SAINT ROMAIN

Posted by admin | May 10, 2020 | Blog

Saint Romain stands at the foot of an impressive rock outcrop, with a magnificent view out over the Saone River valley and across the vineyards below. Because of this commanding position, there have been settlements on this spot since early pre-historic times. And so, some of the earliest plantations of vines in Burgundy were in this protected narrow valley to the west of Auxey-Duresses. Above and beyond the village are vineyards classified Hautes Côtes de Beaune. In fact, until 1947 the 235 acres of vines in Saint Romain were themselves classified as Hautes Cotes. But the quality of the sub-soil, for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, fully justify the village appellation of Saint Romain.

Saint Romain, (with the exception of Chorey les Beaune to the north), is the only village appellation in the Cote d’Or to have no premiers or grands crus. However, many wines mention the name of the single-vineyard from which they originate, and many of these are well-known in their own right.

While technically part of the Cote de Beaune, Saint-Romain is in a completely isolated valley situated to the north of the primary escarpment of the Cote d’Or. Its higher altitude and less “perfect” situation relegated it to a lower rung on the hierarchy historically, because it is more difficult for grapes in such a position to achieve optimal ripeness. However, given the ever-escalating temperatures in Burgundy over the past decade, Saint-Romain rarely suffers from ripeness issues anymore—and in fact it can offer freshness and vibrancy in warmer vintages.

There are several distinct soil zones in the valley leading up to the village. Coming up the valley from Auxey-Duresses, vines on the left are apt to be Pinot Noir. On the right in a south-facing amphitheater, you find the majority of the village vineyards. And here there is a distinct difference in soil make up, with the hills flanking to the left being better for Chardonnay. Traditionally, Saint Romain was white, but producers have found parcels that work well for Pinot, so that today white accounts for about 55% of the production.

Chardonnay benefits from a rich vein of limestone here that gives Saint Romain whites a distinctive freshness in their minerality. Lemony notes are frequently lime tinted. And white floral notes are common.

Pinot Noir shows itself as ruby red in youth with black fruit notes of blackberry and red notes of raspberry. These wines drink well young, especially in riper years, with forward fruit and spicy mineral notes. They have aging potential up to 10 years.

Notably higher (at between 350-410 meters) and cooler than the rest of the Cote d’Or, these vineyards have the potential to produce a style of Burgundy all their own. With a very interesting mix of geologic strata based on the earliest Jurassic period, we get swirls of limestone and marl, notably calcaire actif that is particularly interesting for Chardonnay and produces a specific minerality completely different from other zones of white Burgundy production.

Elden Selections presents the Saint Romain wines from the Domaine Germain Pere et Fils, one of only 9 domains actually based in the village. 

Coincidently, we found their Saint Romain white on a restaurant list in Santenay the same night that other Elden team members found the same wine in another restaurant.  We were all so impressed that we went the next day to taste the full range of the wines at the winery.

With admirable yields and concentration, this Saint Romain white is taken seriously right from the start. Add 30% new oak and 8-9 months of aging and batonnage, and you get a very classy Chardonnay with the unique and superbly subtle Saint Romain minerality, full, rich and dense, with elegant floral notes, good lemon-lime acidity in its youthful charm.

This Saint Romain red is from perhaps the best-known vineyard in the appellation: Sous le Chateau’. And with one taste you will understand its justified reputation. Here’s a Pinot that is startlingly charming in its youth. Fresh, clean and delicious. Round, not a hint of green. Full, juicy fruit explodes with youthful acidity. What a mouthful. And then, there, behind all this immediate pleasure, comes a structure which tells you that you want to save a few bottles of this for the future. But that might be hard to do, given the way it’s drinking today.