Burgundy Goes Modern

I believe Burgundy makes finest range of Chardonnay wines in the world. In an era when global Chardonnay styles are evolving to have less oak and more fruit, I am happy to say that Burgundy is adapting quite well. Two wines I have recently tasted – one from Chablis and the other from Pouilly Fuisse – reflect this new lighter, less oaked Chardonnay style, but each still has the Burgundian elegance and unique sense of terroir.

Domaine Seguinot – Bordet is a Chablis producer who bridges old world restraint and minerality with new world fruit and vibrancy. This Domaine dates back to the 16th century. Their vines grow on prized rich Kimmeridgean Clay and on south/south-east facing slopes. The combination of aspect and these maritime-based soils gives Seguinot-Bordet a unique quality – ripe fruit with an almost iodine-like minerality.

Seguinot – Bordet makes a range of wines, but the most modern style is their basic Chablis. This is a wine with fresh green fruit – apple and pear, along side hints of lemon. Underlying these flavors is a minerality that is reminiscent of what you might find in fresh-shucked oysters or clams. There is no oak here, but just enough lees contact to add a light biscuity note. The overall result is a stunning wine that has layers of flavor and elegance despite its light body and fresher style.

The Domaine Seguinot Chablis is a modern wine but clearly reflects the terroir of its region of origin. The lighter, greener fruit, underlying minerality and crisp, vibrant acidity all point to a definite sense of place: Chablis

Pouilly Fuisse is at the opposite end of Burgundy – in the south where the limestone soil gives way to granite and clay. These “escarpments” or cliffs of limestone that make up Pouilly Fuisse almost look like the fingers of a hand complete with knuckles. On these “fingers” vineyards are planted and the result are vines growing in sun-trapped amphitheaters. The Chardonnay grapes pick up the minerality of the soil while also becoming incredibly ripe.

Maison JJ Vincent’s “Marie Antoinette” is a wine that has the minerality and flavors (ripe peach stone fruit and red apple) that you expect from Pouilly Fuisse. But this is a modern wine. The fruit is vibrant and refreshing, and the minerality adds texture while still saying “I am from Pouilly Fuisse.” There is a little vanilla and toast underlying the flavors that reflects Burgundian tradition. The oak and lees contact is handled in a way, however, that is subtle and rather than adding weight. It provides complexity that takes this wine beyond just being a “good quaffer.”

Vincent’s fresh modern style Pouilly Fuisse is deliberate. The producer, who also makes a more traditional wine under the “Chateau Fuisse” label, has sourced most of the fruit from younger vines in the village of Vergisson. These plants are at double the altitude of vines in the village of Fuisse. The result is more acidity and energy in the wine. Only 25% of the wine sees any oak, which allows more subtlety and primary fruit expression.

In an era of globalization, easy instant information sharing and winemakers traveling to all parts of the world to work vintages, there is a danger of “sameness” in wine. The two producers I have discussed here have embraced modern trends but still kept elements that make them unique to their specific regions and traditions. In a wine world with new dynamics Burgundy has more than kept up with changing techniques and trends.