I have come to say fairly frequently -- the more I know, the less I know. Today proved to be no different. I was one of the lucky ones who responded quickly enough to secure a seat at the complimentary Wines of Mercurey tasting sponsored by the Bourgogne Wine Board. A world-wide tasting held live and interactive with participants tweeting questions to the host was a first for me. It was fun. Truth be told, I mostly signed up for the tasting because it was Burgundy and it was free. As a wine student, free becomes a pretty important word. Even though I get to taste wines for the list at work, there are many wines that are impractical for me to add -- too expensive, too obscure....too French. So I looked upo this as a free morning of pinot noir at the hands of my favored French. A good way to solidify my blind tasting on the Gaul expression. Little did I know that I would encounter a region of intense soil complexity and hidden value. We tasted six wines in total after the lecture. Did I love them all? No. Would I call all of them go-to alternatives to the more expensive Burgundy to the north? No. But there were a couple that were genuinely delightful and engaging.
The first of these that caught my attention was the sole white of the afternoon - Maison Louis Max Les Rochelles 2013. It reminded me a great deal of some of favored Meursault experiences. Nice mineral tension and notes of white flowers and citrus with a lovely texture and hints of hazelnut. It was definitely a great way to start. Though whites are in the production minority of this region, I'd scout out a few more to try based upon this experience.
I was also really pleased overall with the texture of all the five remaining reds in the flight. That velvety texture that I love so much from French red Burgundy was there. One of the wines kinda ruined the experience for me with their heavy-handed use of oak but that's my personal opinion. The color was off and the aromas was obscured. I drink pinot noir for the full experience and its color and nose are definitely part of it. The Domaine Nathalie & Jean-Claude Theulot was lovely and engaging with notes of cherry, strawberry & Asian spice that kept me going back for more. A little cold maceration brought out the fruit and the color on this one was a bit darker. Very nice. But my favorite overall is the wine pictured above. The 1er Cru Sazenay from Domaine de Suremain is a southeast facing vineyard and so receives good sunlight to aid in ripening. The soils are heavier clay over limestone bedrock holding onto moisture and keeping the vines "feet" cool. These are considered two of the ingredients in the recipe that helps create distinctively delicious pinot noir. The domaine's delicate use of oak lended some pretty vanilla flavors and cold maceration gave this wine nice concentration of color and fruit flavors. The growing conditions helped provide a pronounced lift to the aromas. What's "lift"? I sound like such a geek when a use that term but its hard to describe it any other way. It's a freshness and an aroma that just hits you up "there" -- higher in your nasal passages. And there was that lovely silky texture. A long and elusive finish with hints of forest floor made me happy. It's fall afterall and a little of this earthy complexity seems to go with my chunky sweater and long scarf. The premier cru status of the wines of Mercurey aren't necessarily on par with those you'd find along the Cote to the north but it does symbolize "better" nonetheless. In terms of soil structure and exposure anyway. As is the case throughout France, you have to know the producer: what they do, how they do it and what you like in order to truly unlock your personal "greats".
It's said that Mercurey was named Mercury, patron god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence and thus poetry, among other things. These gods, it seems, were pretty busy back then. But I'll go with eloquence and poetry here. Those are two words I would use to describe the best achievements in pinot noir and despite their "lesser" status within the Burgundy world, I'd happily drink these Mercurey's any time.