Domaine Tollot-Beaut Savigny-Lavieres Premier Cru 2011
The Tollot family represents a long lineage of winegrowers dating back to the late 1880s when François Tollot began planting vineyards in Chorey-lès-Beaune. His son, Alexandre Tollot, continued in his father’s footsteps and married Aurélie Beaut. In 1921, Tollot-Beaut became one of the first to bottle their wines under the domaine and started exporting their wines to the U.S. shortly thereafter. Today, cousins Nathalie, Jean-Paul, and Olivier Tollot are in charge. The wines of Tollot-Beaut are well-known for their serious but pleasing style across a range of appellations from Bourgogne to Grand Cru. The Tollot-Beaut cellar is in the center of Chorey-lès-Beaune on the rue Alexandre Tollot, named after Nathalie’s great grandfather who was once the Mayor of Chorey. Parts of the meticulously kept cellar are over 250 years old. Chardonnay is pressed pneumatically and starts fermentation in stainless-steel tanks before finishing alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel. Pinot Noir is almost entirely de-stemmed. The wines of Tollot-Beaut were once made with more new oak but in recent years the oak influence has become subtler. Village and regional wines receive about 20% new oak while the Grand Crus receive about 60% new oak.
Savigny-lès-Beaune is a small village near Beaune that produces delightful red and white wines under its own appellation name. Cut by a river, the vineyards on its southern side have sandy soils that result in charming, floral reds. Premiers Crus vineyards on this side include Les Peuillets, Les Narbantons, Les Rouvrettes and Les Marconnets.
On Savigny’s northern side, bordering Pernand-Vergelles, vineyards are planted on rocky soils and produce juicy and spicy Pinot noir. The village’s best whites, all made of Chardonnay, are full on the palate and abound in texture, complexity and freshness.
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.