Leaving Meursault in the Dust
Delicious & Superb Value!
Wanted to buy more, but you had a 1-case limit... Tastes like an $80+ Montrachet for 1/4 the price!
-- Michael from Gold Canyon, AZ
Bought a case wish I got four. An unbelievable find.
-- Ken from Oakland, CA
Probably the best Saint-Veran I've ever tasted. It's still young but I don't think my bottles will last the summer, so cellaring is kind of moot for me. I disagree with the Puligny Montrachet guy; it's closer to warm vintage, high-end Chablis rather than a PM. Standout juice, and very worth the price. Thank you.
-- Ned from Burlingame, CA
They would prove to be two of the most fortuitous introductions of our importing careers. The first was way back in the early 1980s, when the sommelier at 3-star Restaurant Taillevent served us a 1978 Macon-Vire from Andre Bonhomme. The next day at 10am, we were knocking on Bonhomme's door.
The second would also be a 3-star Michelin tip, this time from the Troisgros brothers in Roanne. Back in the mid-1980s, the sommelier told us that the Corsin brothers' Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé not only left most baseline Meursaults and Pulignys in the dust, but that the Corsin Chardonnays aged effortlessly. In 1986, the golden-hued, lusciously honeyed 1959 Corsin Pouilly-Fuissé was in full stride.
For almost thirty years, every summer, we've jumped on the autoroute outside of Beaune, heading 45 minutes south to the Macon Sud exit. After passing the TGV station, we slalom through the gorgeous winding roads of the Maconnais, past Loche and Vinzelles, before dropping into the sleepy hamlet of Davaye.
We pull into the cobblestone courtyard behind the massive charcoal metal doors. Steep, calcareous hillsides, all blanketed green with vines, loom front and back. The white crags of La Roche de Solutre lurk high up in the distance. The greeting is quick and warm, after which les freres Corsin escort us into the most astonishing cellar in the Maconnais -- and one of the greatest of Burgundy. We take seats on benches at the rustic tasting room table that we know so well. We won't get up for three or four hours.
Of all the new-release tastings held in the Corsins' caveau, few were as surprising as the one that began in the early afternoon of June 16, 2012. As always, before the new wines were poured, we were treated to a careful recapitulation of the growing season in hand. As we'd learn from Jean-Jacques and Gilles, 2011 was anything but a cakewalk. The less rigorous vignerons of Burgundy failed to recognize the conditions in hand, and authored lean Chardonnays absent the riveting focus and delineation that makes these Solutre hillsides sing. But the most meticulous growers doubled their efforts in the vines, dropping crop by hand so as to spike maturity, allowing them to pick wonderfully ripe, small berry clusters in early September. The Corsins, although they were typically self-effacing, had navigated the topsy-turvy vintage brilliantly.
While the entire 2011 lineup was exquisite, showing off pale golden-straw color, lush concentration and scintillating acid backbone, the wine of the day would be an old-vine Saint-Véran, drawn from 55-year-old vines planted on a backbreaking incline. Jean-Jacques told us that he'd conducted "a severe green harvest," eventually leaving close to the 30% of his small berry crop on the ground. The bunches he'd turn over to his ingenious winemaking brother were pristine. As always, Gilles Corsin would make no mistake.
The 2011 Corsin Saint-Véran Vieilles Vignes is brilliant golden in color. The aromas are of ripe apple and honey, laced with pungent ginger. Rich, juicy, yet tightly wound, this stunning 2011 again outclasses much of the Meursault competition, its luscious apple-honey core giving way to a bracingly mineral Burgundian finish.
Four hours after we sat down at the rustic tasting table, we began to say our goodbyes (this takes about a half hour chez Corsin!). Before getting up, we counted the open bottles on the table. There were 27, dating all the way back to a startlingly youthful 1979 Saint-Véran. The only bad news of the afternoon would be in our 2011 allocation. The harvest had indeed been tiny.