Drinking Saint Bris
To the Southwest of Chablis, along the cut of the River Yonne, in the heart of Auxerrois sits the darling appellation of Saint Bris – darling because of its uniqueness, darling because of its smaller size, darling because the mere idea of it carries ineffable charm. The subzone of Saint Bris proves to be the only AOC in Burgundy to grow Sauvignon, the presence of which in that celebrated region is a surprise to many.
As if the idea of Burgundian Sauvignon isn’t enough, make sure to place it in Kimmeridgian limestone, near its eponymous medieval city of Saint Bris that includes what are apparently the most intricate and remarkable limestone cellars in the region of Burgundy (I haven’t seen them personally but how I’d love to).
A mere 133 hectares grow in the Saint Bris AOC. It’s been a recognized appellation since 2003. The variety found its way to the area sometime after the phylloxera blight devastated the now-obscure white varieties then growing in the region. Until that time the village of Saint Bris was actually part of Chablis but the radical change to viticultural health as a result of the louse infestation led to geographical reassignments as well, even with the still Chablisienne soils. Enter Sauvignon. By the 1970s it was being officially recognized for quality.
With its relatively small size and moderate obscurity, the area still hosts smaller production, hands on, family farmers. The Goisot family is one such example. Father and son farmers, Jean-Hughes and Guilhem, dedicate their time to the viticulture then keeping a less interventionist approach, to beautiful effect, in the cellar. The wines are stunning.
While Goisot also produces Bourgogne blanc – a Chablisienne Chardonnay, and also a classic while friendly Aligote – it was their Saint Bris I had to get my hands on. The wines are simultaneously charming and serious, full of refreshing minerality and impressive complexity. It was exciting too to taste the side by side.
Goisot 2014 Saint Bris: Exogyra Virgula and Corps de Garde
The aromatics of these wines carries the chalky signature of its region while the palate on both is mouthwatering, sophisticated and full of length. In both there is an impressive natural density to the core of the palate and a luscious mouthfeel full of mineral freshness and mouthwatering while delicate acidity. They are both impressively elegant wines with delicious length.
The Exogyra Virgula focuses on Sauvignon Blanc vines of the family estate with half approaching 40 years of age, and the other half around 15 years thanks to replanting. The vines grow entirely in Kimmeridgian lime, and are farmed biodynamically. Once in the cellar the wine is vinified in stainless with ambient yeast fermentation and a focus on freshness, then aged on fine lees also in stainless.
The nose hints at Sauvignon Blanc aromatics with a flash of fresh, pure fruits accented by wispy hints of fresh floral greenery but on the palate the wine feels like rolling river rocks through the mouth – full of not-quite-salty palate stimulation – with a satisfying balance of mouthwatering acidity and enough flesh to let the wine have presence across the palate from open to close. The elegance with texture, sophistication with easiness of this wine really impressed me. Definitely enjoy it alongside food as it would love white seafoods.
In the best vintages Goisot also produces the Corps de Garde bottling made from the family’s vines of Fie Gris, an ancestor of Sauvignon Blanc also referred to as Sauvignon Gris. The variety apparently naturally produces lower yields than its Blanc relation, which reduced its popularity among farmers, while also more readily retaining freshness. The Goisot family remains one of the few to preserve the variety in the region. They grow it too in Kimmeridgian lime, biodynamically, then vinify it in stainless steel with ambient yeasts and full malolactic conversion. The result is beautiful.
More savory, and intense compared to the more delicate Exogyra Virgula, the Corps de Garde offers wonderful complexity with elegance and an impressive detailing of flavors. There are inherent exotic spices, hints of wax, wispy floral greenery and a lot of mineral persistence throughout. Most of all I love the mouthfeel, the chalky accents, and the mouthwatering length. It’s a lovely and special wine that would enjoy more time in bottle to age.
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