When I first began to buy bottles of Burgundy in the late 1960s, well before I was in the trade, I had few choices in backwater Oregon, and always hoped to find a bottle with credentials. So I grabbed my first Volnay with great anticipation, only to feel cheated when I referred to Hugh Johnstons Atlas map and couldn’t locate the name. Crestfallen, I later found the name appears on the map of Meursault. Santenots. The Volnay that is not in Volnay.
As it turns out, this enigma is more correct than I could have imagined at the time.
It’s not a Meursault. It’s not a Volnay. It’s not a Monthelie. It’s a vineyard without a village, without an anchor, it’s an island in the cote. It’s…, well, Santenots.
If you try to make it something else, you fail. Writers will say, almost like an excuse, “lacks the finesse, a bit less delicate than……….”. That’s correct. For the simple reason, it’s not a Volnay. Not only that, it doesn’t want to be.
Any more than a Grands Echezeaux wants to be a Musigny. It is a disservice to the vines to not see them as their own statement. What I expect is a full bodied signature, depth that lingers and takes many delightful turns on the way to a very long finish. The word ‘sensual’ is bandied about, but isn’t this what Pinot Noir is about?
There’s a lot of good to say about Volnay, but you are buying the wrong shopping list if thats what you want. Perhaps we should put a wall around it and give it its own due, neither a monastery or a titled royalty, but a symbol of uniqueness that is Burgundy. Citizen Santenots.
If the 23 hectare plot was not famous in the 18th century, this was not a secret hidden from Jules Lafon, for sure. This great estate [Comte de Lafon] known for fabulous Meursaults of the white persuasion, spotted this special red piece [3.8 ha.] after his marriage in 1867, and treated it with respect.
In the crazy days of the early 1980’s,when the French Franc tumbled and the 1982 vintage sold for very little converted dollars, I perhaps ruined my own price/value standards forever. I was told that to buy the fine Lafon wines of Meursault,
I would be asked to buy a little red wine. The 1982 Santenots de Milieu was nothing short of spectacular in its youth, the vintage mating with the strength of the vineyard, and I helped myself to cases and cases of this wine, which I served often and to many, for a price that would make a ‘cote de Beaune villages’ blush. It was my secret then, but it is no longer today, for the current vintages of the Lafon example are frequently priced over a hundred$, and are worth it.
It is worth noting the other Domaine I have had many vintages of, Pierre Matrot, for supplying exceptional Santenots. The Hospices de Beaune owns some quantity of vines that produce 2 desirables, [named Jehan de Massol and Gauvain] that happily respond to the correct handlers. Leroy puts up a wine that works well with their style, but I wouldn’t shy from investigating any so named bottle from someone you trust.
Santenots is forever etched in my personal wine memory for a fateful bottle that came my way when I first began in the trade, back in the 1970’s when Hublein was importing Bouchard Pere and brought in some legendary wine from the crypt; 1865 Volnay Santenots.
I rustled up 2 bottles from 2 auctions, and one was opened against the Chambertin from the same circumstances. That was the day that Citizen Santenots trumped King Chambertin. Perhaps it’s the tricks of old age, but I can taste hints of the memory of ’65 every time I drink a mature Santenots.
Indulge me, please. It’s my salute to the Citizen.