Wines from Santenay are changing colour

Vineyard replanting in Santenay
Vineyard replanting in Santenay

The Burgundy wine region is one of, if not the, most complicated regions in the world.

Even those that have been in the wine trade for decades are constantly surprised by the information that comes to their attention.

There are many different appellations and levels of quality and the mosaic of small parcels of land planted with vines, called ‘climats’, can vary greatly one from another. Not only that, but a ‘climat’ may have multiple ownership, and each producer’s wine is also different.

This is further complicated by the fact that, as with all wines and regions, changes occur over time, something I have frequently referred to in past editions of this column. The great, but slightly lesser known, Burgundy region of Santenay is a prime example. The vineyards are located on the hills south of Beaune, surrounding the little village of Santenay and, until recently, were mainly planted with Pinot Noir for red wines. However, whether due to the world-wide demand for Chardonnay, or other reasons, such as suitability of the soil and terroir, many hectares of Pinot Noir are being replaced with Chardonnay.

Chateau de la Crée is a producer of some of the top wines from Santenay and the American owners have taken a bold decision to replant four of their 11 hectares with mainly Chardonnay. Their intention, along with a few other producers, is to bring Santenay wines up to a new level. Many of the vineyards adjoin those of the much better-known appellation of Chassagne Montrachet, famed the world over for its top quality white wines. Scientific testing appears to show that the terroir in many areas, is more suited to Chardonnay than Pinot Noir, hence the changes which represent a not inconsiderable amount of investment.

The Chateau itself dates back to the 15th century and was owned by Nicolas Rolin, who founded the Hospices de Beaune in 1443. Rebuilt in the Eighteenth century after the French Revolution, it now has fine reception rooms and a tasting cellar. A range of both red and white wines are produced of impressive quality. The Santenay Premier Cru 2015 Gravières comes from vineyards that are 250 metres from Chassagne Montrachet, on the northern part of the region on clay and limestone soils. An extremely appealing wine of great quality, with complexity, length and depth. Creamy, honeyed and aromatic, from 14 months ageing partially in new oak barrels.

The red wines from Chateau de la Crée are equally appealing and the Clos Faubard 2015 Premier Cru was balanced and elegant, with soft, ripe tannins and a long finish. But the emphasis for the future is firmly on increasing the white wine production, which has the potential to become one of the world’s greats.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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