About the wine
Saint Romain Rouge is aged in 100% oak, 2-6 year-old barrels.
About the producer
Destined to be a mason like his father and his brother, Christophe decided to leave the family business and go into the wine industry. After receiving his diploma, he started his domaine in 1996 by renting a few acres of vines. Overtime he gradually purchased and rented further vines in and around Saint Romain and beyond, so that his domaine covered 7 hectares. He moved into a new chai in Beaune in 1999, renovating it in 2005. He has now relinquished the management of his vineyards (en fermage) to Alex Gambal (whilst also working with Alex as a partner and consultant). He will continue to concentrate on working as a tiny micro-négociant in his own right, but still with specialist focus and expertise in the amphitheatre-like Saint Romain appellation, with the best sites located on stony slopes beneath a striking outcrop of limestone cliffs. Christophe’s believes meticulous work in the vineyards, fermentation in cement cuves, élevage in medium age barrels, minimal racking & pumping, and a gentle bottling with no filtration or fining for the reds, all combine to give wines of impressive depth and complexity. He manages to achieve sufficient natural ripeness every year and shuns chaptalization, and his wines show good concentration. His red wines offer plenty of vibrant fruit and gentle texture, whilst his whites balance ripeness and intense minerality. They are very charming, ‘easy’ Burgundies, capturing the immediate pleasure of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Saint-Romain Blanc is aged in 70% oak and 30% stainless steel. Saint Romain Rouge is aged in 100% oak, 2-6 year-old barrels. The wines are matured for 16-18 months prior to bottling. The 2015s show the benefit of his skills and experience, alongside the excellence of the vintage.
Regions Vintage Report:“2018 Burgundy – many beautifully pure wines with plenty of fruit richness but with poise and typicité.”
Essential in defining the 2018 harvest was the preceding winter, which was excessively wet and rainy. However, this proved to be a blessing during the drought months of high summer which followed. The vines’ roots were able to tap into the well replenished water table. The signature of the 2018 growing season itself was the remarkable level of light, with plenty of warm sunshine during spring and summer.
Budburst occurred without a hitch on normal dates whilst the settled warm weather meant that flowering happened under ideal conditions. This resulted in a very even fruit-set promising both a good volume of grapes as well as an even ripening. Hailstorms and the threat of frost were, thankfully, of very limited occurrence and as long as there was sufficient ground water, the vines remained healthy throughout the warm summer months. Younger vines, however, may have suffered from the drought causing them to shut down during véraison, but older deeper-rooted vines coped well with the lack of water. Véraison started in early July and stretched out over 6 weeks, a much longer period than normal due to the lack of water and high summer temperatures. This allowed high levels of concentration and flavour complexity to develop. By the end of August, many growers stated that their crop was in almost perfect condition. The weather held throughout August permitting growers to pick at the end of the month in perfect dry conditions. Very little sorting was required thanks to the homogenous ripening and the lack of disease in the vineyard. Whilst there were mildew issues for some of the red wines, the more resilient Chardonnay seems to have ripened perfectly producing rich and opulent wines in 2018. Harvest for the red wines also took place in ideal conditions in early to late September, with cool nights keeping the fruit fresh after warm, sunny days. The red wines are dark and, despite their rich constitution remain pure, fresh and beautifully balanced. Many can be described as exuberant. Tannins are often seductively silken and refined. Palate fatigue during a long tasting week was rarely encountered. The finest wines exhibit telling aromatics with floral, perfumed notes to the fore.
All in all the styling and balance of the best 2018s was a welcome surprise, especially considering the warmth of the vintage. They will age very well. It may seem to run against logic but the generous harvest seems to have had less negative impact on the red wines than may have been expected, despite Pinot Noir’s notorious sensitivity to high yields. There is the undoubted potential for very high quality in 2018 red wines but it is by no means a uniform vintage. Selection, as ever, is key. Those growers who allowed their grapes too long a hang time suffered a rapid upswing in sugar accumulation at the end of the ripening period. This led to alcoholic degrees approaching or even exceeding 15%, and stuck fermentations resulting in high levels of volatile acidity and bacterial spoilage. However, the majority of wines are beautifully concentrated whilst also retaining more poise, freshness and vibrancy than in other top warm vintages such as 2005, 2009 and 2015. Despite the warm vintage, tasting the freshness of the whites in 2018 made them equally exciting as the reds. Where yields are not excessive, there is real terroir definition in 2018, despite the ripeness levels. They are very much wines of Burgundy: wines with personality and expression of their particular vineyard origins. With fine acidity and tension on the palate, and a penetrating mineral streak, the white wines are reminiscent of the 2017s but with an extra layer of fruit weight and complexity. The key for any Chardonnay producer in a warm vintage is to retain freshness. The generous yields helped compensate for the richness of the fruit, endowing the wines with a bright pure fresh fruit, but with an extra dimension of graceful texture alongside. The likes of Olivier Lamy and Thomas Morey, like the majority of other Cote de Beaune growers, favour picking early in order to retain the necessary acidity and hence freshness. The best 2018s exhibit extra weight and richness competing with the tense and energetic mineral freshness. In Chablis, the best wines offer noticeable concentration similar in style to the 2015s but with more minerality and tension on the finale and thus retaining that all important vibrancy so much a part of the true Chablis idiom. One of the most noticeable changes due to climate change is the shortening of the optimum picking window. In the past there was a 3-4 week picking period, kicking off with the warmer ‘crus’, whilst waiting for the cooler vineyard sites to ripen. This year there were only 6-10 days for the optimum picking window for the whole region which causes significant difficulties in trying to harvest all the grapes in best condition. As far as winemaking is concerned, the vast majority of growers agreed that a “light hand at the tiller” was required. The avoidance of over-extraction through over-manipulation was key. For example, less focus on pigéage and more on remontage for the reds, as well as less, if any, lees-stirring for the whites. Levels of new oak usage continue to be reduced too. A gentle, sensitive approach resulted in the most eye-catching wines.
Neil Sommerfelt MW, Consultant January 2020.