2012 has not been easy for Burgundians. They need just about every gulp of sun they can get, and this vintage has just been cool, rainy and unforgiving. That was the repeated theme at nearly every winery we visited. But that does not mean all is lost. Those who know what’s up just have to work for it a little harder is all. And if all else fails, just go with Grand Cru from mediocre years. As Jeremy Seysses of Dujac said, no matter how much you want to take all the credit, mother nature just makes it looks so easy on a consistent basis, whether the vintage is superb or somber.
Due to this trying vintage, our visit with Mikulski (Meursault) was cancelled the day following Dujac. If the weather demanded it so, the vigneron needed to respond. It was a very busy time in Burgundy, as most winemakers here remarked. Just driving down the route des vins, I was amazed to see how many more workers were in the vineyards compared to other regions we had been. Whether plowing or pruning, they were busy bees, trying to do whatever it took to make good of a dire situation.
Still, you ask any one of them, and that’s they beauty of Burgundy. Regardless of what you do, mother nature has her fingerprint on everything here– you will taste the work that was done in the 2012’s. Here, wine is so transparently scribed in each sip. You will sense their long, chill days and the rain. You will either prefer it or not. She doesn’t care.
In lieu of Mikulski, Javillier graciously offered their time, not only to us but to what appeared to be a tribe of misfits. Four separate groups huddled in the damp cellar to taste some magnificent Meursault as well as some other cuvees from various neighboring regions. Meursault is oft noted for its more pregnant style of Chardonnay. Some can overdo the oak a bit perhaps, but if it is done well, they can be some of the best in the land. Javillier was one of those producers.
Before I press onward, I feel I need to describe Patrick Javillier. He might have been my favorite personality sketch I will recall from this trip. In short, he was a sweet, humble man, perhaps 60 years in age and the ultimate, stereotypical Burgundian winemaker I have always imagined: tussled hair, flurried half-sentences, one moment he was grabbing glasses, the next taking a bite of baguette. He appeared a genius with calculations of yeast additions or barrel treatments racing through his big brain. He scurried around seemingly frazzled, when I noticed how lab-like his winery entry felt. Bare bones, concrete floor and definitely like a science lab. I was waiting for stickers of flower power to appear. Or perhaps Austin Power.
Sure enough, as he explained his estate, we learned that he began in 1974. Yes, now that made sense. It also made me like him already. I can’t explain why that ambience resonates with me. But it does. He then took is basket of glasses down to the cellar and began the show of the just bottled 2010’s.
Whether ‘simple’ village Bourgogne Blanc on a plot nearby Puligny-Montrachet or a old vine Meursault from Clos du Clomas, they wines were spot on and illuminating! My favorites of the bunch were:
Bourgogne Blanc Cuvee Oligocene–Taken from a plot nearby Puligny Montrachet, this gives all other Bourgogne a run for its money! Its higher limestone content allows for a little more new barrel (it can take it), the acid is simply soaring, and wet stones on the nose pair nicely with the accompaniment of white flowers that come afterwards.
Meursault les Tilliets– A plot between Meursault and Puligny that sees clay as well as limestone. A very classic presentation of candied lemon, apples and shimmering minerals, it gives this opulent region a more zesty edge. This is what I am talking about when I say I crave Meursault.
Puligny Montrachet– All elbows and knees right now as it awkwardly wrestle with my taste buds, but this ugly duckling is sure to blow many of its companions out of the water with a little bit of maturity. ‘Patience’, a term so many vignerons in this area use to explain their creations. An elegant swan is what I predict in 3-5 years time.
I felt bad spitting these wines out. At our other visits so far, I noticed that the winemaker had us pour it back in barrel or the bottle. So little is made. And Javellier is no exception. The only reason I don’t have it in Colorado is that production is so teeny tiny. Maybe they should start having people give their tastes back so Colorado can see some distribution!
Patrick Javillier’s lovely daughter Marion is also making her mark. Her focus is red wine. She has a couple plots in Savigny les Beaune. The two wines she poured were Les Grands Liards and 1er Cru Serpentieres. Though the former was going through a bit of an awkward stage trying to become something lovely, the latter was already there. Impressively charming wines from an equally charming creator.
We finished that day at Pavelot-- a heralded producer in the region of Savigny les Beaune. Their winemaking ancestry can be traced to teh 17th century, but Luc Pavelot would say it goes further than that. On a mere 9 hecatares, they build up and fashion fragrant, fanciful wines of both red (66%) and whites (33%). We partook mostly of the former. I could give you detailed tasting notes and jargon galore. But you must be bored of this by now. No? Well, I am. I am more interested in the character of these wines–the timbre, the presence they imprint on my palate.
In short, I would describe these wines as herbal. Each and every wine we sampled carried the scent of bramble fruit, rosemary, pine and medicinal essences. They were incredibly complicated and varied.
It was here that I came to a revelation: Burgundy cannot be described at all. The differences between terroir is felt. On the tongue. Some nestle themselves in the middle. Other weave back and forth, a tug of war. Others sing on the sides. Yet others play the in the back field. And while it might be easy to say Gevrey-Chmabertain felt remarkably different from Santenay, even more illuminating was the fact that even those that were all from Savigny les Beaune, for instance, also sat on the tongue in a variety of ways.
So this is it! THIS is Burgundy. It was so eye-opening to me, yet not requiring sight whatsoever. On the palate, it is felt. That simple. Frickin’ Burgundy. What will I do with this incessantly paradoxal region. Here I am now calling it simple. Right.
My favorites from Pavelot (all 2010’s):
Aloxe-Corton Village– A well-woven cross-patch work of art, this is a balanced wine with marked integrity. Classic example of the herbal-kissed bramble fruit I discussed.
Les Serpentieres 1er Cru-- A site that benefits from numerous exposures, this Pinot Noir is polite yet full of purpose. It takes the hallmark combination of Burgundian greatness (balance of mineral, fruit, acid, body, tannin and lightness) and somehow pulls it off.
Dominode 1er Cru– Though closed right now, it has secrets only time will reveal. Tightly wound up and desperate to talk, this wine makes you know you are sipping greatness. Without a doubt, a wine for the long haul of 15-20 years.
And so, that is that. While I would love to recommend places to eat, we did not try firsthand any that were noteworthy. We did, however, hear of many that we were just a little too budget-conscious to try, otherwise they were closed. Everyone is on holiday you see. But here’s the short list:
Bar du Square
I also recommend you visit the Hospices de Beaune. A little touristy? Yes. But worth it? Certainly. For about 8 euros you get to experience the formative days of this historic auction.