When you play the game of paying the ever-soaring prices of Burgundy, there are sadly many frogs you must kiss to find the true prince. Today’s Pinot Noir is from old vines (vieilles vignes) within the small village of Aloxe-Corton, at the base of the famous Grand Cru hill of Corton. This Pinot Noir is a pure expression of place without the rustic and hard tannins which can often be encountered in this appellation; it is a perfect wine to drink now or lay down for up to a decade.
The view of the infamous hill of Corton is absolutely breathtaking. Its heavily-planted, steep slopes are full of luscious vineyards that possess the capability of producing the world's greatest wines. From many vantage points in Burgundy, you can see the hill's majestic magnitude towering above the quaint but iconic village of Aloxe-Corton. At the base of this legendary hill are the organically-farmed old vineyards of Domaine Michel Gay et Fils; today's wine is from the near-perfect 2010 vintage and it is just beginning to soften in tannins and come together.
Sébastien Gay is a fifth generation winemaker who took over control of the estate and its vineyards in 2000. While the estate has only existed since 1992, the family has been making wine for more than 100 years. When Sébastien took over, he made some serious changes that resulted in wine of vastly superior quality. In recent years, the wines have emerged much cleaner and full of the classic aromatics we all desire in great Burgundy. Lucky for us, I was able to grab a very small amount of the 115 cases of this wine that were produced. While Domaine Michel Gay et Fils has always been known for their Pinot Noir from their Aloxe-Corton vineyards, the important decisions that Sébastien has recently made changed the reputation of the estate for the better. The addition of two sorting tables was by far the best decision he has made to increase the quality of his wines. The domaine is now able to sort the fruit so that only the most pristine and perfect bunches are used to make wine. This detail has given the most recent wines a certain kind of finesse that all lovers of great Burgundy will recognize. In the vineyards, clay and limestone soils are peppered with small pieces of flint—providing the unique texture and slightly rustic minerality we usually find in the wines around the hill of Corton. By eliminating herbicide-use in the vineyards, farming organically, and then meticulously sorting the grapes before fermentation, Sébastien has beautifully preserved the terroir to the highest degree; the wines are just about as good as you can come across from Aloxe-Corton. Fermentation takes place in concrete and stainless steel tanks, then the wine is aged for 18 months in roughly 25% new French oak. I love the pure and fruit driven aromatics and luscious fruit on the palate of this classic, delicious red Burgundy. At under $40, quality like this is rare.
The 2010 Michel Gay Aloxe-Corton-Vieilles Vignes has a reflective bright ruby red core moving to garnet reflections on the rim. The aromatics are powerful and fruit forward with aromas of wild black raspberries, black plums, and black cherry balanced with earthy notes of wet rose petals, underbrush, wet leaves and crushed stones. The palate is broad-shouldered with lots of concentrated ripe wild berry flavors, wild flowers and herbs with a serious amount minerality and structure driving the finish. This wine needs air to show its best; I do not often decant Burgundy, but this wine shows much better after an hour or so of air. Either pull the cork in the morning and leave the wine resting in the cellar untouched until dinner, or second best, decant the wine for 60 minutes before serving in a large Burgundy stem at about 60-65 degrees. This wine is rich enough with fruit that you can enjoy this without food, but the correct pairing will bring this wine to another level. If you have never had classic duck with cherries, this is a perfect pairing with fruit-forward red Burgundy; this wine has more than enough fruit to not be crushed by the sweetness of the fruit in the dish. (A quick side note: a common rule in wine pairing is that the food should never be sweeter than the wine, or the wine will taste tart and acidic while the fruit will be muted; this is always a good thing to consider when pairing food and wine.) There are many approaches to making duck with cherries, but this is one of the best I have had
and it has some slightly modern twists; serve with sides of your choice.