Mon 14 May 2012
Sometimes we can learn a lot about wine from small producers who keep ambition, not to mention grandiose schemes, in check and focus on doing an excellent job on a small but impeccable scale. Such a producer is Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot, from whose 10 hectares of vines — a bit more than 25 acres — around the city of Beaune in Burgundy come about 4,350 cases annually of what could be considered minor wines, at least compared to the Big Leagues of Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. Emmanuel Giboulot, the name of the owner and winemaker as well as the domaine, is not trying to be all things Burgundian to all people, accumulating a few rows here and a few rows there in all the prestigious appellations up and down the Côte d’Or, in the manner of the important negociants. No, Giboulot steadfastly works in the Côte de Beaune, up on the hilltop, or to the east of the city, in the little-known Vin de Pays area and manages to produce wines of precision, clarity and integrity. He does make one Premier Cru wine, the white Rully La Pucelle.
This is a bio-dynamic estate. Giboulot went all organic in 1985 and bio-dynamic in 1996, and he subscribes to most of the principles: root and flower “tea” preparations; the infamous dung buried in the cow horn; organic composts. He also uses methods that just make sense: indigenous yeast, manual harvest, very careful deployment of sulfur, minimal new oak. How much the success of the wines depends on the bio-dynamic approach I couldn’t say; I do know that while we are not looking here for the glorious depth and dimension of chardonnay and pinot noir from the world-renowned Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards what Giboulet delivers is a gratifying sense of infallible craftsmanship, unimpeachable character and lovely purity.
These wines were tasted at the “Return to Terroir” event in New York on March 6. A Becky Wasserman “Le Serbet” selection for Domaine Select Wine Estates. New York. Image of Emmanuel Giboulot from rawfair.com
Made from chardonnay vines that average 50 years old, the Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot La Grande Chatelaine 2009, Côte de Beaune, is a wine of “verys” and verities, that is, it’s very floral, very spicy and very minerally, and it expresses what feels like the truth, the verity, of the chardonnay grape’s fruit, acid and mineral-driven essence; 18 months in oak lend suppleness to the texture but do not hamper the crystalline purity and intensity of the grape. The vineyards of the Côte de Beaune appellation lie nestled around the tops of the Montagne de Rochetin and Les Mondes Rondes — 396 and 350 meters, respectively — above the prime area of the Beaune appellation, which are adjacent to the famous medieval city of that name; we do not expect wines from Côte de Beaune — red and white are permitted — to be as full-bodied, complex, generous or expansive as from Beaune’s Premier Cru vineyards. I mean, to take a rather extreme example, last night a gentleman at an event I attended poured me a glass of Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007, from the great vineyard north of Beaune; the wines produced from the Côte de Beaune vineyards could not attain that level of sublimity, not would we expect them to. Pleasure, however, occurs at many different planes and ranges of excitement; if this were not so, we would die of transcendent satiety. The point is that Emmanuel Giboulot’s La Grande Chatelaine 2009 offers its own essay, as it were, on the virtues and character of the chardonnay grape, among which are a lovely dense, almost talc-like texture balanced by crisp clean acidity; a full range of citrus and stone-fruit scents and flavors fleshed out with slightly macerated and baked elements; and a burgeoning earthy limestone and shale quality that keeps the wine scintillating and vibrant. 12.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2014. Excellent. About $39.
Image, much cropped, from vinloyal.wordpress.com.
Also from the Côte de Beaune appellation, the Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot La Combe d’Eve 2009 is 100 percent chardonnay and aged 12 months in small oak barrels, none new. The color is mild straw-gold; the bouquet is a penetrating and beguiling amalgam of jasmine and camellia, damp shale, spiced peaches, yellow plums and pears. The wine feels lacy, transparent, edged with limpid and lucent limestone elements and bristling acidity that decorate and support the delicious citrus and stone-fruit flavors. The finish is lithe and silky smooth, packed with spice, stones and bones. 13 percent alcohol. It would be difficult to find a prettier, more seductive chardonnay. La Combe d’Eve means “the valley of evening” or perhaps of Eve herself. Now through 2014. Very Good+. About $39.
Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot Terres Burgondes 2009, Vin de Pays de Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche. This seldom-seen Vin de Pays, established in 1979, covers 17 parishes in the Côte d’Or administrative department that surround the village of Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche, four miles southeast of Beaune. We are, in other words, in the flatlands not entitled to the name Burgundy. Red and rosé wines may be made from pinot noir, gamay and pinot gris grapes, whites from chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, aligoté and auxerrois and even melon de bourgogne, the grape banished from Burgundy by royal edict in the 17th Century; it migrated to the Nantais and became the grape of Muscadet. Anyway, Emmanuel Giboulet makes the red Terres Burgondes from pinot noir; the white is pinot gris. The red Terres Burgondes 2009 — is the name Giboulot’s way of saying that the wine still comes from “Burgundian earth”? — is a light cherry color; the bouquet offers delicate, almost ethereal scents of dried roses, spiced cherries and red currants and a hint of briers and slightly mossy underbrush. The flavors are a bit warmer and fleshier — there’s a touch of mulberry and plum — and definitely more spicy, yet this remains a spare, dry, earthy and slightly austere pinot noir, held soldier-straight by a backbone of brisk acidity and graphite-like minerality. 11.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2013 or ’14. Very Good+. About $32.
Image from bonamanger-bonapenser.com.
The Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot Beaune Lulune 2010 is from the Beaune appellation, not Côte de Beaune. One hundred percent pinot noir, it offers a light, almost transparent red cherry color that makes up in radiance what is seems to lack in darkness; red Burgundy does not need to be blatantly dark in hue. Aromas of macerated and slightly roasted cherries and currants are borne by briers and brambles, a touch of mossy earthiness and a delicate wafting of that characteristic beet-root scent, a hint of honed granite. How is this wine different, you ask, from its cousin from the wrong side of the tracks? (The Paris-Lyon line runs east of the town of Beaune, and Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche lies beyond that.) The difference, particularly on the palate, is concentration, intensity and duration and, paradoxically, a sense of refinement. Every aspect of the Terres Burgondes 2009 can be found in its Lulune stablemate, but in deeper more profound qualities, with more breeding and elegance and with a longer, slightly more layered finish; the wine is kept vibrant by clean acidity that cuts a swath on the tongue. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $54.