Sometimes I write up wines because the grape, region or producer particularly interests me. In this case though, it’s a wine that is made to mess with people who think they know about wine. The wine for today is a classic Sauvignon Blanc from Burgundy, the Goisot Saint-Bris 2007.
Now if you know little or nothing about wine, the words Sauvignon Blanc and Burgundy might all seem fine in a sentence because one is a grape, one is a region, and what’s not to like. However, when you know slightly more than a little, you’ll believe that white Burgundy means Chardonnay. Then, just when you think you know what you’re talking about you’ll be able to meaningfully drop Aligoté as a charming, lesser known, Burgundian white grape. It’s at that point someone will pour you a glass of Saint-Bris, tell you only it’s from Burgundy, and watch you try to decide if it’s Chardonnay or Aligoté.
Honestly though, I love that there is always something to learn about wine – there’s always some obscure region that is worth exploring or a new producer doing something interesting that’s worth trying. And along the same line, there’s no point in thinking you know very much about wine, because there’s no shortage of things that are unknown, new, or both.
But really, there isn’t much that’s unusual about this wine except to people who think they know more than they do. Saint-Bris is a region of Burgundy just south of Chablis, which puts it closer to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé than to Côte des Beaune. So really, instead of asking why Sauvignon Blanc is planted in Saint-Bris, one could just as readily ask why Chardonnay is planted in Chablis? Fortunately, that’s not actually a question I want to try to answer here, because I’m actually quite fond of Chablis as it is, and as this is my first Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc, I’m liking it even before my first sip.
To actually address Saint-Bris as more than a curiosity, it is a proper AOC, since 2001 that is, for white wine within Burgundy, best known as the only Sauvignon Blanc AOC, though Sauvignon Gris is also permitted even if rarely present. Before the formalization of the AOC system, it was sometimes sold as Chablis, and pre-phylloxera it hosted another white grape, Roublot, though it was largely replanted with Sauvignon Blanc. The climate is cool continental with frost an annual danger, and the soil is not so different from its northern neighbour, Chablis, with clay and limestone.
Sauvignon Blanc is generally worth a few pages, and this is actually the first varietal I’ve had since I started this blog, but I can’t bring myself to first write it as a grape in the context of Saint-Bris when there are so many other regions more readily identified with the grape. I will instead put the discussion of Sauvignon Blanc as a grape on hold until I have a Sancerre or a Marlborough offering in hand, and as the summer is fading here, it will need to be sooner rather than later.
Domain Goisot is a family with over six centuries of history Saint-Bris, which has itself been home to vines for nearly 2,000 years. They’re located in Saint-Bris itself, though they produce wines of a few local appellations, including other Sauvignon Blancs and a Pinot Noir.
The first thing I noticed about this wine in the glass is that it was slightly oxidized. It was a medium minus gold colour, with a quick film upon swirling. On the nose was bruised apple, almond, lemon/lime, and a vegetal aroma like a freshly cut open squash or pumpkin. On the palate there was high tart acidity, with notes of lemon, mineral, and more of the vegetal flavour. It had a medium plus length, a medium minus body, a medium plus intensity, and a medium length with a tinned asparagus finish.
I bought this wine as a bin end, and while I’ve certainly enjoyed learning about the region and producer, I had some concern this bottle was not in ideal condition. Being five years old and a varietal not typically known for having huge ageing potential, I knew I was taking a chance, and when it showed notes suggesting it was oxidized, I initially thought it was past its prime, but having looked more closely at the Goisot website, I’m not so sure.
I’m honestly not sure I would have guessed Sauvignon Blanc had I been poured this blind, though the vegetal character, especially the asparagus should have given that away. I’ve read that Saint-Bris produces Sauvignon Blanc but with Chablis technical treatment. I’m not actually sure I know what that means, but given that this one has gone through malolactic fermentation, and has spent time on lees, it could mean that there’s a fair amount of winemaking employed on it. And with that in mind, I’m calling this a good wine, though one I would like to try again in a younger form (the wine, not me).
Having skipped key parts of what I try to keep as my standard post format, I’m feeling slightly guilty that the whose raison d’être of this post is to point out that there’s an appellation in Burgundy based around Sauvignon Blanc. While that was incredibly novel to me when I first found that out (a few days ago), it’s not a great insight – it’s a bit of trivia you either know or you don’t. I do enjoy such tidbits, but in the future I’ll try to keep them as asides or footnotes instead of devoting an entire post to one.