Undiscovered Burgundy treasures? Today, the popular press will tell you that this doesn’t exist, that everything has been discovered, exposed, praised, priced, and promoted. You must simply arrive at the famous merchants front door, put your wallet down on the green felt as in a casino, yank out the credit card and say ‘hit me!’ as if in at a card table, and pay to play until the card is rejected, overdrafted.
I submit to you that this approach frequently misses the essence of Burgundy’s wealth, a wealth in plain sight but unseen. Cote D’Or Treasures are reflected in diversity and experience. Lets contemplate one of my favorite examples, SAINT ROMAIN. First, lets remove the shackles of conventional presumption. It has no Grand Cru in its borders. No, better yet, it has no Premier cru either. But it has a distinct enough signature to be granted its own appellation, in 1947. Distinct, historic, desirable? i think so. Expensive? No, if this is a requirement for you, I suggest you return to the aforementioned card table. This is a path for explorers.
This trail leads up a side road of Auxey, found around the corner from Monthelie, and up high above Meursault. In fact, it is the highest elevation of any appellation commune in Burgundy. The twisty road that leads to the upper part of the hamlet where the ancient fortress used to exist, has a commanding view. Had the Chateau survived, Saint Romain might have been better known. It is in its own microscopic medieval world. Grapes and wine might have been made here earlier than anywhere in the Cote d’Or. The Roman records are sketchy on this point. But centuries come, Centuries go, and the land stays the same.
I might have known very little more than you can read in the wine texts concerning Saint Romain, were it not for the good fortune of importing the wine of Roland Thevenin in the 1970’s. To say he was larger than life would be an understatement, he was the mayor of the village Saint Romain for decades and was the proprietor of Chateau de Puligny Montrachet, at the time owning a parcel of Le Montrachet. Artisans, politicians, clergy, all held court in his drawing room.
Draper and Esquin, San Francisco, was his American importer.
His special wine, as opposed to famous wine, was his Saint Romain labelled ‘Mon village.’ I looked up in a 1978 catalog I wrote for D&E, I used to buy the ‘mon village’ for less than $6.
The wine I loved was the 1976, which perfectly sums up why these vines are special. I think of Saint Romain preferentially for chardonnay, where the grape shines. It is safe to say the white does not lack for acidity, given the altitude. Another rule might be, ‘ In cold vintages it is a pauper, in hot vintages, a Prince.’ 1976 was, if anything, quite hot. The Saint Romain, to my mind, showed better than the Puligny that year, dancing over the top of the heavy alcohol of the lower placed appellation.
A superb opportunity awaits to expand this experience, as the 2015 vintage will test the acidity and alcohol levels of many top locations downhill. Thevenin and 1976 are gone now, but there are some excellent growers and negotiants working with this commune. The quantities are not large, but the prices will be fair. I am waiting until the spring when I can supply specific recommendations. Until then ,cheers CRC