Friday, March 05, 2010

Dinner with the Wines of Savigny-lès-Beaune

I had some of the fellas over the other night to have dinner and drink red wine from Savigny-lès-Beaune. Why Savigny-lès-Beaune? Well, a top bottle (not counting Leroy's Narbontons) costs about $50, a good villages wine should be in the mid $30's. That's real money, but it's pretty cheap as far as Burgundy goes. I wanted to drink several examples of the best bottles to see if they are undervalued within the pantheon of Burgundy terroir, or if they are simply more of that overpriced but merely decent wine from Burgundy.

Any list of the best producers in Savigny would include Domaine Simon Bize, Domaine Jean-Marc et Hugues Pavelot, and Chandon de Briailles. Others include Maurice Écard, Camus-Bruchon, and Catherine et Claude Maréchal, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. There were 7 of us at dinner and although no one discussed what to bring in advance, we got a great mix of wines from great producers.

The shame of it is that nothing really showed all that well. I'm willing to bet it was a root day or a leaf day or something, because most of the wines didn't show much energy, their aromatics were subdued. Still, I learned a lot from this, particularly about the differences in terroir within Savigny-lès-Beaune.

If you take a look at this map from the Burgundy-Report site, you can see that a river runs east/west through Savigny-lès-Beaune. The vineyards to the north of the river typically have heavier soils that are rich with clay. They lie on hills with southern exposure. These can be rich, dense wines. The north-side vineyard with the best potential is probably Aux Vergelesses, a 1er Cru that borders the 1er Crus of Pernand Vergelesses. The other 1er Cru sites that reliably produce very good wines include Les Fournaux, Gravains, Lavières, Aux Guettes, and Serpentières.

South of the river the soils are sandier, more gravelly, and the exposure isn't as good. But it is from here that the appellation's most esteemed wines have traditionally come. The 1er Cru Dominode vineyard (always called "Les Jarrons" on vineyard maps) is said to make the finest wines of Savigny, although that might change as Patrick Bize's wines from Aux Vergelesses and Les Fournaux age and fully reveal themselves. Next to Dominode is Les Narbantons, a 1er Cru made famous by Lalou Bize at Domaine Leroy (but one can buy 3 or 4 bottles of Pavelot Dominode for the same price as one bottle of Leroy Narbantons).

We began with a couple of white wines and gougères, my first attempt at making the delicious cheese puffs that are so common in Burgundy. The 2007 Domaine Marcillet Savigny-lès-Beaune, $28, Savio Soares Selections, was a surprising wine. It's a humble villages wine that packs a lot of punch. I've had this wine on several occassions and liked it very much, but this time around I thought the oak was a bit too much. The others liked it a lot though, and 3 hours later the wine had indeed integrated beautifully, showing ripe fruit, minerals, and an earthy pungency that I associate with Savigny-lès-Beaune. Levi said that it might have been the wine of the night for him. I served this wine alongside the 2007 Chandon de Briailles Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses, $48, Imported by David Bowler, which showed rather poorly. I liked the tropical aromas I was getting immediately after I opened the bottle, but no one really liked it a half hour later. My friend Clarke said that it had a vodka-type spirit essence to it, which was right on. It wasn't flawed, it was just weird.

Among the red wines, the first flight was my favorite of the night. We drank the 2007 Jean-Marc et Hugues Pavelot Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode, $55, Becky Wasserman Selections, and the 2007 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses, $52, Becky Wasserman Selections, with a hearty mushroom barley soup. These are both delicious wines that are quite forward and approachable, perhaps a characteristic of the 2007 vintage. Drinking them next to each other was a great lesson in Savigny-lès-Beaune terroir. The Pavelot Dominode showed a definite layer of gravelly stone underneath the pure and spicy red fruits. It was much less dense than the richer Bize wine, although no less intense. I liked it very much - it was my favorite wine of the night. The only question for me was whether or not it will age well, as it just didn't seem to have any excess or unresolved structure. The Bize Aux Vergelesses showed a darker fruit character and a much earthier nose, like wet clay. It had a lovely perfume and although it was drinking very well, it never fully unraveled and I imagine that it will do very well with 7-10 years of cellaring.

We then drank two Simon Bize wines with braised beef and turnips. The 2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Bourgeots, $35, and the 2006 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Fournaux, $48. Les Bourgeots was aromatically closed, but showed pretty dark fruits on the palate and good balance. Les Fournaux had lovely floral and dark fruit aromatics, but was angular and awkward on the palate. These wines are probably starting to shut down. The next day I got to taste them again and they were both excellent. Bourgeots was a seamless expression of Savigny-lès-Beaune dark fruit and earth, completely pure and delicious, and drinking perfectly. Les Fournaux showed more depth and intensity of fruit, and still needed more time, although it was no longer awkward. Simon Bize's wines...very impressive.

I'm not going to go into much detail on the rest because none of them showed very well. Just a few notes-

Still with braised beef and turnips:
2004 Pavelot 1er Cru Les Gravains, $45. Some nice things here, good fruit, but the wine was surprisingly evolved, and showed what I found to be unpleasant seaweedy notes.
2001 Chandon de Briailles 1er Cru Les Lavieres, $45. A library release that, if what we drank is an accurate representation of the wine, should have stayed in the library. Just weird, with cloying fruit and lots of alcohol, completely disjointed and kind of swampy. Flawed? Not good wine? Who knows...

With cheeses, including a most incredibly runny Époisses:
1996 Pavelot 1er Cru La Dominode (magnum), $135. The only wine that provoked anything close to controversy, as some liked it more than others. I thought it was perfectly fine, but kind of anonymous and dull. It never really opened up, and I would be curious to know how it fared on day 2.
1990 Robert Ampeau Savigny-lès-Beaune, $40. Lots of fun to see what's going on with this bottle, a 20 year old villages wine from Savigny. But alas, it was pretty much dead on arrival. Yes, I know that you need to do a lot of aerating with Ampeau, and we swirled and swirled and opened it over an hour before drinking it, but all that was left was seaweed and rotting leaves.


Jon from Bkln said...

Thanks for this BG. I've had almost zero luck with affordable Burgundy. I've actually had even less luck when store owners help me pick. The best thing about eating at nice restaurants is help with Burgundy. Ate at Le Bernardin recently and while the food was below (very high) expectations, the Nuits St. Georges was stunning.

I have a cheese recommendation for you: Forme du Limosin. At the Coop. I'm pretty sure it's mispelled, because I can't find any information about it. Fantastic stuff. And you know the Coop, once it's gone, you'll never see it again, so stock up.

TWG said...

M T W of this week were root days. Supposedly Leaf days can be good for wine older than 5 years. Today is a fruit day til 9 PM and Sa Su are leaf days. BTW Hugh Johnson considers the Epoisses (wonderful cheese esp runny) a poor match w/ aged Burgs.

Brooklynguy said...

hey Jon - i've seen Forme du Limosin there, in fact, I cut this cheese on my last shift. i remember liking it.

TWG - thanks for this info. What resource do you use for this information? I'm tired of bad showings of good wine on root days. I want to start checking the biodynamic calendar for myself.

and on Époisses with wine - i at this point almost never have any red wine with cheese, but that's just the way it worked out the other night.

Anonymous said...

I would recommend checking out Rollin as well.

TWG said...

I use the Thun North American biodynamic sowing and planting calendar. The times listed are Eastern US, which is much less confusing than a UK wine biodynamic calendar based on the Thun calendar.

One downside to the calendar is that approximately 25% of days are devoted to each of the four type of days: fruit, flower, leaf and root. This reduces the number of desirable drinking days, something I hadn't considered until I got the calendar and started looking at which weekend days were fruit or flower.

If you like I'll email the relevant parts of the calendar to you.

Brooklynguy said...

Cory - i heard Rollin is good - i'll try sometime.

TWG - that would be AWESOME. email address is in the profile page of the blog. thanks again.

Sophieb. said...

The rest of the magnum of '96 Pavelot was oxidized; it was stewy and the fruit was not vibrant at all... but then again I think that, unless it's a young, structured wine, red Burg is just straight up better on day one. Rollin makes the best Savigny I've had except for a single transcendental '02 Chandon de Briailles village Savigny...

Anonymous said...

rollin is where it's at in pernand.
I find both pavelots (2 or more domaines?) and chandon de briailles rather boring when compare to neal's producer. Also, they use a whole lot of pinot blanc...

Michael Powers said...

You know, despite what seems to be the prevailing logic, here and elsewhere, I have great luck with burgundy. It seems a lot of the game is knowing when your wine will be in its window timewise (and I don't mean root days and leaf days). I doubt most of these '07's will show their best for a few years. Not great agers, but probably good four to five years from now for most of the Bize and Pavelot 1ers. I like '06 - '07 bourgogne rouge now, 2000 and 2001 for lesser 1ers.

But that said, some like the early fruit thing, but that is where I have the worst luck. Inevitably I find them closed down. Of course I really find the best bet for me is if it worth buying it is worth buying in threes or more so that you can follow it. Actually I like four lately, try one right away and use that as a marker for when to go at the other three. I think burgundy takes some effort in that sense. And while other wines also benefit from this approach, burgundy suffers the most from a more haphazard assault. Good evidence of this is found in the wines that you found to be excellent on day two.

Sounds like a good tasting in any case. For real interest, perhaps it would be great to revisit in five years. Worth the $ is a different story though!

Alex Halberstadt said...

Sounds like a fun night despite the wines' poor showing. So sorry I missed it.

Recently opened a 2001 Chandon de Briailles Pernand from Ile des Vergelesses, and it was ashy and dismal. Didn't make me eager to revisit the "library."

David McDuff said...

Too bad about the Ampeau; seaweed can be present as an aromatic signature in his SLB even when younger but it still sounds like you might have had a bad bottle. At around the 15-year point, which ironically happens to be right around when Robert and now Michel have historically released their wines for sale, each bottle of their wines (especially the reds) starts to take on a life of its own.

In general, I've found the Volnay-Santenots to perform much better with longer-term aging than the SLB, Pommard or Auxey-Duresses. The better bottles of the '76 V-S (which is still available on the retail market) can be truly beautiful, though they'll set you back 2-3x the price of your '90 Savigny.

As for Epoisses, even though it's often recommended as a pairing with red Burg, I find it works better with white Burg, Meursault in particular.


Anonymous said...

For a good BioD calendar check out the Stella Natura put out by the Kimberton Hills Camphill Village in PA. We use it every year on our farm.
Not very expensive either.