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It is always a treat to taste good wines from new Burgundy producers. Burgundy is often seen as staid and rigid and somewhat stuffy. There are rules and hierarchy and the best estates are so venerated and sought-after that they eclipse everyone else. I would have enjoyed tasting the wines from Maison Petit-Roy no matter what. But last year, wracked as it was with storms, dark clouds and endless uncertainty, the wines of Seiichi Saito and his micro-negociant were a beam of sunshine.
Seiichi arrived in Beaune from Japan in 2006 to study viticulture. Over the next ten years, he spent time working with a string of outstanding domaines, including Jacques-Frederic Mugnier, Domaine Lefalive, Armand Rousseau and a long stint at Simon Bize. Today he is making and bottling a range of regional and village-level appellations, farming some himself and purchasing others.
Last year, the 2018 vintage was one that divided Burgundy lovers. It was important to pick and choose very carefully, as the intense warmth of the vintage led to wines that in some cases felt clunky and weighed down. Seiichi's style leans very much towards the gentlest of extractions, which resulted in '18s that still felt like classic Burgundies, fresh and relatively weightless.
This year, the arrival of 2019 has caused a stir with its blend of great ripe fruit and stunningly high acidity levels. The resulting wines have the weight and structure for a long life but are also beautiful and satisfying now. I had a chance to sit down and taste the '19s from Seiichi in May and was pretty well knocked out. Overall, there is an appealing roundness and generosity to the fruit but there is nothing blowsy and clumsy about it. The reds are all fermented 100% whole cluster (with one exception) and there is plenty of acidity in the reds and whites both.
But what struck me most both last year and this year is the texture of these wines. Even at their fullest, there is a lacey, floating quality and a sense of detail. Perhaps my favorite of the many words in French in relation to wine that has no exact translation is digeste. It means, at least roughly, digestible but it also refers to a feeling of leaving space, of not filling you up or weighing you down. This certainly describes the Petit-Roy wines. I think I could always have another glass.
As is often the case with wines like this, the quantities available are very small. While there were some stragglers later in the season with the '18s, I do not see that happening this year. Do not delay. You will be glad you did. Sam Ehrlich
**This is a pre-arrival offer. Wines are expected next week**
Seiichi's Aligoté comes from a parcel in Savigny called "Aux Boutiéres." The vines are just shy of forty years old, planted in soils of limestone and white marl. This is textbook Aligoté, full of lemon, lilies and honeysuckle. There is beautiful ripeness but still excellent length on the palate and that cool freshness that comes from planting the right grape in the right place. No apparent oak influence. A delight. Sam Ehrlich
From a parcel high on the slope above Les Aigrots, the soil is here is poor and thin, rife with stones and limestone. This is elegant village wine, with lemon and stone fruit that feels broad and full in the mid-palate but with good detail and excellent mineral intensity in the finish. I like this QUITE a lot. Sam Ehrlich
From a terrifically steep and cold parcel tucked back in the combe behind 1er Cru Sous Fretille, this is more linear than the Beaune blanc. There is still the citrus peel character and some stone fruit, but it feels crisper and more savory. The mineral character at the back end is complemented by a lemon-y/orange-y sherbet note that I am a sucker for. Sam Ehrlich
The vines here are located in Pommard, and are between twenty-five and thirty years old. The bunches here are often large and Seiichi always de-stems this, the only red in the line-up that does not see any whole bunch fermentation. The fruit here is all red berries and plum, with good concentration and quite silken on the palate, with good lift. This is a nice Bourgogne. Sam Ehrlich
From forty-year old vines up above Pommard that Seiichi farms himself. Fermented 100% whole cluster, this is a supremely appealing Hautes-Cotes. The infusion style for these reds creates great aromatic intensity here, adding both savory and sweet spice notes. The fruit is beautifully bright and red, with the tang of the skin giving brightness. There is noticeably more structure here than in the round 2018. The overall sense of grip makes me feel good about putting this away for a couple of years but it is delicious now. Sam Ehrlich
From a parcel just below the excellent Bourgeots, this is real Savigny. There are high-toned red and pink floral aromatics underneath the full juicy raspberry and black cherry fruit and really appealing broad-shouldered structure. We are headed for roast chicken season and this is an ideal wine for it.
From lieu-dit Les Boutieres, the soil here is heavy with red clay. That said, there is no heaviness to this. This is incredibly fresh, with bursting crisp cherry fruit and spice from the stems. More than almost any other wine, you can really feel the benefits of the gentle treatment of the fruit in the tank. This has lift - it almost floats! A delicious bottle. Sam Ehrlich