Burgundy is changing. You know it, I know it. Masked by bucolic fields rippling with mustard plants and roaming sheep are million dollar real-estate deals, and a small spate of wines that only make it into the hand of the very wealthy and privileged. These wines are bought, then sold, then bought again, in an elite, expensive game of diminishing returns. At what point does one simply give up, knowing that Burgundy, at the top tier, is completely out of one’s league? At what point do you submit to the idea that this wine region, that you love so much, is beyond your means?
Vanquish these bleak thoughts. Immediately! And let us introduce you to the wines of Frédéric Esmonin.
Here’s the skinny. These guys are farmers, in the truest sense of the word. Not long-haired, mortor-cycle riding farmers, or orange-jeans, Ray-Ban sunglasses wearing farmers, but salt-of-the-earth, regular-folk farmers. Until about 1988, most all of their grapes were sold to negociants like Leroy, Drouhin & Jadot, with just a small run of bottlings for sale. Aside from a nice chuck of the Estournelles 1er Cru vineyard, they have tiny slices of village, 1er and Grand Cru holdings in Gevrey-Chambertain.
And they make fabulous wines. We have had the privilege of being able to taste their Ruchottes Grand Crus from 1949 (extraordinary) 1988, 1989, 1996, 1999 & 2000, as well as preview the 2008-2011. The Mazy Grand Crus from 1996, 1999 & 2000 showed tremendously recently, at a dinner, as well. I had a 2008 Bourgogne Rouge that charmed my socks off, with a friend a few months ago. And just this February (2013) I was able to taste through the young but lovely line-up of their 2011s. The confusing thing about the Esmonin wines is that they are unusually pretty in their youths, especially given the penchant for old vines in Gevrey to be, a bit reductive and hard in their infancies. And yet the Esmonin wines are as age-worthy as any other domaine in Gevrey.
But it is really the pricing for the wines of Frédéric Esmonin that leave us most stunned. This is very fine Burgundy at bargain basement pricing. And once the word gets out, well….buy now or forever be haunted by a good deal that slipped through your wine-stained fingertips.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain Estournelles 1er Cru- $61.99
2008 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain Estournelles 1er Cru- $49.99
Estournelles (sometimes spelled Etournelles and sometimes appended to St-Jacques) is a steep sloped vineyard, above Lavaux St-Jacques, pebbly and devoid of top soil. Buy the 2008 to drink now and the 2010 to cellar for several years.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain ‘Les Jouises’ VV (Old Vines) -$42.99
This lieux-dit of village Gevrey-Chambertain is in the center of the appellation and famous for producing perfumed and elegant wines.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain Lavaux St-Jacques 1er Cru – $56.99
Lavaux St-Jacques is a cooler, south facing site. Wines from this site tend to be lacy and fine, exhibiting more red-fruit characteristics than some of its neighbors.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Mazy-Chambertain Grand Cru- $107.99
2008 Frédéric Esmonin Mazy-Chambertain Grand Cru- $81.99
Mazy (or sometimes Mazis) Grand Cru is the wild child of the 9 Grand Crus in Gevrey Chambertain. Firm, structured, complex.
2009 Frédéric Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertain Grand Cru – $151.99
The largest holding of the domaine ( .52ha) and whose name refers to the small stones that inhabit this particularly infertile piece of ground. There is a stated clarity of terroir that registers in wines made from here.