St-Aubin is a village of slightly over 3.6 square miles located right to the west of Chassagne-Montrachet. Unsurprisingly, the white wines produced there are of a very similar style. The village yields slightly more than 400 acres of vineyards, of which the great majority are classified as Premier Cru. As a result, the general standard is high, but the best of the Premiers Crus must be looked to to find wine that's truly ahead of its competitors.
In a market where white wine is no longer the center of attention, many people are no longer interested in purchasing an extremely expensive bottle of white Burgundy. For those who love Montrachet, St-Aubin offers a much less expensive way to get those flavors, albeit not in quite a Grand Cru style. Burgundy's great red grape makes up just about 1/4 of production, but this figure is misleading as red wine is very obscure here. Hence, this is almost entirely a white wine appellation.
The St-Aubin appellation was officially created in 1970, along with the second wave of Burgundy appellations. The village allowed both white wine and red wine. At the time, the village was rather obscure, and its history up until then was not too exciting. Nowadays, it is becoming more of a hub for Montrachet-style white wine as people look to find this style without breaking the pocketbook on Grand Cru or even Puligny or Chassagne Premier Cru wine.
Climate and Viticulture
St-Aubin does not lie on a hill as Montrachet and the greatest Grand Cru vineyards do, but rather in a somewhat weather-protected small valley. While the commune itself is fairly large, only some areas are suitable for vineyards, and as a result much of the wine produced here is somewhat inauspicious. But the best vineyard sites with steadily concentrated soil can utilize the rain and wind protection of a valley and make wine of a greatly elegant style.
Certain top Premier Cru vineyards are actually situated on the hill above the valley. Strategically located in the areas where wind and fog will not make the wine lean, these vineyards often produce some of the most characterful white wine. The Pinot Noir grape, it should be noted, does not do as well due to a slightly warmer climate in St-Aubin, as well as less optimized soils.
- Chardonnay: The famed grape of Montrachet is much less esteemed in St-Aubin, producing much less expensive wine. Comparison of the resulting wine to Montrachet isn't always wise due to Montrachet's greater complexity, but the general flavor core of nuts, peach, and other powerful ripe yellow fruits seems to exist in both wines. Usually, these wines do not have the sweetness or, similarly, richness, of the top Montrachets, Chassagne-Montrachets, and Puligny-Montrachets either, instead preferring a classically dry but not austere style. At the price, however, even if they are not "mini-Montrachets" they must be considered good value for the area. They are not built to age and won't last longer than about eight years.
- Pinot Noir: The Pinot Noir here is produced in the style of many of the second-tier Côte de Beaune villages: a softly elegant, beautifully rounded style with sweet Pinot flavors and a prominent cherry aspect. Several Premier Cru wines can often take on more sophistication, but most of the time this is the general model. They are designed for drinking young and even the best usually will not age well after about five years.
There are eight major producers of St-Aubin white wine that we would like to mention. As well as getting consistently high scores from critics, these wines should be reasonably easy to find and purchase for a competitive price. These examples are discussed in the below subregions section.
- Philippe Colin
- Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey
- Maison Deux Montilles
- Morey Blanc
- Domaine Bernard Morey et Fils
- Château de Puligny Montrachet
- Domaine Ramonet
For red wine, Domaine Ramonet would have to be considered the top producer. Its red wine from the Premier Cru of Le Charmois is round, slightly sweet, and a somewhat simply structured wine, but good nonetheless. A mineral note will emerge early, and be present for as long as the wine is. Age the wine for eight years maximum.
There are no Grands Crus within St-Aubin, and about 3/4 of the vineyard land is designated Premier Cru, so the lieux-dits are of little importance. Here is a list of St-Aubin's 20 Premiers Crus.
- Les Castets
- Les Champlots: Deep, rich wines from Philippe Colin are serious to begin with and only become more complex with time. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey makes a similar example. Both are reasonably affordable.
- Le Charmois: Bernard Morey et Fils often makes great wine from here; although it's not as consistent as one might like, the best vintages have a honeyed richness rarely found outside a Montrachet appellation. This is also the source of Philippe Colin's flagship St-Aubin cuvée, which has great intensity and seriousness at first but may become a masterpiece if left to age. In addition, Ramonet makes both its white and red St-Aubin from this vineyard; both are minerally, round but structured appellation leaders.
- La Chatenière: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey takes the true prize here: as well as the usual exotic flavors, it has concentration that sets it apart from the other wines of this appellation.
- Les Combes: The dense wine from Morey Blanc can be reminiscent of Chassagne-Montrachet, its fruit flavors packed together in a layered fashion. From Philippe Colin and Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey this Premier Cru takes on a more austere character, although the underlying fruit and mineral flavors are similar.
- Les Cortons
- Derrière chez Édouard
- Derrière la Tour
- En Créot
- En Remilly: The Château de Puligny Montrachet example is really more like a miniature Chassagne-Montrachet; with citrus fruit and mineral intensity overpowering all the other flavors, it's a concentrated if occasionally lean wine with the potential for aging. Girardin makes a similarly serious cuvée. But Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey makes wine that really is more like Montrachet itself: with a supple richness intensified by suggestions of a multiplicity of exotic fruits, this wine is often considered the top white St-Aubin.
- Les Frionnes
- Les Murgers des Dents de Chien: Different styles are displayed by different wines here. The more Chassagne-Montrachet-like, citrus-and-minerals side of things is presented by Girardin's smooth wine, and a more stony, intense characteristic is exhibited by Maison Deux Montilles' offerings. Both are deep enough to be aged. Bouchard's cuvée is also worth mentioning.
- Les Perrières
- Le Puits: Sweet, exotic wines from Bernard Morey et Fils lead the list here.
- Sous Roche Dumay
- Sur Gamay: Maison Deux Montilles is the main producer here; precise and approachable with rich spice and florality, the wine supersedes the same producer's Murgers des Dents de Chien.
- Sur le Sentier du Clou
- Vignes Moingeon