with the 2 reds they produce from Savigny les Beaune. Red wines are not allowed in Meursault. The reds were classic in style and very approachable with less tannin than our previous visit to Santenay.
Onto the whites. If someone asked me what my favourite white wine was, I would likely say Meursault and so this I was very much looking forward to. Marion had assembled 4 wines all from the 2017 vintage. The Bourgogne Blanc Cuvee des Forgets has always been a favourite restaurant recommendation and for me the term baby Meursault is apt with rich, precise mouthfeel with luxurious ten months in oak. We progressed through to their signature Meursault from Les Tillets site which was dense, exotic and a delight.
Next up was to visit the winery of Olivier Leflaive in the town of Puligny Montrachet. We were treated to a tasting of 7 white wines from many famous areas in Burgundy, from a regular visitor to Ireland, Bastion, and the chief winemaker. Overall the quality of the 2017 vintage for white Burgundy was apparent. For me the Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc 2017 was one of the best value wines I tried all day and to try the 2017 Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Purcelles was a stand out moment. My tasting note was Wow! We were very lucky to be treated to a gorgeous lunch in the winery the highlight being a dense butter nut squash with roasted chestnut soup.
Fed and refreshed we then had a short drive back into Meursault to visit the Domaine de Montille winery. I had never tried any of the wines before so it would be a voyage of discovery. The tasting was led by Brian Sieve, the head winemaker. We made our way down to cellar to begin a tasting of some 14 wines all from the 2017 vintage and all from barrel. To summarise, the quality of 2017 is undisputed. My pick of the wines was his Aloxe Corton “Clos du Bois” which I noted for its luxurious silky nature and suave, savoury palate. The tasting ended with tasting his white wines. His Chevalier Montrachet 2017 was simply incredible and a once in a lifetime opportunity to taste unless my lottery numbers come up.
Our last call for the day was a short trip north of our Beaune base to the Côtes de Nuits in the village of Nuits St Georges. Unlike our previous visits this was to a producer we had not bought wine from before. The winery was Château Chantal Lescure and we were hosted by the enigmatic owner Xavier Machard de Gramont. 1 white and 14 reds were tasted.
It was interesting to see much more firmness and power in the red wines of the Côtes de Nuits. My pick of his wines were his Pommard 1er Cru which had depth and power yet soft on the finish and his Nuits St Georges which I noted for its minerally, fresh red fruits with balance and purity. A wine I would like to try in 10 years time. As for their availability in Ireland, watch this space!
It was then back to hotel and off to dinner and some more wine…..