Chassagne, Puligny, Meursault?
NO it’s time to drink SAINT-AUBIN!
Why the appellation Saint-Aubin is considered one of the best value for money purchases for white Burgundy right now? This article will provide my explanation after fully studying and visiting the region.
Saint-Aubin is a 166 hectares appellation in the north of Chassagne-Montrachet and west of Puligny-Montrachet and generally has more area grown as 1er Cru than village wines. (Whites: 81 hac in 1er Cru and 40-hac village)
20 vineyards in total have the status of 1er Cru in this appellation. The best of them are facing south or east or southeast with 300 to 350 meters altitude.
Saint-Aubin is generally divided in 3 sectors: The first is composed by the 1er Crus bordering Chassagne e Puligny Montrachet, where Chardonnay dominates. The second is located between Le Hameau de Gamay and the Le Village where Pinot Noir express its best in this appellation, and the third part of the appellation is essentially occupied by village wines.
The soil in the region is a mixture of clay and limestone, with the limestone playing the biggest role influencing the wine style. There is also some marl where the Pinot is grown, especially around Les Perrières and Sur Gamay.
The proportion of wine produced white to red is 64/36, with the amount of white wine produced continuously rising since the 80’s.
The reds are lighter in style than the neighbors from Chassagne or Maranges, and the whites are elegant and normally designed for drinking earlier, although some of the best wines from En Remilly and Murgers des Dents de Chien can be kept for longer time.
During my visit in this 300-habitant quiet village, I had the pleasure to be received by some of the producers and tasted their wines.
Hubert Lamy, Patrick Miolane, Bernard Prudhon and Marc Colin.
Domaine Hubert Lamy a 17 hectares family owned Domaine since 1640. (¼ being reds and ¾ whites). Olivier have been doing some interesting experiments in the vineyards, replanting his vineyards at 14.000 vines per hectare, reducing the distance between vines in the row to 0,75m.
Another example of his work would be the 1er Cru Derrière Chez Edouard, where part of the vineyard is planted to 14.000 vines per hectare and part nearly 30.000. (Having 3 vines per meter) The vineyards are mostly grown organically and the wine making process is done with minimum intervention.
From the wines I tasted, the highlights were:
Saint-Aubin 2010 1er Cru - Clos de Las Chatenières
Starts with ripe pineapple, lemon and white flowers notes in the nose, some marked oak, fresh citrus acidity and a hint of yeast in the palate. The mid palate is powerful followed by a long finish. The wine is still young and probably will evolve in 2 or 3 years in bottle.
Saint-Aubin 2010 1er Cru - Les Murgers des Dent de Chien.
In the nose is slightly neutral with discrete lime, lemon and flower notes. In the palate the wine has excellent concentration and minerality, it’s rich and oily tending to full body, but still maintain a high acidity. The oak is very well integrated and the finish is long and complex, with layers of minerality, flowers, citrus fruits and oak.
Saint-Aubin 2010 1er Cru - En Remilly
The most flowery wine from all I have tasted, with citrus fruits and oak notes.
The palate is lighter and less oily than Les Murgers des Dent de Chien and acidity also is not as sharp. The finish is very pleasant like almost it’s ready to drink, with a long flowery finish with hints of oak.
Saint-Aubin 2010 1er Cru - Derriere Chez Edouard, (30.000 vines per hectare Density)
The nose is closed and neutral, maybe will open up with some time. The palate has a pronounced alcohol, sometimes found in Corton Grand-Cru, that lead to a full body wine, but with a slight dry sensation in mouth. Citrus fruits like lemon and lime appear in the palate and the concentration is very intense just like the finish.
Domaine Patrick Miolane is a 9 hectares family owned Domaine where everything is done with minimum intervention and the work in the vineyards is the main concern. No chemicals are used and plowing is mainly done 5 to 6 times a year with tractors. Patrick in Saint-Aubin produces more red wines than whites, which is unusual for the appellation these days, but both wines are equally interesting in this Domaine.
An interesting fact about this small Domaine is that they only start selling their red wines after a 3 to 4 years ageing in their cellars.
Highlights of the tasting of whites:
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru - Sur le Sentier du Clou - 2009
In the nose you may find ripe pineapple and hazelnut with a hint of yeasts. The palate had high acidity, good minerality, but less oily than the Saint-Aubin village, the alcohol is a bit hot, followed by an elegant bitterness and a brief finish.
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Champlot - 2009
The nose again shows ripe pineapple, hazelnuts, cloves and some oak influence.
The palate has very good acidity and fruit flavors, but the oak is not yet well integrated. Good quality overall, but lacks in concentration and complexity, although the oak plays an interesting role, presenting a mix of new / old world style of chardonnay.
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Perrières - 2010
The nose again tends to be oaky, nutty style with hints of cloves and hazelnut. The palate has clearly more concentration and complexity than Les Champlot, it has good acidity, the oak still stands out as a house style, but is better integrated and followed by fine bitterness and a long finish.
Bernard Prudhon is an 8 hectares producer with vineyards exclusively in Saint-Aubin.
His wines follow the typical Burgundy recipe, fermenting without yeasts in 2 years old barrels with temperature control, filtration is done only if necessary and he didn’t stirred the lees. It’s really minimum intervention in wine making.
During the visit we chat for a long time about the classifications of the vineyards, the appellation Saint-Aubin and the several generations that his family is in this business. I had a great time and also learned a lot.
The only wine I tasted at Bernard Prudhon was his:
Saint-Aubin 2009 1er Cru - Les Murgers des Dent de Chien.
In the nose the wine is very open and expressive, showing right after open, ripe pineapple, orange peel and yeasty notes.
The palate is nutty (almonds), with a hint of yeasts, a very sharp acidity what he define as freshness and a well integrated oak. Also a good minerality can be perceived and impressive concentration. Long finish with layers of fruit, oak, nuts and minerality. One of the most impressive wines tasted that day. In my opinion the wine was already good to drink, but can be aged for a couple of years to develop its full capacity.
Domaine Marc Colin is a 20 hectares family owned Domaine specialized in white wines. They have 30 appellations in total and 25 of them for white only. The Domaine belongs to the family over 5 generations and today is administrated by Damien, Caroline and Joseph Colin and they produce 12 different appellations in Saint-Aubin, 9 whites and 3 reds. One characteristic of Domaine Marc Colin is the use of several different suppliers of oak barrels, that contribute to the complexity of the wine and to shape the style of the Domaine. A small percentage of new oak is used every year by Domaine Marc Colin to age their wines. In the vineyards no herbicides is used, only machinery to plow the soil and people to prune his vineyards.
From the wines tasted the highlights were:
Saint-Aubin Village 2010 - La Fontenotte
This is a very good quality village wine, with the lieu-dit La Fontenotte located upper Les Champlots. The nose is flowery perfumed, with honey and oak notes.
In the palate the acidity is balanced, and shows good concentration, followed by a long complex finish. Impressive for a village wine.
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru - 2010 - Sur les Sentier du Clou - Only 1200 bottles produced.
In the nose floral perfume and some oak notes, very delicate and hard to notice some fruit. In the palate again was impressive, a medium body wine but very powerful, concentrated, the acidity brings the necessary freshness and the oily character contributes to the long lasting finish.
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru - 2010 - Sur Roche Dumay
Neutral in the nose. The palate shows good acidity, minerality, well-balanced oak and great concentration. It’s a powerful wine overall although very subtle in the nose.
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru 2010 - Les Chatenières
As almost a house style, the wine is neutral in the nose with light white flowers and lime notes. However in the palate this wine has extremely high concentration, a noticeable minerality, the acidity is fresh and well balanced, completed by a long and complex finish. Due to its structure and complexity this wine is very versatile to pair with food.
Concluding, the wines from Saint-Aubin impressed me in several ways, first because the growing area being considerably small producers try their best to have the best grapes, managing the vineyards and working the soil. The wine making process is made with very little intervention and as few corrections as possible, giving a very pure and typical wine.
Second: the use of herbicides and pesticides is very reduced, and producers in the area try to avoid their use, or even replace it completely.
Third and very important for the general consumer, the wines from Saint-Aubin are less pricey than its neighbors from Chassagne and Puligny Montrachet, they are also ready to drink earlier in most of the cases, besides, the price x quality relation is one of the best regarding the wines of Côte de Beaune.
In general, the wines are quality driven, with fair retail price especially for 1er Crus, can be drunk young, but some have great age potential, and they pair well with food due to its high acidity, good concentration and oily characters.
Additionally both white and reds can be found in this appellation.
I would say that more than just a smart buy; the wines from Saint-Aubin are a great discovery.