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Bourgogne shows off its talents to the world

Bourgogne wine was on pour in Hong Kong this week as a broadcasted tasting on behalf of the Bourgogne Wine Board put the spotlight on the Mercurey appellation.

The fifth instalment of the live satellite-broadcast training on Bourgogne wines hosted by BIVB (Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne) for the Bourgogne Wine Board that took place earlier this week put the spotlight on the appellation of Mercurey and its climats. The English broadcast reached trade audience over 20 locations around the world including the UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Taiwan and multiple cities in China (including Hong Kong).

Mercurey, named after the God Mercury, is one of the most celebrated appellations of the Côte Chalonnaise that stretches 25 kilometres south of Chagny, a town perhaps better known for its 3-Michelin-starred restaurant Lameloise.  Covering 635 hectares, with production of 3.5 million bottles, Mercurey is one of the largest appellations of Bourgogne, after Chablis and Pouilly Fuissé. Traditionally known for reds, now accounting for 85% of the total production volume, Mercurey’s whites have been gaining recognition for their flinty and fruity character and remarkable freshness.  27% of the production comes from the 32 Premier Cru climats.  The historic rustic character of the reds has given way to charming wines today, full of cherry pit character, overlaid with spiciness, with a roundness and smooth texture, that could fit every palate, affirmed Amaury Devillard, President of the Mercurey Producers Union, also co-proprietor of Château de Chamirey and Domaine des Perdrix (the latter in Nuits-Saint-Georges). And the whites cannot be overlooked, he hastened to add.  He said that there was not just one Mercurey wine style, but that it resembled a patchwork of colours, with diverse expressions across the beautiful Village wines and the distinctive Premiers Crus, and more importantly a remarkable price-quality ratio.  He shared with the audience his two favourite Premier Cru climats: limestone-based south/southwest-oriented Clos des Barraults for flinty, pure and elegant Chardonnay and clay-based Clos du Roi for fresh, juicy Pinot Noir with a smooth finish.

The diversity of the wines is in part due to geological upheavals caused by the rising of the Alps 50 millions of years ago, smashing to pieces the sediments formed during the Jurassic period (around 137 – 195 million years) of the Mesozoic Era.  This geological disruption resulted in a number of terrains consisting of 5 different types of marl and 10 different types of limestone.  For simplicity, they are largely grouped into 5 different families of soil and subsoil, explained Jean-Pierre Renard, Instructor of the Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne, part of BIVB.  The first family consists of 270 hectares formed on hard compact limestone less than 1.2 metres deep and found mainly in the north, represented by climats such as Les Montelons, La Frambroisière, La Perrière, La Mission (monopole of Château de Chamirey) and En Sazenay.  The second family of 190 hectares is based on a subsoil of marl, covered by shallow limestone pebbles, represented by climats such as Creu de Montelons, La Cailloute, Les Croichots, Le Clos des Barraults, Les Vasées and Les Montaigus.  The third family is also based on marl, with pebble and red/brown soil, ranging from 40 cm to 2 metres deep, characterised by climats such as Les Combins, Le Closeau, Les Crêts, Le Clos L’Evêque, Le Clos du Roi, La Chassière and Le Clos de Paradis. The fourth family is clay-based, with no limestone, and soil 1.5 metre or deeper, stretching across 70 hectares, with examples such as Le Bois Cassien, La Corvée and Le Clos Rond.  Erosion of slopes on both sides of the small valleys that fuse with the central valley Val d’Or gave rise to the final family, which contains no limestone in the deep soils.  But it could be much simpler than this, Devillard shared with us the wisdom of his grandfather, Marquis de Jouennes, who was the first to bottle wines at domaine in Mercurey in 1934.  His grandfather taught him to watch how quickly the snow melted to understand the quality of the terroirs.  The quicker the soil melts, the more quickly the bunches ripen, and the higher potential for quality of the wine.

Naturally, the human hand has played an important role in shaping the modern landscape of Mercurey, and the diversity of styles. Improvements in viticulture and the winery effected by a new generation of dynamic winemakers have given the wines a modern allure and market potential.

6 wines were tasted during this one-hour seminar, including one village white, one village red and 4 Premier Cru reds.  In Hong Kong, the seminar elicited a wave of interest and lively discussions amongst the trade professionals who attended. The Hong Kong group gave a resounding nod to the flinty and refreshing white with balancing fruitiness.  Although opinions were divided amongst the reds, there was no question that the two red Premiers Crus from the 2012 vintage showed a firm structure and potential for ageing that would reward years of cellaring. Renard recalled his memorable experience of tasting Mercurey wines with 10, 20 years of age.

The 6 wines that BIVB selected for the tasting were:

Mercurey Les Rochelles 2013, Domaine Louis Max

Mercurey Les Closeaux 2013, Domaine de l’Europe

Mercurey 1er Cru Champs Martin 2013, Domaine Theulot-Juillot

Mercurey 1er Cru Les Vasées 2013, Domaine François Raquillet

Mercurey 1er Cru Clos du Roi 2012, Château de Chamirey

Mercurey 1er Cru En Sazenay 2012, Domaine de Suremain

Quoting Devillard’s conclusion, Mercurey is indeed one of the hidden jewels of Bourgogne.  It is now turning out excellent wines that offer an attractive price-quality ratio….and the new generation of winemakers are relentlessly making this a lasting impression.  During the live Q&A session, Renard was asked whether the premier cru wines of Mercurey were under-priced. With his characteristic sense of humour, he turned the question round and asked if the wines from the Côte d’Or were over-priced?!

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