Nicolas Potel Santenay Vieilles Vignes 2008
There have been lots of Bordeaux and Loire Valley wines on Winedoctor recently, and rightly so, nevertheless I though we should perhaps look elsewhere this week. And I've decided to visit one of Burgundy's lesser appellations, Santenay, a small commune not-quite-sandwiched between the Côte d'Or's famous white wine appellations of Puligny and Chassagne to the north, and the less exalted Côte Chalonnaise vineyards of Rully, Mercurey, Montagne and Givry to the south. I say "not-quite-sandwiched" because the Côte d'Or isn't quite to the north, it heads off in a direction rather more north-easterly than northerly. If Santenay lies within a sandwich, it is a filling that has slipped out to the side a little.
When looking for good-value alternatives to the wines of the Côte d'Or it is only natural that many turn to other nearby regions of Burgundy, such as the Chalonnaise communes and of course Mâcon too. But we should not overlook the fact that good value can be found not just outside but also within the Côte d'Or. Communes that hide in the valleys to the west, such as Saint-Aubin (not far from Puligny) and Savigny-lès-Beaune (surprisingly enough, not that far from Beaune) are happy hunting grounds in this respect, as are the communes at either end of the golden slope. As the Côte de Nuits peters to the north out there is Fixin, for instance, and its counterpoint at the opposite end, as the Côte d'Or gives way to the Côte Chalonnaise, is Santenay.
The vineyards of Santenay are indeed contiguous with those of Chassagne-Montrachet, curving slowly around the wooded hill to the north (behind which lies the aforementioned Saint-Aubin) before they hand control over to Maranges, the Côte d'Or's very final outpost. The village of Santenay itself lies pretty much at the centre of the vines, although more at the bottom of the slope than the top. Slightly higher up the slope, to the west, is Le Haut-Santenay, a smaller collection of dwellings, distant from the main focus of the village but still very much part of Santenay. The vines planted al around are , perhaps surprisingly in view of our proximity to Puligny, Chassagne and Meursault, mostly red, with only a small proportion of the vineyard given over to white. Nevertheless these whites, just like those of Saint-Aubin over the hill, can be of good quality.
This week's wine is one of the rare examples of white Santenay, an old-vines cuvée, and comes from Nicolas Potel. Well, sort of, anyway. This wine is notable in that it comes from the time when Nicolas Potel and his domaine parted ways. Because of prior financial difficulties Nicolas Potel was no longer owner of Maison Nicolas Potel, as this honour fell to investors Louis and Armand Cottin, two brothers who had lead the reinvigoration of the négociant house Labouré-Roi. They went their separate ways in April 2009, Nicolas to his own domaine which he had established in 2007, while Domaine Nicolas Potel (yes, confusing!) remained in the hands of Labouré-Roi. So although Nicolas almost certainly had a hand in making this wine, it seems unlikely that he was around when it finally went into bottle. As for the wine itself, the Nicolas Potel Santenay Vieilles Vignes 2008 has, beneath its deeply coloured cork (whatever that means) an appealing character. Aromatically it is very much a wine of Burgundy, showing very restrained fruit, with cashew nut and citrus zest nuances coming in from behind, as well as a very prominent matchsticky reduction, a characteristic which I find really appealing. It is admirably composed on the palate, with a pithy substance to it and a fresh, punchy weight. There is plenty of grip through the middle and finish, supporting what is a very tight fruit profile. This is a wine more about grip and pithy substance than any fruit softness. And there is quite a long, grippy finish to it. Overall, a good wine, which I am sure would develop very nicely with a few years in the cellar. 16/20 (16/5/11)