Cellar Direct Winter Wines: Giraudon Bourgogne Chitry

21 12 2019

By Raymond Lamontagne

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Week three of our Cellar Direct winter run sees us land in some classic territory, at least in the broader regional sense. You can obtain a good rundown of how this wine club works here, although I have an important update to report before I launch into this week’s release. Due to some confusion stemming from the three-tier pricing system, you can now order one bottle or more of any release, with bottles no longer offered in hard multiples of three. So if you want to try something without committing to a larger minimum allotment (as is often the case for me, someone who drinks very widely across regions and grapes), voila. You are set. However, shipping will still be by the case, so if you order 1 bottle, 6 bottles, or 10 bottles, the shipping cost will be the same as for a full case of 12. If you don’t mind committing to a full case, you will get a 10% discount on your order. As before, you can also accumulate bottles up to a full case, so making shipping costs far more economically viable (I recommend this option if you can be patient). Clear as mud? Alright. Let’s talk Burgundy.

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Can you find Chitry on here?

Novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney once stated “If it’s red, French, costs too much, and tastes like water that’s been left in the vase after the flowers have died and rotted, it’s probably Burgundy”. I think he meant this with love. You’d still be hard pressed to find a more polarizing wine region, with the faithful continuing to chase that haunting essence that can be obtained nowhere else, while the detractors keep mustering arguments (often quite reasonable) that the region remains a maze of brittle, boring wines that ride the coattails of the few otherworldly but cost-prohibitive estates and vineyard sites. I fall firmly into the “intensely passionate about Burgundy” camp, and just maybe it is becoming a bit easier to find that bargain sweet spot where the wines are supple and delicious but do not require taking out a second mortgage to obtain in quantity. I’ve skinned knees exploring the dusty Burgundy quality pyramid, but I’ve also faceplanted into some surprises where I did not expect to find them, Premier Cru quality at village prices. Don’t give up hope and try to enjoy the ride. All that being said, where the hell is Chitry?

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2018 Giraudon Bourgogne Chitry ($29)

My usual “go to” initial sources, Robert Parker’s eternally compelling yet ironically Parkerized (in a literary sense) “Burgundy”, and Clive Coates’ “The Wines of Burgundy”, are rather silent on the topic. Parker says nothing at all, whereas Coates mentions that Chitry represents a wine good enough to append its village name to “Bourgogne”, yielding an appellation just a whisker higher on the quality pyramid than the generic “appellations regionales” that are not permitted to be more specific. He describes the Pinot Noirs from here as wines to drink young and cool. Going a little deeper, Chitry is about as northerly as it gets in Burgundy, falling in the Yonne department just west of cold Chablis and nearly halfway to Sancerre in the Loire Valley. The vineyard area in Chitry is tiny, a mere 67 hectares of which 26.72 is planted to Pinot Noir for red and rose wines, the remainder to Chardonnay (according to official statistics; the region also yields a Bourgogne Aligote that must use this designation on the label). It might be easy to completely dismiss this as a viticultural backwater were it not for the soils, clay-limestones that resemble those of Chablis and that correlate nicely with quality wine production. Aurélie Giraudon would not have you forget what this land can do.

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To hear Aurélie discuss what she does is to get an intimate glimpse into a family winery that is a big fish in a small pond. A few decades ago most producers in Chitry made a Chablis to lure people into the region to taste the bona fide Chitry wines. Now times have changed. Although much of the Pinot Noir is still sold to a nearby cooperative, to be blended with the produce of nearby villages and sold as Bourgogne Rouge, over the next four years the growers of the appellation plan to plant another 20 hectares of Bourgogne Chitry. Aurélie and her brother Thibault harvest parcel by parcel and ferment each separately in vats or tanks, blending to yield a desired style. Because the winery remains small, different cuvées are bottled over the course of each year (due to lack of storage space!), with the earlier wines lighter and more fruit-forward, whereas the later bottlings require more time before they are ready to drink. The grapes are 85% de-stemmed and the wines receive a pre-fermentation maceration for several days. Get this: at Domaine Giraudon there are no barrels. The Giraudon siblings say that their father Marcel was never a huge fan, and they have continued the tradition of relying on careful blending to round out the wines.

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Cork Rating: 2/10 (Noooo… “Mis En Boutteille”!!! In fairness though, this winery cannot afford name-branded corks.)

The nose here is lush with dulcet crystalline red fruits: sweet cherries, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranates, red plums. Fresh rose petal, Baby’s-breath, and lilac drift above, while a few tufts of unsmoked menthol cigarette packet, potting soil, button mushroom, and raw hamburger meat languish below. Jay McInerney’s flower vase to be sure, although the blossoms are clearly alive and kicking and the next time you want to surprise your partner, considering bringing this home instead of the usual bouquet. No oak to be found and none seems needed… this is fruity, floral Pinot Noir in its virginal state. The cranberry cocktail, rose hip, and blood orange palate is buoyed by a robust yet classy acidity and a scant dusting of spritely powdery tannins. This has a longer than expected finish of tart cherry gum and plum skin. Precise, but more like calligraphy than a laser beam. A delicate latticework that might just break if you drop it onto the floor. Hold it gently if you can refrain from crushing, which might be a tall ask.

88+ points     


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