A Light, Complex Red Burgundy

2008 Nadine et Remi Marcillet Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Rouge
Burgundy – Cotes de Beaune, France

Pinot Noir from Burgundy

I often sit and stare at the Burgundy section in my store, praying for more customers who appreciate these wines to come in.  Selling Burgundy in the mountains of North Carolina requires a lot of patience and discipline, and I shall not give up!  Similarly, understanding and enjoying these wines requires the patience of a saint and an adventurous palate.  These are wines that are subtle, feminine, understated and complex, and in today’s wine world where bigger is often perceived as better, they often go unsold and unconsumed.  Thus, I feel the need to write about them in an attempt to change this unfortunate situation.

 To understand Burgundy, one first has to develop a general understanding of terroir, the compilation of the vineyard’s soil, slope, orientation, nuance of climate, etc……in layman’s terms, it is a wine’s sense of place.  This concept really comes into play in Burgundy, as the region’s soils and weather patterns are in no way homogeneous.  In fact, wines produced in the same village from the same grape can taste remarkably different, but for today let’s just settle on the notion that good Burgundy is not about the grape, but about the place.  The next thing to understand is that Burgundy is the coolest and most northern region famous for growing red grapes, and Pinot Noir achieves its greatest elegance when grown here. 

Husband and wife Nadine and Remi Marcillet set up their domaine over 20 years ago in the village of Fussey in central Burgundy, and their wines are imported by Savio Soares.  They own small parcels of vineyards in the both the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune and Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, as well as some prime vineyard space in Savigny-les Beaune. Their methods are very traditional including strict adherence to organic farming, hand harvesting, use of native yeasts and long, slow and cool fermentations.  This particular wine comes from the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, and the vineyards are in the hills just west of the village of Savigny-les Beaune.  Vines average 25 to 30 years of age, and the soil here is a mix of clay and limestone.  I recently enjoyed a bottle of this with a simple herb roasted chicken and roasted root vegetables, and I found the pairing to be just about perfect.

The wine was a pale, ruby color and the nose was pretty simple at first.  There was lots of cherry, a bit of earth and some leafy aromas coming out of the glass, and the palate was dominated by tangy cherry and cranberry notes.  If that’s all she had to offer, I would have been disappointed, but remember I said that these wines require patience so I poured another glass and let it sit while the chicken finished cooking.  After about 30 minutes and as my chicken was resting, I went back in for another sniff and taste, and the wine had magically transformed into something much more engaging and complex.  The red fruits were now more intense and perfumed, and now there was an almost black tea-like note to the nose with complex spices in the background.  I sipped the wine, and although light in texture, this was intense in flavor with tangy Bing cherry, redcurrant, Earl Grey tea and brown spice notes.  I was happy and madeeven happier once I served the meal and enjoyed another taste of the wine with the roasted chicken and root vegetables.  The brightness of the wine didn’t overwhelm the mellow flavors of the chicken, and the earthy, spicy notes worked wonderfully well with the sweet potatoes and squash.  It was a simple, yet delicious meal made magnificent by a humble, yet great bottle of wine. 

Bigger isn’t always better folks!  I love a thick, cowboy cut ribeye, but I also love a piece of fresh fish simply seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, and I would guess that many of you are the same.  Yet, when it comes to wine, why do so many associate lightness with weakness?  Like music, wine doesn’t have to be loud to be good.  I love Led Zeppelin, much like I sometimes enjoy a big, in-your-face bottle of Zinfandel, Shiraz or Malbec; however, as I get older, I find myself listening to more jazz and classical music…….accompanied by a glass of Red Burgundy.  Turn down the music, pour a glass of Burgundy, be patient and enjoy. 

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