Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Exploring Burgundy: Morey-Saint-Denis

Morey-St.-Denis sits in the heartland of the Côte de Nuits, sandwiched between its more famous neighbors Chambolle-Musigny to the south and Gevrey-Chambertin to the north. Though its wines are not as undervalued as those of Auxey-Duresses, for instance, they can be somewhat easier on the pocketbook relative to the wines from neighboring communes. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that Morey-St.-Denis suffers in recognition even compared to Nuits-St.-Georges, which includes no Grand Cru vineyards, in spite of the fact that Morey does sport its fair share of great growth sites. In fact, over 50% of the acreage in Morey-St.-Denis is rated either Premier or Grand Cru, one of the highest concentrations of top sites in all of Burgundy.

So why this relative obscurity? Up until the 1960’s, nearly all of the fruit grown and wine produced in Morey was sold to négociants. And much of it was labeled, depending upon style, as either Gevrey-Chambertin or Chambolle-Musigny. It’s only since the modern swell in prominence of small estate bottlers that the individual reputation of Morey has finally started to come into its own. Still, its wines tend to be described relative to those from neighboring communes – one part grace à la Chambolle-Musigny and one part sinewy structure as in Gevrey-Chambertin.

Morey-Saint-Denis “Vieilles Vignes,” Domaine Truchot-Martin 2004
While I can’t say that Jacky Truchot’s wines are exemplars of the typicity of today’s Morey-St.-Denis, they certainly do epitomize the elegance of which the commune’s wines are capable. His is a style, based on the farming and winemaking practices he learned in the 1960’s, which expresses the deepest, oldest traditions of the region. Few if any other producers still make wines in his manner; regrettably, neither does he. Jacky retired at the end of the 2005 vintage, making this 2004 the penultimate bottling of MSD “Vieilles Vignes” ever to emerge from his estate.

Like virtually all of M. Truchot’s wines, the first thing that strikes notice is the incredibly pale yet pretty hue of the wine in the glass. Pigment and tannin extraction techniques were, to say the least, subtle within Jacky’s regime. However, there is no resulting loss in savor or aroma. The wine nearly leapt from the glass. I accommodated by gladly accepting its invitation to explore. What did it taste like? The combination of aromas and flavors brought back a clear scent memory from the past: the beach. I’ve had plenty of red Burgundy’s that have hinted at the flavors of seaweed and the fishing pier; not this one. Here, the experience was literally like taking a deep inhalation while standing at the shoreline at sunset on a warm September evening – soft, fresh, invigorating and comfortably reassuring. Subjective, yes, but that was the wine. I’ll miss it.

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