Jean-Jacques Girard Savigny les Beaune Red 2017
Jean-Jacques Girard's Village appellation Savigny-les Beaune, is aged for 15 months in oak. But you would never believe it to taste it! Granted, the color is deep cherry red, as are the fruits, but this Savigny is supple, graceful, full of finesse with an enjoyable palette of fruit bouncing around the mid-palate and ending on freshness. If you want a snapshot of what Pinot Noir does in the Savigny valley, here's your wine.
Jean-Jacque Girard's website says that his family was growing grapes in Savigny-les Beaune back in 1529. That, as the French say, is 'formidable', and would make the domain one of the oldest in Burgundy. But really what matters to us today is what happened to the domain in the past generation. In the late 90s, the original and venerable Domaine Girard-Vollot was split between Georges Girard's two sons Jean-Jacques and Phillipe. The original domain was about 38 acres. And since the split, Jean-Jacques has built his holdings back to over 40 acres, making it one of the most impressive domains in Savigny.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
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