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A Winning Match
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
May 6, 2008
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Domaine Jessiaume Père et Fils Santenay Gravieres 1er cru (Burgundy), 2005 (Wine West USA, $38):  Although I am not enamored of many 2005 white Burgundies, particularly those from Chablis, I am thoroughly enjoying the 2005 red Burgundies that I taste.  I fault the Chablis wines for being too ripely fruity, at the expense of their minerality, and too soft, despite having fresh and fairly high acidity.  However, the same ripe fruitiness and softness seems only to enhance the 2005 red Burgundies.

The 2005 Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Gravieres is a surprisingly affordable premier cru Burgundy that shows all the charm of the vintage itself.  It has impressive concentration of black cherry fruit on the nose, coupled with a marked mineral character that I find typical of Santenay.  The palate is full-bodied with enough acidity to lend the wine fresh, clean vibrancy and yet the wine has a soft, velvety texture.  The flavor of ripe black cherry reinforces the impression of softness.  Yet beneath it lies a fine, gravelly grip that is not unusual in Santenay. 

Until recently, I had not heard of Domaine Jessiaume, because their wines were in limited distribution in this country.  The winery is a longstanding presence in Burgundy, however, having been founded in the 1850s.   In 2006, Sir David Murray, who is chairman of Scotland's Rangers Football Club, purchased the estate.  He and his son, Keith, are the same Murray Family that purchased Chateau Routas in Provence in 2005.  Marc and Pascal Jessiaume continue to manage the estate and make the wine.  Domaine Jessiaume is the largest landholder in the premier cru of Santenay Gravieres.  It also owns premier cru vineyards in Auxey Duresses, Volnay and Beaune.

Santenay, situated it the Côte de Beaune, is the southernmost major wine village in the Côte d'Or.  Its vineyard acreage is the third largest in the Côte de Beaune, and Les Gravieres is the village's largest premier cru vineyard, almost 59 acres in size.  The wines of Santenay are sometimes described as a bit earthy or coarse, and many of them do suggest a certain rusticity compared to the refined red Burgundies of villages such as Volnay or Chambolle-Musigny.  But these generalizations are less true of the premier cru wines, which can show considerable refinement.

Despite how lovely the Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Gravieres 2005 is right now, the wine clearly has the ability to develop and improve with age.  One of my reasons for saying this is that the wine actually improves as it sits in the glass.  At first its nose was pleasant but light; only with time did its fruit concentration become evident.  Another reason is that the wine's finish is so long and so juicy.  Nonetheless, I might hesitate to cellar the wine for five years.  After all, a bird in the hand…!

Use a large Burgundy glass to help the wine open up.  Pair it with simple foods, especially those with earthy flavors, such as beans or green vegetables, or with simple meats and fish.  I would avoid any dishes with fruity flavors only because, while the wine is very fruity, it is still a Burgundy, and not nearly so fruity as New world Pinot Noirs.

Burgundy, a great vintage, a premier cru vineyard, and less than $40 a bottle: Now that's a winning match (or however football fans phrase it in Scotland).

91 Points