2012 Domaine Corsin Saint-Véran Vieilles Vignes (60-Year-Old-Vine)
 
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La Roche de Solutre La Famille Troisgros and 60-Year-Old-Vine White Burgundy

Beginning in the late '70s and '80s, a handful of American importers adopted a common strategy for ferreting out the most brilliant small winegrowers in France. We, like Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, Bobby Kacher in D.C. and Neil Rosenthal in N.Y.C., frequented the finest restaurants in the country, the Michelin Guide's two- and three-star gastronomic palaces. Once seated, we asked for two menus and two wine lists. Before the appetizer and between every course afterwards, we split up the sections on the these cartes des vins — and went to school.

At les frères Haeberlin's 3-star in Alsace, we were introduced to the intoxicating whites of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. At Taillevent, the sommelier recommended the Viré Clessé from Andre Bonhomme. In Vézelay, chez Marc Meneau, we were treated to pristine flutes of Diebolt-Vallois Champagne. At Gérard Vié's Trois Marches in Versailles, we got our first taste of the ageless Burgundies of Robert and Michel Ampeau.

But of all the stops, the one that we most looked forward to — for the hospitality, the simplicity of its classic cuisine, and the fastidiousness with which the cellar was managed — was in the town of Roanne in central France. There, from the moment you were greeted at the door, la famille Troisgros puts on an olfactory show unlike any in the world. Since 1968, Troisgros has held three Michelin stars, one of the longest tenures in the guide's history. In 1972, Gault et Millau took it a step further, naming the brothers' gastronomic palace "the best restaurant in the world."

In 1992, we returned to Roanne, booking lunch for two so as not to max out our Visa cards. The meal was perfect, five courses interrupted by a few little freebies that left us reeling. The reading material was just as sublime. The Troisgroses were well-known for hand-selecting their wines, often championing the cause of the top small growers in Beaujolais and Mâcon. With a simply prepared Dover sole in a light cream sauce, the sommelier proposed a 1979 Saint-Véran from Domaine Corsin. The first smell and taste of that phenomenally rich, firmly structured Chardonnay, drawn from the limestone hillsides beneath the white crags of La Roche de Solutré, reset the bar for the great white Burgundies of the Mâconnais.

Courtesy of Troisgros, an appointment was set for the following day in Davayé. After the hour-and-20-minute drive through the backcountry, we pulled into the cobblestone courtyard chez Corsin. The younger brother, Gilles, led us into the caveau, where he began to pop corks. We began with the 1990 vintage, then worked our way back. Gilles did not say much, nor did his brother Jean-Jacques, who joined us after a day in the vineyards, an hour after our arrival. The Corsins, mindful of who had sent us to Davayé, ushered us back into Burgundian history, through the 1980s and 1970s. Then, the 1960s. They said little, politely answering any question we posed with careful precision, then returning to the task at hand. By the time Gilles opened the glorious 1959 Pouilly-Fuissé — a deep golden elixir, magically infused with bitter honey, apple and anise, still braced by electrifying acid backbone — we were spellbound.

This is a treat, in large part courtesy of la famille Troisgros. Off three hectares of steep hillsides above Davayé, 60-year-old Chardonnay vines eke out a tiny, small-berry crop each September. The best vintages, we've learned over time, are not the product of the warmest growing seasons, but often the most challenging ones: vintages where the Chardonnay vines often lag behind in the early part of the harvest, challenging Jean-Jacques and Gilles to drop fruit and tightly manage canopies, nursing the Chardonnay to ethereal ripeness in the last few weeks before harvest. 2008 was such a vintage, as was 2010. But if you ask Gilles, he'd tell you that this just-released 2012 Saint-Véran Vieilles Vignes may well trump them all.

Bright greenish-golden to the rim. Piercing aromas of white peach, pear, apple and citrus zest, mineral and vibrant. Intense on the attack, yet generous, packed with tight layers of apple and pear, penetrating and finely muscled, not unlike the top wines of Puligny or Chassagne Montrachet. Like all the great vintages of these old-vine Chardonnays from Corsin, the finish is firm and brisk, arguing for DECADES of cellar slumber.



Tasting Notes

2012 Domaine Corsin Saint-Véran Vieilles Vignes (60-Year-Old-Vine)
"Bright greenish-golden to the rim. Piercing aromas of white peach, pear, apple and citrus zest, mineral and vibrant. Intense on the attack, yet generous, packed with tight layers of apple and pear, penetrating and finely muscled, not unlike the top wines of Puligny or Chassagne Montrachet. Like all the great vintages of these old-vine Chardonnays from Corsin, the finish is firm and brisk, arguing for DECADES of cellar slumber."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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