Domaine Bruno Lorenzon Mercurey Le Chapitre Rouge 2016
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The focused, intense Bruno produces focused, intense wines, tending to his farm as though he is manicuring a garden. Miniscule yields, organic farming and minimal intervention in the cellar are the norm here. Bruno’s experience working for the Tonnellerie de Mercurey allows him to select and age his own wood, then build and toast his own barrels based on the characteristics of each cuvée and each vintage. His philosophy is that the oak, or any other component, should never stand out in the wine. The results are extremely elegant wines, with intensity and personality, light in color, yet rich with dry extract. The reds have silky tannins and bright, fresh fruit flavors mingling with savory character, while the whites have astonishing mineral length.
Beloved for its deep and flavorful reds made of Pinot noir, Mercurey is the largest and most important village in the Côte Chalonnaise with most of its vineyards tucked away in hillsides or stretched along the aptly-named “Golden Valley.” This valley, sheltered from the moist and cool air that funnels along at lower elevations, is ideal for ripening Pinot noir.
Mercurey follows strict yield laws, similar to those at the Côte d’Or village level, promoting the development of deep, full, concentrated and age-worthy Pinot noirs. In their youth, a chewy and rich structure supports flavors of ripe strawberry, raspberry and cherry. Age brings notes of underbrush, tobacco and cocoa.
While Pinot noir claims the majority of Mercurey vineyard acreage, Chardonnay does grow here and produces uniqely floral and spicey scented white wines.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.