Mother Nature has a way of creating natural wine and food pairings. When I think of Coq au vin I think of Burgundy. When looking for an ideal pairing it’s good to start in the same region.
The most ingrained piece of conventional wisdom on Burgundy is that the elite vineyard real estate (and thus the best wine) is concentrated at the northern end of the region, whereas the south is for bargain shoppers. That may have been true generations ago, but there’s simply too much evidence to the contrary these days—on the red side, of course, the cru villages of Beaujolais have taken on serious cachet, as have Chardonnay-centric appellations in the Mâconnais, such as Saint-Véran.
The fact is, the terroir has always been there; now there’s a new generation of talent to showcase it properly. Damien Martin of Domaine de la Denante is one such talent, as evidenced by today’s tension-filled, beautifully delineated Saint-Véran from the 2018 vintage.
Let’s not forget that the Mâcon, while well south of the Chardonnay power trio of Meursault/Puligny/Chassagne, is inextricably linked to the Chardonnay grape—the grape’s very name comes from a town in the region, and on the whole, Mâconnais wine is predominantly white. This is their specialty, and while large co-ops and négociant bottlers once dominated the landscape here, now it’s passionate, small-scale vignerons like Martin, who, much like his contemporaries in neighboring Beaujolais, is at the leading edge of organic viticulture and sustainable winemaking practices.
What today’s wine delivers at a sub-$30 price point is simply extraordinary, so if you still subscribe to the conventional wisdom on the Mâcon, my advice is to re-think it, now, or be left behind.
With its dramatic limestone escarpments and its growing list of organic growers, you could argue that the Mâconnais is the most dynamic region in Burgundy right now, and Domaine de la Denante is very much part of the wave of progress and quality in the region. After his brothers took over the family domaine (Domaine de la Croix Senaillet), Robert Martin founded his own estate in 1975, starting with just 2.5 hectares of vineyard land. By 2010, he had grown it to 10 hectares of land when his son, Damien, joined the team. This is when the quality jumped up to the next level.
Since Damien’s arrival, the domaine has increased their land holdings as well as the number of bottlings they produce. From the beginning, Damien has focused on the characteristics of each parcel, working in the vineyard recording the nuances of all the plots. While they produce wines from the appellations of Mâcon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuissé, the largest proportion of the Denante’s production is from Saint-Véran.
The appellation encroaches on that of Pouilly-Fuissé, and is composed of seven villages, one of which is Davayé, where Domaine de la Denante is located. Their vineyards in Saint-Véran surround one of the most iconic sites in the entire region: The ruggedly beautiful outcropping known as the “Rock of Vergisson.” Vineyards surrounding this limestone monolith tend to be steeper, with rocky, poor soil that produces elegant but high-intensity acid profiles.
This St. Véran is made from several individual parcels, each made separately to be blended later rather than put together in one giant tank. This allows Martin the flexibility to make the best possible blend each vintage and declassify to Mâcon-Villages anything that doesn’t make the cut for the St. Véran.
The 2018 vintage in Burgundy offered a healthy dose of warmth leading to generous yields. For Domaine de la Denante, this meant exquisitely clean and ripe fruit. The aromas of this ’18 are powerful, with notes of Fiji apple, Meyer lemon, crushed rocks, pear skin all laced with white flowers. The balance of fruit and minerality continues on the palate as the mid-palate bursts with lemon curd and sweet apple, giving way to a long, palate-cleansing, citrus-zest finish.
For the full aromatic experience, I would serve in Burgundy stems but this wine will still rock your Tuesday night dinner served in all-purpose stems after a quick splash decant. I love this wine for its diversity and ability to drink with a wide assortment of foods (part of the reason I would encourage buying at least 3-6 bottles to have around) but I would love to pair this with a Niçoise salad. Simple, sensational, beautiful.
– Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier & Founder of SommSelect