On the Trail

Our Best Batch of Charrière

David Driscoll

Back when I was helping as an assistant in the Burgundy department here at K&L, I would often help organize the shelves and put away cases in the warehouse when new shipments would arrive from France. I remember sorting out the numerous expressions of Château de la Charrière and asking our buyer at the time about the wines; the labels seemed so rustic and quaint, like they were being made at someone's house rather than a large winery. It turns out my aesthetic assessment wasn't all that far off! Years later, now that I'm one of K&L's Burgundy buyers, I finally got my chance to visit Yves Girardin's property in person and it was very much as I imagined: a small farm with a few vineyards planted nearby, and a romantic country home just a few turns off the Route des Grands Crus. We were there to taste the 2015 vintage, one that so far represents one of the best pinot noir harvests I've ever tasted from Burgundy. Given that the Charrière have always been made in an earthier, more old school style, I was excited to see what a bit of additional ripeness might do to the wines. If the fleshiness and pure fruited flavors we'd tasted thus far had reached the Girardin vineyards, we might be looking at some of the best deals of the year.

Château de la Charrière has long been one of our most popular direct import producers because it's a label that easily represents the best bang for your buck we carry in Burgundy. However, while it was formerly run by Yves Girardin with whom we originally started the relationship, the business is now run by his young son Benoit, who definitely has modernized the winemaking a bit since his first vintage in 2011. Believe me: this is great news for all you red Burgundy lovers because the 2015 vintage is not only riper, the flavors are also much cleaner; showcasing the pureness of the pinot noir. Benoit is de-stemming completely so as to remove additional tannic structure and as a result the wines are better than they've ever been. I've never tasted reds from them that are this approachable. I'd highly, highly advise you to check out some of the inexpensive 2015 reds we just got in. For less than twenty bucks, the Hautes Cote de Beaune is drinking like an absolute dream. Their local Santenay 1er cru wines, however, are the stars. Sourced from up on the above-pictured hill, both the whites and reds were showcasing serious stuff when we tasted in person this past March, and they're tasting even better right now.

One of the most difficult aspects of selling red Burgundy to customers over the years has always been the unpredictability of the quality. With so many different producers holding vines, making various styles of wines even within strong vintages, it's entirely possible to blow a lot of money on a pinot noir that isn't up to snuff. I've also watched customers open bottles that shouldn't have been opened for another decade, spending fifty bucks or more to drink a mouthful of tannins and bristling acidity. Burgundy has always been a crap shoot, which is why having a working understanding of its communes and producers is such a valuable thing in the wine game today. The great thing about these 2015s, however, is that the ripeness is the great equalizer. It's hard to go wrong with any wine in this harvest. I've tasted 2015 reds from even the most rustic of producers that are drinking beautifully in their youth at this point. In the case of Château de la Charrière, I think I can clearly say this is the best batch of wines we've ever received from them.

-David Driscoll