Domaine Felix Saint Bris 2018
Fresh and lively, with notes of citrus and the famous gooseberry. Bold attack and vivacious mid-palate, fruity and herbaceous.
SAINT BRIS and AUXERROIS
When Herve Felix returned home to Saint-Bris le Vineux in 1987 to take over the family vineyards, he was but one of many who had done so since the family archives first showed a winemaker in the family in 1692. The family think it’s very likely that the tradition goes back even further.
But this is not so unusual in this area of Burgundy known as the Auxerrois. This is the region of Chablis, and of Irancy, villages with a worldwide reputation for fine wine. But it was only in the past few generations that grapes became the mono-culture of the region. Although it was typical in the past for farming families to grow grapes. They grew other crops as well. Wheat and other grains, and here in the Auxerrois, famously, cherries.
So at the time that Herve came back to the farm, his parents were growing grapes, but selling them to the co-ops and negociants. Herve was a pioneer at the time, making his own wine and bottling it. Selling his wine directly to the public rather than passing through the negociants. And developing the family holdings from 11 ha to 31 today (about 75 acres).
Today they have holding in Chablis, which Herve says is easy to sell because of its reputation. But they also produce a regional appellation Bourgogne Cote d’Auxerre which is a great value in both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
But the story here is bigger than Herve and bigger than the Domaine Felix. The story of the appellation Saint-Bris is like no other in Burgundy (with the exception perhaps of appellation Bouzeron, which took a similar path).
In addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and the vestigial Cesar), Saint-Bris has traditionally grown Sauvignon Blanc as a major part of its production. It’s proximity to Sancerre, 60 miles to the southwest, might be at the origin of the tradition, but Sauvignon de Saint-Bris has always been a feature in the Auxerrois wine production.
So much so that the local producers decided to take Sauvignon Blanc as their appellation grape. And in 2003, the appellation Saint-Bris was born. So now the label no longer says Sauvignon de Saint-Bris, but simply Saint-Bris. And the grape is Sauvignon.
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.
Village appellation of the vineyards of Auxerrois in the department of the Yonne close to Auxerre.. This appellation is reserved exclusively for white wines produced within the demarcated area of the Saint-Bris appellation.
It was created by decree of January 10, 2003 and replaces the former appellation Sauvignon de Saint-Bris.
Communes of production : Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Chitry, Irancy, Quenne, Vincelottes.
Area in production 133.63 haWhite wines exclusively, Sauvignon and Sauvignon Gris grape varieties.
Sauvignon is grown in Burgundy only in the region of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux. This vigorous grape gives compact clusters with small and ovoid berries, a beautiful golden yellow when ripe, with thick film and melting pulp. On this Burgundy terroir, it produces dry white wines, light, fresh and very pleasant.
It's a white Sauvignon. The robe is often pale straw, light gold. The Saint-Bris appellation has notes of citrus (grapefruit, mandarin), peach and crumpled currant leaves.
Sometimes showing exotic nuances (litchi), this complexity leads to a full fruity, floral and tender tinged with a spicy and iodized finish. With age of the Saint-Bris will go towards aromas of jams and candied fruits. But it’s best enjoyed in its youth.
In the heart of the vineyards of Auxerrois and on the banks of the Yonne, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux is based on extraordinary medieval cellars, the most amazing of Burgundy: they run under the entire town. In addition, the old quarries of Bailly (whence the stone of the Pantheon in Paris), boast a 3.5 ha cellar 60 meters underground.
The Jurassic soils are diverse, from Portlandian to Kimmeridgian. Limestones with astartes (lower kimmeridgian) at the edge of the alluvial deposits of the Yonne and at the foot of the marl-limestone slopes. The best situations are in full hillsides of north exposure which gives it an ideal maturity for its fruitiness.