To the north of Givry and Montagny, and located in the northern dead center of the Côte Chalonnaise, Mercurey is the limestone bank's most common and important village. To many, it combines both the best value and the best quality of the entire Côte Chalonnaise appellation, with lightly earthy but well developed and intense reds that are classically austere and can benefit from aging. Production of about 20% Chardonnay is often ignored but there are also several good white cuvées here.
Produced in the villages of Mercurey (5.96 square miles) and the outlying St-Martin-sous-Montaigu (1.41 square miles), the wine-producing land here totals a little less than 7.5 square miles. This size is average, but the total of 1,596 total acres of vineyard land outdo any other village in the Côte Chalonnaise or, for that matter, even the Côte d'Or. Taking second in Burgundy village acreage to only Pouilly-Fuissé, this huge amount of land yields over three million cases of wine each year.
About 20% of the acreage is Premier Cru, which is still high but a decent designator of quality. Though they pale by comparison to the prime-time Côte d'Or cousins, the Mercurey reds are the best of the Côte Chalonnaise. They are deepest in color and flavor, have the most intensity and concentration, and have the best shot at aging for 10 years or more. The whites can also prove very good. For value hunters looking for legitimately great Burgundy at fair prices, Mercurey must be on the shortlist.
The village's history is not particularly interesting, although it came to prominence early as one of the Côte Chalonnaise's more promising areas. The AOC was created in 1936; white wine was surprisingly allowed. White wines had had a cult following for a long time, and they have continued to, despite the prominence of reds in the area.
Climate and Viticulture
The top Côte Chalonnaise land, evidently, is still nowhere near good enough to rival the Côte d'Or for red wine, as if Mercurey occupies the finest of it and cannot compete, other villages certainly are not able to either. But if the Côte d'Or is out of the picture for a moment, the terroir of Mercurey starts to look outstanding. Lying toward the northern end of the Côte Chalonnaise, and thus close to the Côte de Beaune itself, Mercurey takes advantage of excellent temperature and rain conditions that are, indeed, almost Côte d'Or-like.
The most hilly vineyards are often the best, although with too much of a slope they make for lean or "overcooked" wine due to the sun's influence. The soil is composed of a rather chunky composition of white limestone and clay towards the top of the vineyard, with browner, more marl-rich soil towards the vineyard's bottom. The pattern repeats through much of the village but finds more depth in many of the Premier Cru climats.
- Pinot Noir: Mercurey Pinot Noir is almost always 100% varietal, although due to the existence of lower-quality producers there are undoubtedly some blended wines out there. Red fruit is present, ranging from raspberry to the lighter, tangier strawberry flavors that rarely show up in Côte d'Or styles. Ranging from silky to rustically intense, the wine's actual power does vary, but in almost all the wines a gamy richness will show up after a few years of aging. Fans of Mercurey's flavors profess that this is what makes the wines great; indeed, the combination of gamy flavors with a smooth texture makes these wines quite appealing. Even the nastily lean wines can be aged and hopefully improved. These wines can age for 10 years or more, but don't overdo it; 3-5 might be the right amount of time.
- Chardonnay: The history of Mercurey white wine is fairly interesting. Popularity for it has ebbed and flowed over the years, but there's no doubt that nowadays it is at one of its highs. Critics have hailed the wines as buttery and spicy with an almost Meursault-like creaminess, and they often provide plenty of fruit as well. Making up about 20% of production, they have a number of noble followers and producers but still take a significant back seat to the reds.
The amount of acreage in Mercurey means that wine quality is rather inconsistent, but practically any Premier Cru wine should have the typical flavors of the appellation, if not anything outstanding. A list of the leading red producers follows; we cite five of the top most reliable and available domaines.
- Château de Chamirey: The village wine is highly rated but at $40 a bit pricey for the appellation. The Premier Cru Les Ruelles is even better, but prices are ranging over $60. Aging on both is optional.
- Faiveley: Faiveley frequently trumps its competitors on both quality and quantity in Mercurey. The basic village Mercurey, which is under $30 and sometimes as little as $20, is initially a bit intense but can age and be harmonious enough. The Les Mauvarennes is a rather undistinguished lieu-dit; the La Framboisière is also a village-level vineyard but shows pleasant if simple flavors of dark fruit and game. Among Premiers Crus, the Clos des Myglands is a monopole, and the wine is another step up, with more energetic, fresher flavors of smoky, silky red fruit. This one will be perfectly elegant with a few years' age. The Clos du Roi is the leading wine here, with a silky texture and smooth dark fruit and spice scents.
- Domaine Emile Juillot: From the Premier Cru of Les Champs Martin, Juillot makes one of the better value Mercurey Premier Cru wines. It can often be found for under $30, and competes with more expensive wines of other villages. Give its red fruit flavors a little time to age, but it should be plenty round and elegant after five years or more.
- Domaine Bruno Lorenzon: Lorenzon's wines have a good pedigree in Mercurey. There will not likely be much of a difference between the village wine and the Les Champs Martin Premier Cru--although Lorenzon will often charge more like $30-$40 for the Premier Cru, and less for the village wine. Age the wines for a few years and they should have plenty of red-fruit character.
- Domaine de Villaine: The owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Aubert de Villaine, centers his Côte Chalonnaise holdings around the impressive Mercurey offerings. The basic Pinot Noir red, labeled Rouge, is usually reliable enough, but better levels of quality are found in the Les Montots lieu-dit. With good depth and concentration, and enough berry character to age past its initial rusticity, this is an outstanding wine of the appellation.
As our leading producer of white wine, Domaine Louis Carillon et Fils is a standout. Carillon, known for their Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet of outstanding quality, clearly uses its knowledge of top wine to edge out the competing Mercurey producers. The white wine made from the Premier Cru of Champs-Martin is sweet, nutty, and has good character of exotic yellow fruit, especially peach. It tends to have more intensity and depth than other wines of the village, but even so it is not as good as most Montagnys from the neighboring village.
The 30 Premiers Crus for both red and white wine are not as conservatively judged as those in the Côte d'Or; as such, quality is not guaranteed to be higher than in other villages. Still, the designation is more strict than in any other village of the Côte Chalonnaise and considering Mercurey's 1,500 acres, 30 climats still seems low. A list of the Premiers Crus, with some information about the top ones, follows.
- La Bondue
- Les Byots
- La Cailloute
- La Chassière
- Clos des Barraults
- Clos Château de Montaigu
- Le Clos l'Évêque
- Clos des Grands Voyens
- Clos Marcilly
- Clos des Montaigus
- Clos des Myglands: This monopole of Faiveley has made some of the most reliable wine from Mercurey for decades. Fresh yet smoky and thick, it has plenty of red fruit and additional depth of spicy herbs.
- Clos de Paradis
- Le Clos du Roi: Another vineyard dominated by Faiveley, although this one is not a monopole. Faiveley's leading wine comes from here; with smoother, darker fruit and a silky texture, it is more finessed and at the same time more complex than the Clos des Myglands.
- Clos Tonnerre
- Clos Voyens
- Les Champs Martin: Now this is probably the most commonly seen Mercurey Premier Cru. The best white wine in Mercurey comes from here, made by Louis Carillon, with good intensity and exotic fruit as well as Mercurey white's usual spicy character. Reds from Domaine Emile Juillot and Domaine Bruno Lorenzon are very good too.
- Les Combins
- Les Crêts
- Les Croichots
- Les Fourneaux
- Grand Clos Fortoul
- La Levrière
- La Mission
- Les Montaigus
- Les Naugues
- Les Puillets
- Les Ruelles: There is some good wine from Château de Chamirey here; although hard to find and expensive, it has more complexity than the Château's village wine.
- Les Saumonts
- Les Vasées
- Les Velley
- Les Vignes de Maillonges