This article is made by C. Robert Collins, who will be a guest writer here on winehog. I’m very pleased to have Bob on board, as this would enrich the blog with other views and angles – I hope you will enjoy his articles.
You can read Bobs quite extensive biography here … covering more than 40 years of Burgundy experience and passion.
This weeks article is about one of the overlooked but great reds of Cote de Beaune – a wine often priced well below it’s league:
Collins Corner #1
“My red grand cru of Chassagne”
There are two great appellations that grand white Chardonnay and grand red Pinot Noir are found together. One [Corton] is acknowledged, the other is not [Chassagne] . It didn’t used to be this way, history tells us Chassagne is a red appellation of the first order. [tete de Cuvee] But the trend, steady over the decades I have been involved with the appellation, has seen Red replanted with white.
Chassagne is a large appellation, and offers both chardonnay and Pinot Noir wonderful places to live. But not in the exact same soil. Its best not to put Pinot Noir in Batard, and it is a quite bad idea to place Chardonnay in St. Jean.
St. Jean, 14 hectares stretching above the town and below the woods, is one of my favorite Grand crus in the Cote de Nuits.
Before you race to the maps to show me my errors, let me assure you I haven’t lost my bearings. My statement is contradictory to the law of controlle, it is just a simple statement of how the bottles in my cellar taste. To which influence should I subscribe? The label never tastes as good as the wine does.
St. Jean has history on its side. The Geologist will tell you that the same stratas of soil seen in the Cote de Nuits resurface in Chassagne. St. Jean, according to Rodiers 1920 edition, shows up in old records from Marquis de LaGuiche as “one bottle of St. Jean is worth 2 bottles of Montrachet”. Appropriately, Rodier quips that it is a unique example where God is eclipsed by one of his Saints.
I don’t want to get into trouble this Sunday when I attend church, so I won’t persue this as gospel, but I will point out that there are old records that put St. Jean on similar ground as Clos de Tart, or Chambolle Amoureuses in the Nuits.
How different it might have been if the same efforts had been taken in the 1930s to classify St. Jean as were taken with the Montrachets. Instead, I look at paying half the price for red Chassagne as for white.
There are some talented winemakers in St. Jean, what I can expect is a full but fleshy wine that avoids some of the rough edges that can appear in villages examples. The right ones take it up a notch, complex plus. I currently have Chassagne in my own cellar back to 1976.
Yes, I also enjoy bringing them out to compare with some of the hyphen-Chambertins. However, the overriding reason is still the primary one, that of savoring the pleasure Burgundy continues to give me.
My Grand crus without the price.
The following list is not in any particular order, and may not be complete, but there are gems in it:
Chassagne, St. Jean, 1st cru, ;
Ramonet, Niellon, Joseph Drouhin, Jean-Nöel Gagnard, Richard Fontiane Gagnard, Chateau de Maltroye, Amiot-Bonfils, Lamy- Pillot, and old [pre 1985] Leon Violland and Camille Giroud.]
C. Robert Collins