Vincent Girardin Santenay La Maladiere Premier Cru 1998
The history of Maison Vincent Girardin is relatively recent. In 1980, at the age of 19, Vincent Girardin, the son of a family of winegrowers based in Santenay since the 17th century, decided to strike out on his own and began producing wine from five acres of vines that he had inherited from his parents. From his earliest youth, Vincent had a passion for working with vines and great respect for the potential that they represent, and his ambition was to produce his own wine. The quality of his wines was quickly recognized by connoisseurs all over the world, and this enabled him to expand his activity, focusing primarily on the great white and red wines of the Côte de Beaune. To cope with the growing demand for his wines, he developed an approach that was new in Burgundy: he purchased grapes from producers who shared the same philosophy and the same high standards. In 2012, Vincent Girardin sold his operation to a long-standing partner of the Maison. Jean-Pierre Nié, President of the Compagnie des Vins d’Autrefois in Beaune, naturally decided to continue with the small team of nine people that had been faithful to the Maison for many years. Today, winemaker Eric Germain continues to uphold the style of the wines.
In the far southern end of the Côte de Beaune, Santenay forms a little notch that juts into the otherwise straight border with Côte Chalonnaise.
Santenay red wines show the true essence of red Burgundy at good price points and without demanding a lot of cellar time. Enticing aromas of rose-petal, violet, red fruits and licorice lead to sturdiness on the palate. With soils rich in oolitic limestone and marl, this is the home of well-constructed, hearty Pinot noir and represents a fantastic region to explore if you are just beginning your understanding of red Burgundy.
Reputable vineyards of Santenay include La Maladière, as well as the Premier Crus of La Comme, Clos de Tavannes, and Les Gravières.
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.