Jean-Jacques Girard Savigny les Beaune White 2015
Jean-Jacques Girard knows Savigny les Beaune. And while 85% of Savigny is red, there is a lovely strain of minerality that comes out of this valley. and with the village appellation Savigny les Beaune blanc, Jean Jaques shows us what is possible. The nose is like an apple orchard, fresh fruit and apple pie spices in the air. Rich, supple, pure, and then a bite of that pie! This one is ripe, fresh and shows a good deal of complexity.
Jean-Jacque Girard's website says that his family was growing grapes in Savigny-les Beaune back in 1529. That, as the French say, is 'formidable', and would make the domain one of the oldest in Burgundy. But really what matters to us today is what happened to the domain in the past generation. In the late 90s, the original and venerable Domaine Girard-Vollot was split between Georges Girard's two sons Jean-Jacques and Phillipe. The original domain was about 38 acres. And since the split, Jean-Jacques has built his holdings back to over 40 acres, making it one of the most impressive domains in Savigny.
BURGUNDY 2015 VINTAGE
We have resisted writing the Elden Selections Burgundy 2015 harvest report until now (April 2017), mainly to let the hub-bub and hyperbole settle down, but more importantly to be sure that the claims we are about to make are justified. We’ve seen too many vintages vaunted as ‘the year of the century’, when really the wines simply showed well young. Burgundy 2015 is a truly extraordinary vintage. The reds are rich, ripe, balanced and powerful. And from all over the region they express chiseled, focused terroir. Despite their youthful seductive charm, these are wines to keep, with serious ripe tannins already melted into explosive fruit.
Comparisons have been drawn with the 2005 vintage, though there is more concentration in the 2015s than in the 2005s. Like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly, great vintages often go to sleep in the bottle. And 2005 is just reawakening from several ‘dumb’ years. It’s been worth the wait. The wines have metamorphosed. 2015 might be similar. And if the comparison is apt, investors in 2015 should appreciate the youthful beauty of this great vintage now, but be prepared to be patient.
That said, 2005 was no ‘year of the century’. But 2015 is also being compared to 1990, which arguably was. And I hear that Michel Lafarge, one of Burgundy’s respected elders, says he remembers drinking 1929s, and he draws parallels. The whites are a bit more uneven, and early reports claimed that the vintage lacks acidity. Certainly, these are wines which are riper and more luxuriant than the exquisite purity of 2014 white Burgundy. But there is no risk that well-made wines will be overly ample or flabby. The best wines will have benefited from the barrel. Comparisons are drawn to 1985, one of the great vintages in white.
The heterogeneity in 2015 white Burgundy is due to the tricky growing season, which was mostly hot and dry, but which cooled significantly in September. Was it better to pick early or late? And did the wine deserve more or less barrel aging? These are questions which will be answered producer-by-producer, bottle-by-bottle over the coming years. But what is clear is that they 2015s are concentrated, fresh and structured.
We believe that to understand a vintage, it is important to look at the weather. Because Burgundy is a single-grape wine, the only thing that changes from year to year in a producer’s vineyard is the weather. So we look for patterns and try to analyze what makes a good year, a bad year…and in this case, an excellent year.
The winter of 2014-2015 was uneventful. It was never really cold, but when it was, it was dry. Mostly it was mild, so we had more rain than snow. We would need the replenished water reserves in the long hot summer ahead.
April was warm and dry, and bud-burst took place early. Mornings in May were sunny, afternoons cloudy, and overall cool and dry. The vines began to flower in the last week of the month, so we knew we were looking at a harvest in early to mid-September.
In early July, the mood started to mount towards hopeful. The weather had been steady, dry and cool. But slowly during the month, temperatures began to rise, and in the last week of July hit 30C. The flowering had been successful, so there was a good crop on the vines.
Day after day of warm dry conditions brought drought considerations into play. But no hail for once! August continued in this way. Hot and dry. A little welcome rain later in the month, but just enough to keep the stress levels down. But no storms or hail. And extremely healthy fruit on the vine. No rot, no mildew, no odium. The mood was optimistic, even euphoric.
Harvest ostensibly started the first Monday of September. And days later the weather broke, and a cool period set in for ideal harvest conditions, stabilizing acidity levels. It stayed this way until September 12th when the first serious rain in two months fell in the southern part of the region. Harvest was disrupted for a few days, but the 19th, it was pretty much all over.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Between the Corton mountain and Beaune, the landscape opens up into a gently sloping valley. Here, the hills of the Côte de Beaune recede a little on either side of the little river Rhoin. Savigny les Beaune is one of the less celebrated, best-kept secrets in Burgundy, mainly because it is hidden away in this valley, away from the north-south wine route that runs through the Cote. For this, its wines are among the best value you will find in the region.
Produced only in the commune of Savigny-lès-Beaune, appellation Savigny-lès-Beaune includes 22 premiers crus.
Red Savigny is a deep cherry color, going towards garnet. Its bouquet should be of red and black fruits (blackcurrant, cherry, raspberry) and flowers (violet). The body is ample and discreetly tannic and the fruit is generally forward. Roundness, volume and power should all be there. And when the balance is right, Savigny red can be among the most charming wines of the Cote de Beaune.
Savigny whites should be greeny gold, sometimes pale. Its nose is flowery and fresh, biscuity and citric with a touch of minerality in the best parcels. A lively attack keeps the overall effect fresh and clean, fleshy, persistent, and occasionally a touch of spice.
The gradient in this dome-shaped valley is gentle at first but steeper as you climb. Altitude varies from 250 to 400 meters. The lower slopes consist of alluvia from the river Rhoin. Higher, the geology is similar to that of the Corton mountain. At the Pernand-Vergelesses end, exposure is southerly and the soils are gravelly with a scattering of oolitic ironstone. Lower down, the red-brown limestone becomes more clay and pebbles. On the opposite side of the valley mouth, the slope faces east and the limestone soils include some sand.
Red wines - Pinot Noir
White wines - Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 306.19 ha (including 127.99 ha premier cru)
Whites : 41.63 ha (including 12.39 ha premier cru)
Savigny red is solid and mouth-watering, with power enough to match for good cuts of beef, or even cooked foie gras . With roast fowl, the wine's fleshiness will compensate for the fibrous flesh of the bird and in the same way may soften more aromatic poultry dishes. For cheeses, it would do better with creamy types such as Chaource, Brie de Meaux, Reblochon, Mont d'Or or Époisses. The whites are lively with a straightforward attack, so would suit sauced fish dishes, while its richness can stand up to buttery preparations and sauces. It works well with goat cheeses, Gruyère and Comté, and fresh, milky cheeses like Cîteaux.
On the label, the appellations 'Savigny-lès-Beaune' and 'Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Les Hauts Jarrons
Les Hauts Marconnets
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
Aux Champs Chardons
Aux Champs des Pruniers
Aux Grands Liards
Aux Petits Liards
Dessus de Montchenevoy
Dessus les Gollardes
Dessus les Vermots
Les Bas Liards
Les Petits Picotins
Les Planchots de la Champagne
Les Planchots du Nord