Alex Gambal St-Aubin Les Murgers Dents de Chien Premier Cru 2014
THE MOVE: In 1991-1992, I began to explore the possibility of living abroad for a year or two while our children were young. We had become interested in wine and it had become our major avocation.
In May 1993, my family and I moved to Burgundy, France to take a year off to work with and help manage a small wine export company based in Beaune, France. Our goal was simply to take a year's sabbatical from Washington but we hoped that if we and the children were content we might stay longer. We moved to a small village of 150 people just outside Beaune, in the center of Burgundy, put the children in French schools, and four years later we looked back on a wonderful experience that changed our lives.
FIRST STEPS IN BURGUNDY: When we arrived in 1993 the wine business was in the dumps because of the world recession and a glut of fine wine. As we worked our way through the recession I was able to taste a variety of old, young and great wines with some of the greatest winemakers in the world. In addition, because we lived, worked and had our children in French schools, we were not perceived as tourists and were welcomed into the hidden Burgundy as parents and friends. And thus had a unique and wonderful experience.
A steep, upcountry basin (referred to as a combe in French) in the southern end of the Côte de Beaune, St. Aubin is a direct westerly neighbor to Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. Recent years have seen a boom in white wine production so that now Chardonnay accounts for more than three quarters of area under vine here. Two thirds of St. Aubin is classified Premier Cru (30 total vineyards); most notable include Les Charmois, La Chatenière, En Remilly and Les Murgers Dents de Chie. The Premiers Crus of St. Aubin, wrapping like a ribbon upon the southeast and southwest facing slopes, produce fresh and elegant whites from Chardonnay. When young, these tout a refreshing grip and convey qualities of white flowers, citrus, pear, green almond and wet stone. Given some age, a graceful evolution occurs so that older St. Aubin whites express richer aromas of beeswax, honey, marzipan and spice.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.