My friend / invaluable guide J and I had a question mark on our tasting schedule after leaving Domaine Alain Burguet in Gevrey. We'd been thinking to go taste with Sarnin and / or Berrux of the excellent natural Burgundy négociant operation Sarnin-Berrux. But the way things shook out it seemed simpler and more timely to pass by the tasting rooms of Domaine Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton, not because the acclaimed, somewhat pricey wines were to be any great discovery (for J, at least), but because the night before we'd gotten pleasantly soused in Beaune with a sharp young sommelier called E, who helps run Domaine Comte Senard's restaurant and tasting rooms.
As ever, it makes a world of difference when you know the person showing you around a domaine. You see more, you taste more, you don't run the risk of being treated like a tourist and charged 10€ for three glasses of current-release stuff poured by a bored local teenager. E showed us around the historied, fairy-tale-ish estate, run since 1971 by Count Philippe Senard, and then let us taste through a nice rambling range of vintages and wines, including the estate's most peculiar bottling, a Aloxe-Corton blanc made from Pinot Beurot, a.k.a. Pinot Gris.
Pinot Beurot is permitted in the Aloxe-Corton blanc appellation, but Domaine Comte Senard's is the only one made exclusively from the grape. It's sourced from just 20 vines, planted in 1937, yielding about 900btls per year. The wine sees a year in new oak before release.
Oak wasn't overly present on the 2008 we tasted, but nor did it seem to add anything to the wine, which had a nice lemon peel nose, and a stoney palate, focused and mineral-driven almost to the point of astringency. I'd be curious to taste the 2009, in which I'd expect ripeness ot bring out a bit more of the grape character. As it is I may have blinded this for a souped-up Aligoté. For now my benchmark for Pinot Beurot remains certain vintages of Emmanuel Giboulot's "Terres Burgondes," which strike me as having been made with less of a classical Burgundian template in mind (at least judging by the finished product).
Other highlights of the tasting included a 2005 Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru "Les Valozières," rigid and bright with beautiful persistence, and a dark, brooding 2000 Corton Grand Cru "Les Paulands," in fine tarry, black-fruited form.
Domaine Comte Senard's restaurant, where E works, offers a range of pairings with the estate's wines, and from what I understand is the only (?) restaurant in Aloxe-Corton, a town of just 200 inhabitants entirely hedged in by vines.
The décor of the restaurant is an example of that funny design dementia that occurs in the French countryside, looking sort of like a retirement home designed by David Lynch. (Someone suggest this to him - a perhaps a good project to retain the audience of his Paris nightclub, when they outgrow mojitos.)
The Domaine's original 13th century cave was also quite atmospheric. The house above was burned in during the Plague.
The cave is no longer in commercial use; instead they have a newer one in Beaune, presently shared with Domaine des Terregelesses, who, from what I understand, have recently converted to organic practices, which has somehow obliged Domaine Comte Senard to begin construction on their own cuverie. This begs a certain question. But hell, the Senard's have been in Aloxe-Corton since 1857, making celebrated wines that remain impressive today. Hard to blame them for seeing little incentive to change.
Domaine Comte Senard
1, rue des Chaumes-Les Meix
Tel: 03 80 26 40 73
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Le Bar à Vins, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur, Vosne-Romanée
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Denis Bachelet, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Bar du Square, Beaune
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Ma Cuisine, Beaune
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont, Curtil-Vergy
Pairing Emmanuel Giboulot's Pinot Beurot with episodes of Twin Peaks
A brief profile of Domaine Comte Senard @ WineTravelGuides
A painfully simplistic but pleasantly pictorial post on Domaine Comte Senard @ TheTastefulLife (Tasteful how?)
A terrific, informative profile of the Aloxe-Corton appellation @ Bergman'sBourgogne
A profile of Domaine Comte Senard @ Vin21