Your Wine IQ

Mercurey


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Burgundy Right Côte Chalonnaise Right Mercurey


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.

History

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.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

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.

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.

Subregions

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.