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 lying 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 negociant: 1983. It was Henri’s son Gerard who decided to start bottling his own wine, and we have since overseen the slow, careful passing of the torch from Gerard to his sons Vincent and Philippe, who today run the domaine with great care and skill, and with a deep and profound respect for Burgundian tradition.
The ravaging late-April frost of 2016 certainly did not spare the Prudhons, who lost 40% of their crop on average for the vintage. However, given the importance of our mutual relationship, the family took as good a care of us as they could when it came to quantities—a fact for which we are immensely grateful. While the domaine has always issued forth wines of formidable quality and honesty, the past few vintages have seen Vincent and Philippe achieve new levels of refinement and precision, particularly in the white wines. Certainly, these 2016s represent a new pinnacle in that regard. Accompanying the 2016 white wines is the full lineup of 2015 reds, a vintage whose richness of fruit and natural concentration marries wonderfully with the Prudhons’ naturally racy and athletic house style. Red wines that are usually rapier-like and completely devoid of fat show just a bit more succulence but without sacrificing an iota of energy. We cannot encourage you strongly enough to stake your claim of these astonishing values.
THE WHITE WINES
2016 Bourgogne Aligoté
Prudhon’s exemplary Aligoté comes from two plots—one in Saint-Aubin and one in Puligny-Montrachet—totaling just under a half-hectare. The vines are between 30 and 60 years old, and the wine is aged in stainless steel and bottled on the early side to preserve freshness.
2016 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. It’s fermented and aged in barrel, but no new oak is employed, thereby allowing the minerality to take center stage.
2016 Saint-Aubin Blanc “Le Ban”
Always a terrific value, this is a wine that has nonetheless really improved in recent vintages. The Prudhons farm just over two hectares in this southeast-exposed site, with vines between 10 and 60 years of age.
2016 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 and breadth on the palate than “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.
2016 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Sur le Sentier du Clou”
Always a standout in Prudhon’s cellar, “Sur le Sentier du Clou” produces 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, completely surrounded by other premier crus.
2016 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’s typically more firmly mineral and linear than “Sentier du Clou,” and this 2016 follows suit, with a strict, tightly focused palate of immense electricity.
2016 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Sur Gamay”
Located in the center of the eastern, lower-lying sector of Saint-Aubin, “Sur Gamay”—like “Sentier du Clou” above—is completely surrounded by premier crus. This sector is within striking distance of the fabled Le Montrachet itself, and it’s where Saint-Aubin really shows off its ability to deliver mindboggling value. Prudhon owns three-quarters of a hectare here, with vines between 20 and 60 years of age.
2016 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “La Chatenière”
The beautifully situated “La Chatenière” sits right next to “Sur Gamay” on the slope (its northern edge is the southern edge 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 next to no trace of wood influence.
2016 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 the most fabled vineyards in the world. Soils here are very poor and very rocky, and Prudhon owns a mere quarter-hectare, with vines around 25 to 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. As a testament to Prudhon’s non-flashy approach, even a wine of this stature sees only 25% new oak each vintage.
2016 Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru “Les Murgers des Dents de Chien”
The Prudhons own just 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. As is typically the case, this bottling is less forward than “En Remilly” in its youth, with a quiet, deep minerality, and a bit less sumptuous fruit character.
2016 Puligny-Montrachet “Les Enseignères”
“Les Enseignères” is one of those stealth values in the complex world of Burgundy. Its western border is the eastern edge of Batard-Montrachet, and it is one of the rare spots in the Cote d’Or where grand cru slopes directly down into village-level 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.
2016 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 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 at all obtrusive. This wine is concentrated, ultra-long on the finish, and built to last.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes”
Though the differences between Saint-Aubin, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet can be more difficult to pinpoint when tasting them in isolation from one another, the positively Chassagne character of this wine screams out loud and clear in the context of Prudhon’s other white wines. “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
2016 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Charmeaux”
The Prudhons own a total of 0.7 hectares of 10-to-40-year-old Pinot Noir in this vineyard just outside Saint-Aubin. Like the Bourgogne Blanc, no new oak is employed during its elevage, and the wine has a similar purity and mineral-driven honesty.
2015 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.
2015 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 Perrieres.” In keeping with the Prudhon house style, “Frionnes” emphasizes the freshness and raciness of Saint-Aubin—there is virtually no new oak used in its elevage, and there’s a certain restraint and brightness to the fruit that feels self-assured and very terroir-loyal.
2015 Saint-Aubin Rouge 1er Cru “Rouges Gorges”
This bottling blends tiny parcels in several different premier crus—one from the hill just above Gamay and one on the border of Saint-Aubin and Chassagne-Montrachet. The vines range from 40 to 60 years of age, and the total surface area is just 0.7 hectares.
2015 Saint-Aubin Rouge 1er Cru “Sur le Sentier du Clou – Vieilles Vignes”
The red counterpart to the outstanding Blanc outlined above, this 2015 gives the impression of tiny, concentrated berries on the nose, with a gentle overlay of savory spices and herbs. It’s thicker on the palate than the above reds, with a driving, long finish.
2015 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 appellati