Plenitude After a Pittance
We have been working happily with the Rollin family in Pernand-Vergelesses since 1982. Over the years, first with Maurice and his son Rémi, and today with Rémi and his son Simon, this rock-solid domaine has always provided us with wines of finesse, character, and startling purity—and at prices that put to rest the notion there is no value to be found in Burgundy anymore. Each visit to this estate is a master class in the unique terroir of their northern sector of the Côte de Beaune, those less-appreciated vineyards in and around Pernand-Vergelesses that flank the grand hill of Corton. The vineyards of Pernand-Vergelesses run at an “off-angle” to the main swath of east-facing, contiguous hillsides that comprise the bulk of the Côte d’Or; they are wedged into a narrow crevasse formed by the disjunction of Corton and the primary escarpment of the Côte de Beaune, and most of the key sites here face westward (or even northwestward). In bygone days of feebler temperatures and less precise vineyard work, wines from Pernand were commonly characterized as somewhat lean and rustic—its whites a bit angular, its reds more bare-knuckled. Now, however, in our ever-warming climate, these sorts of areas—vineyards less exposed to the glowering sun and which thereby undergo slower phenological maturation—regularly produce supremely compelling Burgundies: wines of tense equilibrium and striking complexity absent the surface flash of blatant ripeness.
We are preparing to receive the full lineup of 2017s from the Rollin family in early 2020. Following their devastating 70% loss in 2016—they were the hardest-hit of any of our growers by the vicious late-April frost—the Rollins saw their vines explode in productivity during the 2017 season. While care was required to prevent over-cropping and thus to maintain ample concentration in the grapes, Rémi and Simon harvested very healthy fruit with a capacity for surprising power. In fact, Rémi favorably compares his 2017s to his 2015s, although with less overt structure, and both the whites and the reds in this vintage are wines of voluminous texture married to clean, harmonizing acidity. We are particularly thrilled to once again offer the pinnacle of Rollin’s roster of reds: the Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru “Ile des Vergelesses,” which was completely decimated by frost the prior year.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc
Rollin’s basic Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc—always a knockout for the price—comprises four separate east-facing parcels, with an average vine age of 40 years. It is a tension-filled wine that demonstrates its proximity to the mighty Corton in its profound minerality and its power, yet it displays all the freshness of the Rollin style. A laser-like, crystalline nose exudes limestone essence, and the clean, kinetic palate leads to a long and overtly salty finish that leaves the drinker invigorated. The modest 10% new oak is all but invisible.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc “Les Cloux”
Les Cloux is a well-situated lieu-dit on the north side of the hill of Corton, adjacent to the premier cru Sous Fretille (see below). It faces southeast on a high, steep part of the hillside, and a general lack of direct breeze there fosters notable ripeness. The wine possesses a lower-pitched, deeper nose than the basic Pernand-Vergelesses above, but with an equivalent limestone intensity more solid in its character than powdered. The palate is thicker as well but suffused with the alert acidity typical of the Rollin style. Only 20% of the oak employed during the élévage is new.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc 1er Cru “Sous Frétille”
At the beginning of the 2000s, the Rollins acquired a tiny parcel of very old vines in this majestically situated full-south-facing premier cru that abuts Corton-Charlemagne itself. The resulting wine is dazzlingly energetic, with enveloping mineral and spice aromas giving way to a palate of thrilling intensity. The overall impression of Sous Fretille is sleeker than that of Les Cloux above, but there is no less power in reserve, and its intricate, multilayered personality hints at its ultra-close proximity to grand cru territory. New oak is kept at around 30%.
The first half of a tasting at Rollin always culminates with this, one of the keystone white Burgundies of the Rosenthal portfolio. We have collectively experienced dozens of older bottles through the years, whether in the family cellar or over dinner with Neal (whose immense collection of older Rollin Corton-Charlemagne speaks to its quality), and it is a wine that never fails to dazzle. The Rollins own two parcels on this great hill—one on the Pernand side, and one on the Aloxe side, totaling only about a half-hectare—and the wine has always been a blend of the two. It spends a full two winters in the cellar as per tradition, and it wears its 50% new oak effortlessly.
2017 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge
The Rollins exploit two hectares worth of Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge from various parcels of 30-to-45-year-old Pinot Noir in Pernand and Echevronne. Always a sleek yet charming wine of immense energy, its fruit is crunchy and snappy rather than thick and juicy, underlining the deep mineral streak that runs through all of Rollin’s red wines. No new oak is employed, and the wine is bottled after a relatively brief élévage of ten months in order to preserve its fruit.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge
A classic rendition of a truly underappreciated red Burgundy appellation, Rollin’s Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge comes primarily from two old-vines parcels—one in the lieu-dit of Les Pins in the northern part of the village, and the other in Les Noirets on the southern side, both of which face eastward. Compared to their better-known brethren in Savigny-les-Beaune, the red wines of Pernand-Vergelesses tend to be more firmly mineral, more savory, and more finely wrought.
2017 Savigny-les-Beaune Rouge “Aux Grands Liards”
Not a typical Savigny-les-Beaune, this vineyard actually lies closer to the Pernand-Vergelesses premier cru Les Fichots (see below) than it does to the main swath of Savigny-les-Beaune proper. As such, it displays a savory limestone edge more in line with Rollin’s trio of Pernand premier crus than to more classically plump and fruit-driven examples of Savigny. With notable depth from its old vines—up to 70 years of age—it presents slightly juicier than the villages-level Pernand above, with an attractive mentholated accent to its gleamingly pure cherry fruit. Only 20% new oak is employed.
Aloxe-Corton is the weightlifter to Pernand’s runner. Always a bit more gritty, structured, and viscerally earthy than its neighbor, Aloxe-Corton can also take longer to come around in bottle. But the payoff is a wine of great substance and depth that tends to offer amazing value due to its relatively under-the-radar reputation. Rollin’s exceptional rendering of this appellation is of a piece with their overall lineup in its precision and its mineral drive, but it shows the scrappier, more animal character of its birthplace. The family owns parcels in three Aloxe-Corton lieux-dits: Les Boutieres, Les Caillettes, and Les Guerets, with vines between 35 and 55 years old. Only around one-fourth of the barrels each vintage are new.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge 1er Cru “Les Vergelesses”
Each wine in Rollin’s trio of Pernand-Vergelesses premier crus emphasizes a particular facet of the village’s complex personality. Les Vergelesses is situated in the southern part of the appellation, just below the grand Ile des Vergelesses (see below), and Rollin’s 55-year-old vines here yield the most elegant, gentle, and supple of their three crus. Although it can be more accessible at an earlier stage of development, its relative breeziness does nothing to compromise its capacity for cellaring. Like all of Rollin’s red premier crus, Les Vergelesses sees only 30% new oak.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge 1er Cru “Les Fichots”
Situated immediately north of Les Vergelesses and below Ile des Vergelesses, Les Fichots is a clay-and-iron-dominated site with a far more structured, brooding personality than that of Les Vergelesses. The family’s exceptionally old plot—over 70 years of age—renders a wine of impressive concentration and power. Despite its deeper color, firmer tannins, and greater sense of solidity, it nonetheless displays spice-laden red fruits that are very Pernand, as well as scintillating balancing acidity.
2017 Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge 1er Cru “Ile des Vergelesses”
Universal consensus holds that Ile des Vergelesses is the greatest site for red wine in the village, and the Rollins turn out a stunning example every vintage—one of the most consistent and distinctive red Burgundies in our portfolio. Situated at an altitude of 300 meters on a steep southeast-facing slope, Ile des Vergelesses combines the arresting elegance of Les Vergelesses and the mineral power of Les Fichots, with all elements hanging together in delicate harmony. A present but non-disruptive firmness of structure implores the drinker to wait a few years for the wine’s treasures to be revealed.