Domaine Gilles Saint Aubin 1er Cru 'Murgers des Dents de Chiens' 2018
Gilles has two different parcels in this, the best known of the Saint-Aubin premier crus. One with old vines, situated near the Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Garennes’ (which he also makes), and the other near Puligny 1er Cru ‘Folatieres’. He makes these wine in double-sized barrels, 40% new oak, to tame the tannins. There is a deep, almost Meursault quality to the Dents de Chien, spicy and complex. Great continuity from attack, through mid-palate and on to a superb finish.
We met Gilles Bouton back in the days of our hotel-barge Le Papillon when we were cruising the inland waterways in search of the real Burgundy. I remember the first taste of his Saint-Aubin 1er Cru ‘en Remilly’, thinking we had discovered the best deal in white Burgundy ever.
Gilles Bouton took the reins of his maternal grandfather’s 4 hectare (9.6 acre) domain in 1977. The holding now totals 15 hectares (36 acres) and is spread out over four villages (Saint Aubin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault) all prime property in the so-called Golden Triangle of white Burgundy.
Gilles was joined by his son, Julien, at the end of 2008. The domain today makes on average 60,000 bottles per year. The Boutons sell most of their wine to private individuals either out-the-door at the domain or at numerous wine salons in France.
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
A close neighbor of Montrachet, lying between Chassagne and Puligny, and in places touching on the grand cru vineyards themselves, Saint-Aubin is a wine-growing village in the southern part of the Côte de Beaune in the heartland of the great white burgundies. The neighboring hamlet of Gamay may have given its name to the Gamay grape. The appellation was granted recognition in 1937. The words “Côte de Beaune "(rouge) may be added to the name of the village, or the wine may be labelled as "Côte-de-Beaune-Villages ".
The appellation Saint Aubin covers the village of Saint Aubin and Gamay, and includes 30 premiers crus vineyards. The soil is deep in most parts of these vineyards, and gives a vigorous, full-bodied Pinot Noir, robust yet refined. Tender and fruity, the village wine reaches its peak after 3 to 5 years in the cellar.
White Saint-Aubin can often be as noble as its more famous neighbors of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. When young, it combines aromas of white flowers, flinty minerality, nuttiness and orange blossom. Richer fragrances come with age, beeswax and honey, almond paste and spice. This is a firm wine which becomes fleshier and fuller with time. It has potential to be a wine with real breeding.
Red Saint Aubin is usually dark garnet or crimson color. Its aromas are of blackcurrant, black cherry and often blackberry. These are set off by spicy coffee notes, and can take on very earthy tones. In the mouth it is fat and silky with a lively finish. Older wines are supple, warm and long.
White grapes grow on white clays with a high limestone content ; the reds prefer brownish clays. The slopes are steep in places and face east or southeast. Altitude varies between 300 and 350 meters.
Reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 10000m2= 2.4 acres
Whites: 113.12 ha (including 87.55 ha Premier Cru)
Reds : 49.69 ha (including 35.64 ha Premier Cru)
Saint Aubin whites are a subtle balance between elegant freshness and a rich but not excessive fatness and body, which gives it a fluid, juicy mouth-feel. Wine like this is great with firm-textured fish and grilled or steamed shellfish. It would also go well with free-range, dense-fleshed poultry.
Saint Aubin reds have surprising depth, real earthiness that often verges on Pinot Noir notes of manure. You are looking to match this traits with flavorful meats like roast beef or pork, glazed or bwell-basted poultry, rich full-fat cheeses, or sautéed foie gras. Richness in general goes well with this type of tannin.
On the label, the appellations Saint Aubin' and Saint Aubin 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Bas de Vermarain à l'Est
Derrière Chez Edouard
Derrière la Tour
En la Ranché
En Vollon à l'Est
Le Bas de Gamay à l'Est
Les Combes au Sud
Les Murgers des dents de chien
Les Travers de Marinot
Sous Roche Dumay
Sur le sentier du Clou
The following climats are village wines from a single-vineyard, known as a lieu-dit.
Au Bas de Jorcul
Bas de Vermarain à l'Ouest
En Vermarain à l'Est
Le Banc de Monin
Les Travers de chez Edouard
Sous les Foires