The Pure Essence of Saint-Aubin (and Beyond)
Those who decry the lack of access to fine Burgundy at palatable prices need look no further than Domaine Henri Prudhon in Saint-Aubin. While it is undeniably true that the prices of many wines from the most battled-after growers have reached the level of pure commodity, there are still areas of this hallowed region where one can find great Burgundy at affordable prices—villages like Saint-Aubin, with vineyards on a high slope, in a cool microclimate, mere paces away from grand cru turf.
Rosenthal Wine Merchant was there at the very outset of Domaine Prudhon, having purchased the very first vintage the family decided to estate-bottle rather than sell to négociant: 1983. It was Henri’s son Gérard who decided to start bottling his own wine, and we have since overseen the slow, careful passing of the torch from Gérard to his sons Philippe and Vincent (pictured above), who today run the domaine with great care and skill, and with a deep and profound respect for Burgundian tradition. We stand ready to receive the full lineup of 2017 white wines—our 35th vintage together—plus the exemplary 2016 red wines from Prudhon in early (Feb) 2020.
After the severely frost-affected 2016 growing season, Prudhon’s vines were eager to produce, and indeed 2017 yielded larger-than-average quantities—a godsend after the 40% overall loss of the prior vintage. Vincent and Philippe began picking on September 4th, and despite a bit of rain just before harvest the wines show no trace of dilution, as August was otherwise exceptionally hot and dry. The 2017 white wines are very much in keeping with the recent increase in refinement here, with pure, clean fruit, crisply chiseled minerality, and an effortless sense of transparency to their underlying terroirs. Thankfully, despite their notable losses in 2016, the Prudhons took as good a care of us as they could when it came to quantities—a testament to our long and loyal historical partnership. Their superb 2016 red wines bear the natural concentration of a frost-affected vintage, but they are in fact silkier in their tannic profiles than the robust 2015s. With fruits veering toward the dark red end of the spectrum, they display greater-than-average density—and while “polished” is never a word one would associate with Prudhon’s charmingly honest reds, these are a bit more refined than the past string of vintages, and will drink well on the early side to boot.
THE WHITE WINES
2017 Bourgogne Aligoté
Prudhon’s exemplary Aligoté comes from two plots—one in Saint-Aubin and one in Puligny-Montrachet—totaling just under half of a hectare. The vines are between 30 and 60 years old, and the wine is aged in used barrels and bottled on the early side to preserve freshness.
2017 Bourgogne Blanc “En Jorcul”
En Jorcul is a well-situated lieu-dit which abuts the appellation of Saint-Aubin on its western edge, just past Le Ban (see below), and the Prudhons own 0.8 hectares of vines there. The wine is fermented and aged in barrel, but no new oak is employed, thereby allowing its minerality to take center stage.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc “Le Ban”
Always a terrific value, this is a wine that has improved markedly in recent vintages. The Prudhons farm just over two hectares in this clay-rich southeast-exposed site, with vines between 10 and 60 years of age.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Les Castets”
Les Castets sits just underneath Le Ban, and it marks the beginning of a swath of premier crus that form the fillet of the slope above the village itself. Produced from a miniscule 0.3-hectare parcel, it shows more richness on the palate than the Le Ban above, but with a similar vibrancy. Prudhon’s vines here are 15 years old, and they employ a modest 25% new oak, which the premier-cru density of the wine absorbs well.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Sur le Sentier du Clou”
Always a standout in Prudhon’s cellar, Sur le Sentier du Clou yields both white and red wine of great character. The Prudhons own a 0.4-hectare parcel of 35-year-old Chardonnay in this vineyard, which lies in the heart of the western flank of Saint-Aubin, fully surrounded by other premier crus.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Les Perrières”
Les Perrières sits just below Sur le Sentier du Clou on the slope, immediately north of the village itself, and the Prudhons own a half-hectare of 35-year-old vines here. It is typically more firmly mineral and linear than Sur le Sentier du Clou, with a tightly focused palate of immense electricity.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Sur Gamay”
Located in the center of the eastern, lower-lying sector of Saint-Aubin, Sur Gamay—like Sur le Sentier du Clou above—is surrounded by premier crus. This sector is within striking distance of the fabled Le Montrachet, and it’s where Saint-Aubin really shows off its ability to deliver unparalleled value. Prudhon owns three-quarters of a hectare here, with vines between 20 and 60 years of age.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “La Chatenière”
The beautifully situated La Chatenière sits right next to Sur Gamay on the slope (its northern edge forms the southern border of Sur Gamay). Prudhon owns a painfully tiny parcel here—barely a tenth of a hectare of 40-year-old Chardonnay—and the wine is always a standout, suggesting its close proximity to grand cru territory with a richer palate than the preceding wines. La Chatenière sees one-third new oak each year (Prudhon typically produces just three barrels, one of which is always new), but the wine bears little wood influence even in its youth.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “En Remilly”
En Remilly is a secret-weapon cru of Saint-Aubin, situated literally across a narrow road from Chevalier-Montrachet, one of Burgundy’s most fabled vineyards. Soils here are very poor and rocky, and Prudhon owns a mere quarter-hectare, with vines around 30 years of age. As one would expect, this is typically the most complete, most complex, and most dense Saint-Aubin Blanc in Prudhon’s arsenal. In keeping with Prudhon’s restrained approach, even a wine of this stature sees only 25% new oak.
2017 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Les Murgers des Dents de Chien”
The Prudhons own one-fifth of a hectare in this amazingly situated premier cru. Also a mere stone’s throw from Chevalier-Montrachet, Les Murgers des Dents de Chien sits just to the north of En Remilly and just below Sur Gamay on the slope—the most prime real estate in Saint-Aubin. This bottling is typically less forward than En Remilly in its youth, with a quiet, layered minerality, and a more subdued fruit character.
2017 Puligny-Montrachet “Les Enseignères”
Les Enseignères is one of those stealth values in the complex world of Burgundy. Its western border forms the eastern edge of Batard-Montrachet, and it is one of the rare spots in the Cote d’Or where a grand cru slopes directly down into village-level territory with no premier cru in between. The Prudhons own just shy of a hectare of quite old vines here—between 30 and 80 years of age.
2017 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Garenne”
La Garenne sits high on the slope, just above the great Puligny-Montrachet premier cru Champs-Gains, and bordering the village of Blagny to the south. This represents Prudhon’s smallest holding, a parcel of 60-year-old Chardonnay vines on less than a tenth of a hectare. Because they produce only two barrels per vintage, this wine sees 50% new oak, but the sheer grandeur and density of the wine prevents it from being obtrusive. This wine is concentrated, ultra-long on the finish, and built to last.
2016 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes”
Although the differences between Saint-Aubin, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet can occasionally be difficult to pinpoint when tasting them in isolation from one another, the Chassagne character of this wine shouts out loud and clear in the context of Prudhon’s other white wines. Les Chenevottes sits right at the nexus of Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin, and Chassagne-Montrachet, and the Prudhons’ own just over a tenth of a hectare of 40-year-old vines here.
THE RED WINES
2017 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Charmeaux”
The Prudhons own a total of 0.7 hectares of 10-to-40-year-old Pinot Noir in this vineyard which lies just outside Saint-Aubin. Like the Bourgogne Blanc, no new oak is employed during its élévage, and the wine has a similar purity and mineral-driven honesty.
2016 Saint-Aubin Rouge “Les Argillers”
Les Argillers sits on the upper reaches of the slope of Saint-Aubin, just south of Le Ban and bordering the forest. Prudhon farms two hectares of 30-to-60-year-old vines here, and the wine they produce tends to be snappy, mineral-driven, and floral—less about Pinot Noir plushness and more about the freshness and drive of a cool-climate red wine.
2016 Saint-Aubin Rouge 1er Cru “Les Frionnes”
The Prudhons own a solid hectare of vines between 30 and 60 years of age in this premier cru that lies just to the north of Les Perrières. In keeping with the Prudhon house style, Les Frionnes emphasizes the raciness of Saint-Aubin—there is virtually no new oak used in its élévage, and there’s a certain restraint and brightness to the fruit that feels self-assured and terroir-loyal.
2016 Saint-Aubin Rouge 1er Cru “Rouges Gorges”
From a total surface area of 0.7 hectares, this bottling blends parcels of 50-year-old vines in several different premier crus—one from the hill just above Gamay and one on the border of Saint-Aubin and Chassagne-Montrachet. It displays greater power and deeper fruit than Les Frionnes above, yet is less formidably concentrated than Sur le Sentier du Clou below.
2016 Saint-Aubin Rouge 1er Cru “Sur le Sentier du Clou – Vieilles Vignes”
The red counterpart to the outstanding white mentioned above, this well-structured wine gives the impression of tiny, concentrated berries on the nose, with a gentle overlay of savory spices and herbs. It is thicker on the palate than the above reds, with a driving, long finish.
2016 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge “Les Chambres”
Prudhon owns a third of a hectare of 40-year-old Pinot Noir in this lieu-dit, nestled in the heart of Chassagne-Montrachet. This impressive, unapologetically savory wine illustrates very clearly the potential for classic Côte-de-Beaune red Burgundy in this once-red-wine-dominated appellation.