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While technically part of the Cote de Beaune, the village appellation of Saint-Romain is in a completely isolated valley situated to the north of the primary escarpment of the Cote d’Or. Its higher altitude and less “perfect” situation relegated it to a lower rung on the hierarchy historically, because it is more difficult for grapes in such a position to achieve optimal ripeness. However, given the ever-escalating temperatures in Burgundy over the past decade, Saint-Romain rarely suffers from ripeness issues anymore—and in fact, it can offer freshness and vibrancy in warmer vintages.
The view from Saint-Romain is impressive, taking in the Saone River and vineyards below – and it has made this spot popular with settlers since prehistoric times. Consequently, the vines here were amongst the first to be planted in Burgundy, in the narrow valley west of Auxey-Duresses. There are no Premiers or Grands Crus here – the only village appellation without either – but you’ll frequently see wines mention the name of the single plot they originate from, and these are often prestigious and well-known in their own right.
The terroir (soil and rock) here changes distinctly as you move up the valley towards the village. Traveling from Auxey-Duresses, the left-hand side is more suited to Pinot Noir. The south-facing right side is given over to the village vineyards, where the terroir is more apt to produce Chardonnay. And though it was historically known as a white wine region, today red wine accounts for almost half of production (45%).
What sort of character is given to the wines by these soils? Well, the Chardonnays are distinctively fresh – rich veins of limestone see to that– and they have pleasing white floral notes. The reds are ruby-colored when young, displaying blackberry and raspberry flavors. They drink well young, although they have the potential to age well for up to a decade.
Both the whites and the reds have styles all of their own, different to most of the rest of Burgundy due to their higher, cooler location. In particular, the limestone and marl give the Chardonnay grape a certain minerality not seen in other wines from Burgundy.
Elden Selections works with one of the best producers based in the village (there are only a handful) – the Domaine Germain Pere et Fils. Their vines cover more than 33 acres, with wines in Saint Romain, Pommard and Beaune. Arnaud Germain (grandson of Bernard Germain, the domain’s founder) joined his parents in 2009. Together they have developed both the commercial and the vinicultural sides of their activities, with Germain wines winning awards in France and abroad.
Their Saint Romain Blanc benefits from 8-9 months in the barrel and 30% new oak, which goes to make a very classy wine – subtle with elegant floral notes and a youthful lemon-lime acidity. The red they make – the Saint Romain ‘Sous Le Chateau’ – hails from what is probably the most well-known vineyard in the whole appellation. Sous Le Chateau rewards you right from the start – charming in its youth, it is juicy and full, a real mouthful, and you’ll know you need to put some aside for the future. But given the pleasure these Saint Romain wines deliver, that may be easier said than done.
Do you want to read more about Burgundy Wine, the best small producers we know and the land they work on? If so, then simply head over to our blog to read our articles on some of the different regions of Burgundy, some great How To guides, and to meet some of our best vignerons. Plus – we’d love you to be a part of our Burgundy Wine Club – discover more and sign up here.