Domaine Jean Fery Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru 'Les Vergelesses' 2016
Yes, we admit, it can be complicated! There is this red Savigny-les Beaune 1er Cru 'Les Vergelesses', but the domain also makes both a red Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru ‘Les Vergelesses’ and a white Savigny-les Beaune 1er Cru both called 'Les Vergelesses' as well. To make things even more complicated, the Pernand 'Vergelesses' and the two Savigny 'Vergelesses' touch another Pernand premier cru called 'Ile des Vergelesses'! Sorry! We do our best to keep it all simple and clear. In addition to being the most complicated corner of the Savigny valley, it is also the most interesting. This Savigny is deeply colored due to the clay and iron content in the soil. It is elegant and powerful, with dominant black cherry fruit, but also blackcurrant, raspberry and the trademark Burgundy wild undergrowth. Delicate with discreet tannins.
Domaine Jean Fery
Nestled in the Hautes Cotes village of Echevronne, the Domaine Jean Fery is the master plan of Jean-Louis Fery, the latest in a wine line dating back to the mid-1800s. From 1994, with the help of Alain Meunier of the Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, the Domaine Jean Fery went bio (without actually claiming the certification) and started expanding their vineyard holdings. From the 2006 harvest, Pascal Marchand took the reins, continuing the domain's quest for quality and integrity.
BURGUNDY 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
Remember, this was a tough one for Burgundy. For some producers, it was the fourth consecutive year that their vineyards were damaged and their yields were low. There had not been a ‘normal’ crop since 2009, so their cellars were empty. And when we talk of 50% crop loss, that’s an average across the region. Some areas had zero crop.
So when we get excited about the quality of the 2016s, we need a little restraint as well. Not everyone did the meticulous vineyard work that was necessary to get through the horrible start. As always, if you want to find the best wines, you need to know the best producers. Another important consideration in a low-yield vintage is the shortage of grapes, which means that the big negociant houses can have trouble sourcing fruit. Be careful with negociant wines in 2016. Buy from tried-and-true producers.
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