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Recently at a Burgundy dinner, someone far more knowledgable than I repeated the truism that Nuits St. Georges is no one's favorite wine. Now, I suppose it's difficult to argue with that as the village lacks grands crus and therefore a bit of sizzle, but I'd be hard pressed to say that any other appellation has provided more satisfaction over the past few years. As prices have crept (or rocketed) up recently, Nuits St. Georges has stayed somewhat within reach compared to its pricier neighbors in the Côte de Nuits. And there's plenty of terroir to the village, even if the resulting wines are of a sturdier sort.
One of my favorite growers in Nuits St. Georges is Domaine Jean Chauvenet, whose wines are soulful, elegant, and precise. Christophe Drag, son-in-law of the late Jean Chauvenet, farms 9.5 HA of old vines across the village. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed, there is a brief cold soak, and approximately three weeks cuvaison before the wines are put into barrel. There they age for approximately 18 months before being bottled unfiltered and unfined. The wines are are perfumed, mineral, and show agreat deal of finesse and style, rather than the brute force and power for which Nuits St. Georges is often known. The 2013 premier crus we are offering today offer a broad selection of terroir-expressive Burgundies, ranging from muscular to charming. All deserve space in ones cellar and will make for excellent drinking. John McIlwain
From the vines planted in southern portion of Damodes planted in 1949 and 1956. There are 40cm of brown gravely clay over mother rock. Medium dark robe. The nose is offers an array of dark fruit and floral notes with hints of grilled meat. The palate is distinctly mineral, with salty, reminiscent of iodine flavors giving way to wild blackberry fruit and very fine, velvety tannins. With are the structure builds, but the fruit keeps pace on a long, rising finish. This should drink on the earlier side and pair beautifully with magret of duck or grilled ribeye with herb butter. John McIlwain
From a .17 HA plot of 60-year-old vines in above Perrieres, on a natural wall of calcaire, or limestone. The name Les Poulettes derives from the small game birds found in the area. Christophe Drag notes the site is very warm and sees little wind, so is the first to flower and first harvested. The 2013 shows aromas of blackberry blossoms, dark hedge fruit, and cool herbal notes on the nose. The palate is black-fruited, offering wild blackberry and dark cherry flavors framed by a distinctive mineral edge on a bright, lifted finish. There's a fine balance of structure and fruit and this should drink beautifully in the near term, though I'd wager given time to integrate the elements, there is nice upside for midterm cellaring. Enjoy with mushroom dishes and certainly squab or poussin! John McIlwain
From a .41 HA parcel of old vines next to Chaboeufs on the north side of Vaucrains. The soils are brown, "fat clays make it hard to work the earth" according to vigneron Christophe Drag, with large oolithic stones are the top of the slope. Always the sternest and most majestic of Chauvenet's crus, the 2013 is aromatically dense with layered dark-fruit, game, and spice aromas giving way to pungent soil notes. The palate is similarly complex with pure black cherry, plum, and earthy flavors underlain with distinctively savory, verging on pungent mineral component on a muscular, driving, persistent finish. There are substantial acidity and ripe tannins girding this masculine, but not coarse Vaucrains, which will benefit with time in the cellar. Decant now, better still in 7-10 years when this should sing. A beautiful Vaucrains! John McIlwain
It's no secret that the Jean Chauvenet's 2012 Nuits St. Georges Les Perrières was one of my favorite red Burgundies of the vintage. The 2013 is another winner for the domaine. Chauvenet's Christope Drag farms a .23 hectare parcel of old vines high on the slope adjacent to Les Poulettes and Les Poirets between the holdings farmed by Henri Gouges and Regis Forey. The particularly stony soils retain heat and Christophe says this is typically the first vineyard harvested after the Bourgogne. Personally I find it the most effusively perfumed of his wines with his Vaucrains a close second. The bouquet of the 2013 leaps from the glass, with floral aromas, red fruits, and pretty wild berry aromas, giving way to spices and soil notes. The palate is equally fresh, with red berry, strawberry, Morello cherry, and pipe tobacco flavors giving way to a chalky minerality. There is fine energy and cut to this which carries through on a long, lingering, and building finish. This is certainly a pretty expression of Nuits St. Georges, but has the tannins and acidity to age with grace. John McIlwain