Thursday, August 16, 2007

Exploring Burgundy: Hautes Côtes de Nuits

Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Domaine Olivier & Anne-Marie Rion 2004 (Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ)
The divided story of the Rion family is becoming an increasingly typical one as the generations roll on in Burgundy. The middle of three sons of Daniel Rion, Olivier Rion has been at the helm of his family’s estate, Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils, since 2000. At that time, his elder brother Patrice, who had carried the torch since Daniel’s retirement, left the family business to solidify his own company which he started ten years earlier. Patrice sold his share of Domaine Rion – one-third according to the Napoleonic code – to Olivier. In the midst of all this, Olivier started his own Domaine based on property inherited by his wife, Anne-Marie, and on some small plots they’d purchased together. The resulting estate, Domaine Olivier & Anne-Marie Rion, currently makes tiny quantities of just three wines, all of them estate bottled: a Bourgogne Rouge, Hautes Côtes de Nuits and a Côte de Nuits Villages from the lieu-dit "La Prètière."

The Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits comes, as the name literally suggests, from the “high” western slopes and hilltops looking down on the communes of Comblanchien and Premeaux, just south of the heart of Nuits St. Georges. This wine tends to be a bit of a sleeper, sometimes being slightly weedy or tangy in its youth. The 2004, however, is now coming into its stride. Showing a lovely clarity of translucent dark red tones in the glass, its aromas are now of primary fruit and the beginnings of bottle development. Gone are any herbal tones; moving in are aromas of smoky black cherry fruit, wild strawberry compote and rhubarb. Its finely grained grip sneaks up, pairing with bright, frontal acidity. Flavors on the palate are in keeping with the aromas and are quite persistent. I enjoyed it thoroughly with thyme roasted chicken thighs, beets and potatoes but I’d love to have another look at it with a simple, grilled filet of wild salmon.

Olivier is a slight, quiet yet clearly passionate man who opts to let his farming and wine making speak in his stead. The wines from the main family Domaine have steadily improved under his supervision and his own estate is quickly becoming one to watch. Based on the progress of this 2004 Hautes Côtes de Nuits, I think it might be wise to stow away a few bottles of the 2005, now on the market, for future enjoyment.

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