“Theological, nourishing and death-defying”. The local motto of the large village of Savigny-lès -Beaune certainly makes some bold claims about the wines that are produced here. Many would swear to all three, however, after tasting these wines, which are amongst the finest in Burgundy and surely one of its best-kept secrets.
The village itself nestlès in a valley of the Côte d’Or escarpment, near to the town of Beaune (‘lès’-with the accent- means ‘near’ in French). Most of the wines made here are red – Pinot Noir of course – but around 10% are white, from the Chardonnay grape. The valley that the village is situated in has made Savigny- lès -Beaune one of the most fruitful regions of Burgundy with a huge volume of wine produced – lots of south-facing slopes, with the lower ones full of fertile silt from the Rhoin river. Higher up the valley, think of the Corton mountain (home of some of the most valuable and revered Burgundy wines) and you’ll get an idea of the quality and the geology here.
Although there are no Grand Cru plots, the 22 Premier Cru climats of Savigny-lès-Beaune are just waiting to be discovered. There’s no better place to begin this journey of discovery than with the excellent small producers that Elden Selections work with. Both reds and whites from this village are well catered for, with a great choice on offer. The reds include Jean-Fery’s Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru ‘Lès Vergelèsses’ (note that there is a white and a red ‘Lès Vergelèsses’ just to confuse things). Situated below Lès Vergelèsses, you’ll find the ‘Lès Lavieres’ such as this 1er Cru, from Marchand-Tawse (ample and suave, it has loads of aging potential but can also be drunk straight away). And despite not being Premier Cru, the Jean-Jacques Girard Savigny lès Beaune Red is not only great value for money but is supple, graceful, and full of finesse.
An example of a white ‘Lès Vergelèsses’ is produced by Jean Fery and it’s a real eye-catcher – fresh and elegant, it’s great with fish in sauce, and an array of cheeses – especially goats’ cheese. Then there’s the delicious Marchand-Tawse 1er Cru (also Vergelèsses, not to be confused with yet another similar sounding Premier Cru nearby called Ile des Vergelèsses..)
But don’t merely confine your pleasures to the wines from around here – get to know the charming village, and visit if you can. Its chateau houses a collection of racing cars and fighter planes (which chateau worth its salt wouldn’t?) and there’s a church with a glorious Romanesque bell tower to enjoy too. Throw in great campsites and wine festivals, and it remains one of the best kept secrets of Burgundy. And whoever engraved the stonework of some of the houses here summed up the most compelling reasons to drink which have ever been recorded. The reasons for the consumption of wine in Savigny go as follows: ‘the arrival of a guest, current thirst, future thirst, not to mention the quality of the wine, and all those you’d care to imagine’. We’ll drink to that.