Domaine Borgeot Santenay 1er Cru 'Les Gravieres' 2018
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.
The Borgeot brothers, Pascal and Laurent, have great 'touch' with Chardonnay, producing classy and distictive village and 1er cru wines in Burgundy's 'golden triangle' of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault. But Santenay is home turf, and their wines from there and the Cotes Chalonnaise just to the south are undiscovered gems and also well worth a look.
BURGUNDY 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
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