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An Exploration of St. Romain

Dom H&G BUISSON Gilles Frederick Franck VictorGenerational shifts in Burgundy can be fraught with anxiety for both winegrower and consumer. The younger generation of vigneron attempts to balance a sense of duty toward tradition and history with a desire to execute a personal vision and philosophy. And the consumer waits with bated breath to see if wines she’s cherished in the past will be done justice by the ascendant generation. Meanwhile, the nature of the vine allows each grower just one chance per year to prove himself and to further refine his craft. From the Burgundy lover’s perspective, an ideal transition is one in which the new guard does not completely overhaul the work of its predecessors, but instead improves upon it and sharpens it in the service of more vividly expressing terroir.

fred-buisson-snacking-in-the-vineyardsRosenthal Wine Merchant began importing the wines of Domaine Buisson in the hamlet of Saint-Romain in 2001. The Buisson family traces its roots in the village back to the 12th century, and estate-bottling began relatively early here, in 1947, with Henri Buisson and his wife Marguerite. Their son Gilles and his wife Monica expanded the family’s holdings and implemented positive changes in the vineyards, moving toward organic viticulture in the 1970s—back when such practices were seldom encountered in the Cote d’Or. Over the past decade, Gilles and Monica’s talented and dynamic sons Fred and Franck have gradually assumed control of the domaine under their parents’ sensitive guidance. Fred and Franck bring to bear a fastidious commitment to chemical-free viticulture (the domaine is now certified organic), and a precise, exacting non-interventionism in the cellar (they now employ only spontaneous fermentations and have whittled their sulfur regimen to a bare minimum). Their warm, generous, fun-loving spirit suffuses the wines, which combine refinement and exuberance in an irresistible way.

ba-buisson1We at Rosenthal have witnessed a gradual improvement in this domaine’s wines over the past decade, with each vintage offering a bit more focus, balance, and terroir delineation than the previous. But it is with the soon-to-arrive 2014s that one sees the culmination of Fred and Franck’s efforts. From our recent tasting in Burgundy with the brothers, it is clear that the 2014s are the best, most expressive set of wines we’ve ever encountered chez Buisson. They embody the best attributes of the quite attractive 2014 vintage in the Cote d’Or: scintillating acidity, firm minerality, and notable but not overwhelming concentration in the whites; and a fresh, airy, lip-smacking purity in the reds. And, with the 2014s, we have expanded the range of what we import from the Buissons, thereby offering a more nuanced terroir survey of the sorely underappreciated Saint-Romain appellation.

SONY DSCWhile technically part of the Cote de Beaune, Saint-Romain is a completely isolated valley situated to the north of the primary escarpment of the Cote d’Or, up above Auxey-Duresses. Its higher altitude and less “perfect” situation relegated it to a lower rung on the hierarchy historically, because it is more difficult for grapes in such a position to achieve optimal ripeness. However, given the ever-escalating temperatures in Burgundy over the past decade, Saint-Romain rarely suffers from ripeness issues anymore—and in fact it can offer a freshness and vibrancy in warmer vintages that its more hallowed brethren sometimes fail to achieve. In addition to being a historical underdog, Saint-Romain is a relatively rarely encountered wine (Buisson is one of only ten growers who reside in the village itself), and this confluence of factors serves to keep prices modest and value formidable.

Around the 10th of October, Rosenthal Wine Merchant will receive the full range of Saint-Romain 2014’s from Fred and Franck. We heartily invite you to try some of the finest values in our Burgundy portfolio, and to experience the thrill of a new generation on the ascent. See below for details and tasting notes for each wine on offer.


2014 Saint-Romain Blanc “La Perriere”
The Buissons own a small parcel of 20-year-old Chardonnay in this east-facing vineyard situated near the southern end of the valley. The leanest and most focused of the three whites, La Perriere sports ringing acidity, a powerful, almost flinty minerality, and a sense of real poise and elegance. As with all the whites, a modest 10% new oak allows the deep limestone core of this cuvee to sing through. Only 50 cases available for the USA.

2014 Saint-Romain Blanc “Sous la Velle”
The family’s holdings in this well-situated lieu-dit are up to 90 years old, with an average vine age of 60. A higher presence of marne in the soil here produces a wine of more heft and breadth than La Perriere above. This impeccably balanced 2014 offers a deep, detailed nose of great clarity, with beautiful notes of lime and quinine. The palate is vibrant, rich, and very long, with a palate-staining minerality that verges on salty. Only 25 cases available for the USA.

2014 Saint-Romain Blanc “Sous le Chateau”
The warmest climat of the trio of whites, “Sous le Chateau” offers an incredibly satisfying white Burgundy experience in 2014, with a presence and finesse one might mistake for Puligny-Montrachet if served blind. This wine shares a quinine imprint with Sous la Velle above, but with an intriguing note of white pepper and a bit more regal, less punchy sense of minerality. The tension between its ample fruit and tingling acidity is mouthwatering. Only 25 cases available for the USA.

2014 Saint-Romain Rouge “Combe Bazin”
The Buissons own a plot of 12-year-old Pinot Noir in this due-south-facing lieu-dit. The 2014 is the first vintage of this cuvee we’ve imported, and it offers a fresh, mineral-drenched nose of pure red fruits. The palate is crunchingly fresh, with outstanding energy and drive, and it exemplifies the vibrancy and non-ponderousness of the best wines from this little valley. Only 50 cases available for the USA.

2014 Saint-Romain Rouge “Sous Roches”
Buisson’s parcel of 60-year-old vines in this southwest-facing cru produces a wine of more seriousness, depth, and structure than the Combe Bazin above. The 2014 is suave, sumptuous, and lovely, with that “pure Pinot pleasure” element the best reds in this vintage deliver so well. The fruit is sappy but not at all heavy, and a cleansing acidity and palpable mineral streak make this a highly accessible wine even at this early stage. 100 cases available for the USA.