Domaine Borgeot Santenay 1er Cru 'Les Gravieres' 2013
Not surprisingly, this Borgeot Santenay 1er Cru 'Gravieres' red comes from the same vineyard as their Santenay 1er 'Gravieres' white, just further down the slope where the soil becomes denser and red. ‘Gravieres’ is one vineyard with two different soil types, apt for two different wines. Sadly, many producers have succumbed to the temptation of the bottom line, and have replanted Chardonnay where there should be Pinot Noir. But not the Borgeots! Their 'Gravieres' red is their signature Pinot, with ripe dark fruits tinged with chocolate and coffee, rich, powerful and fat right through the lingering note of pure blackberry.
Burgundy 2013 was yet another small crop. The fourth in as many years. Some of it will be very good, in both red and white. But for some producers it was a disaster. As we always do, let’s start with a run-down of the weather conditions over the growing season (what the locals tellingly call ‘the campaign’).
Winter was wet and hung on stubbornly. March snow gave way to a few spring-like days, and everyone thought the worst was over. But no. April was cold and wet. May was the wettest on record. We posted photos of ducks swimming in the flooded vineyards. And winter gloom and temperatures persisted.
June was better, but just. Flowering started in the early part of the month, but with the cool wet conditions it was erratic and irregular. Lots of coulure and millerandange as a result. These aborted grapes would be one of the reasons for a small 2013 yield, and would come in to play in the final outcome at harvest.
Summer arrived late in the month. But even the warm temperatures and relatively fine weather did little to dispel the feeling of instability. There was nothing consistent to make you feel like you could just settle in to grape growing.
Then in the third week of July, high pressure and high humidity built up to a series of storms, the most violent of which tore out of the Savigny valley on the 23rd. Like a military gunship, the hail storm swept across the Savigny vines, hit Pernand on the west side of the Corton Mountain and headed south across Beaune, Pommard and Volnay. Producers tell us it lasted almost half an hour. It was the second year running that Pommard and Volnay were ravaged.
The humidity continued into August, and producers up and down the Cote nervously watched the sky. The big fear now was that damaged grapes would rot of mildew and odium, so preventive spraying intensified. If there was a bright spot in the growing season, it was the dry spell in mid-August. The damaged grapes shriveled and dropped off the vine, making the inevitable sorting at harvest more manageable.
Yields were tiny, even in the areas not ripped by hail. But the quality of the fruit was good going into September in the Cotes de Nuits and the white wine production south of Beaune, as well as in the Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Chablis.
Most of the harvest came in in the first weeks of October, the latest Burgundy vintages since 1991 and 1978. Maturity arrived at the end. Slowly at first, just like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like it to be. But that slow maturity turned into a gallop, especially for the whites. From Macon to Chablis, the quality of 2013 whites comes down to crucial decisions about when to pick in the final few days.
Two months prior to harvest, the mood was gloomy. And granted, those poor producers who got slammed in July will suffer for years. (Some say that another small crop in 2014 could force some out of business.) But there is quality in many cellars. The reds will be highly variable, but the best wines (from domains that sorted the harvest carefully as it came to the cuverie) are fresh, deeply colored and beautifully ripe, with balance that seems apt for long aging. As always, you have to know who made the wine. There is more consistent quality in the whites across the board. Some say an excellent exciting year.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Santenay lies at the southern extremity of the Côte de Beaune. In days gone by it was a well-known spa town. Today there is still water around: the area is bordered by the Canal du Centre, and on the other side of the water is the department of Saone et Loire and the first vines of the Cote Chalonnaise'. The wines of Santenay and neighboring Remigny present discernible differences according to which part of the appellation they come from. If you use the windmill up the slope in premier cru Beauregard as a point of reference, the hills behind rise sharply, and the soil make-up and expositions become complex as the hillside spreads out. Seen from up there, the village of Santenay sits in a valley with hills rising on both sides.
Produced in the communes of Santenay and Remigny, appellation Santenay includes 11 premiers crus.
Santenay produces mainly red wine, though the whites, especially the premiers crus, can be remarkable. Color should be a dark brilliant black-cherry. The bouquet is floral up front, with red fruits and a hint of liquorice. The attack is deep and intense, with firm but discreet tannins and body that is supple and fine-textured. Old style Santenay was considered rustic, but the present generation has learned to deal with tannins. White Santenayshould be brilliant greeny gold, mineral and floral and fresh. It can be grassy and nutty, and has a minerality that carries freshness to a long finish.
Greyish limestone makes up the high ground up to a height of 500 meters. Lower down the slope, starting at the 300 meter line, is oolitic limestone, white oolite, marls, kidney-shaped limestone, and lower oolite on a layer of marl. The location of the vineyards is ideal with exposures between east and south.
Nearly all reds - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 282.35 ha (including 110.84 ha premier cru)
Whites : 46.96 ha (including 12.63 ha premier cru)
The supple and intense attack of Santenay red, and its aromatic register make it a match for slow-cooked dishes like braised veal or beef, to which its tannins will lend structure without being aggressive. Glazed or roasted poultry would also work, as would grilled or barbecued meats. As for cheese, Brie de Meaux, Pont-l'Evêque, Cîteaux, Reblochon, most any cheese really will work with the density and tannic structure.
White Santenay, with its lightness, vivacity and edge would be a good choice for fluid and melty dishes like fish couscous, or pasta or risotto with mushrooms. Poultry in cream sauce would be similarly successful. It works well with cheeses like Comté and Beaufort, as well as goat cheeses.
On the label, the appellations 'Santenay' and 'Santenay 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de Tavannes
Clos des Mouches
Grand Clos Rousseau
Les Gravières-Clos de Tavannes
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Derrière les Crais
Le Haut Village
Les Champs Claudes
Les Charmes Dessous
Les Charmes Dessus
Les Vaux Dessus
Sous la Fée
Sous la Roche