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Michel Gay & Fils Beaune Toussaints Premier Cru Vieilles Vignes 2012
The first thing Sébastien did was to eliminate all herbicides in the vineyards and convert to an organic approach. He lives in his vineyards and tends each vine with exacting detail.
When you meet Sebastien Gay, you are instantly charmed. Sebastien is forever breaking into an infectious smile. His cheeks light up and then you realize the smile stems from his embarrassment at receiving all the well-deserved praise being heaped upon him. Sebastien has ample reason for grin from ear to ear. The wines embody his humble demeanor, drawing you in and capturing your attention with their unsullied, vibrant character.
While the city represents the epicenter of wine production in Burgundy, the term, “Beaune” also refers to the specific sub-appellation of the greater Côte de Beaune, whose vineyards climb up the pastoral slopes that border the city to its west. Originally founded as a Roman camp by Julius Caesar, the city of Beaune eventually became the seat of the dukes of Burgundy until the 13th century. Today it is home to top négociants such as Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, Louis Latour, and Bouchard Père et Fils.
The appellation, dominated by Pinot noir plantings, represents a lovely and charming place to begin to understand red Burgundy. Its sandy soils create light and supple, floral driven Pinot noir. These wines are designed to be enjoyed within five to 10 years. The vineyards of Beaune span a broad swath of Premier Crus from Savigny-lès-Beaune to its border with Pommard.
Chardonnay acreage here has been increasing here in the more recent years.
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.