Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson’s 2015s: Saint-Romain’s Sweet Spot

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Franck and Frédérick Buisson

It was clear with the 2014s we brought in toward the end of last year that brothers Franck and Frédérick Buisson had truly hit their stride. Having gradually assumed control of the family vineyards and cellar over the past decade, these young men—the eighth generation of Buisson in Saint-Romain—have sharpened and refined the impeccable vineyard work of their predecessors. Their father Gilles began making strides toward chemical-free viticulture in the early 1970s, back when such earth-conscious practices were very seldom encountered in Burgundy, and Franck and Frédérick achieved organic certification with the 2012 vintage. The health of their vineyards and their grapes is wholly evident in their wines, which are unfailingly lively, intricate, and energetic.

The appellation of Saint-Romain—tucked in a beautiful valley to the west of, and fully isolated from, the main

swath of the Cote de Beaune—has never exactly been in the spotlight among Burgundy lovers. Historically, its cooler terroir resulted in wines with less richness and structure, and higher acidity, than its nearby brethren did, and Saint-Romain could be especially lean and difficult in tough, cold vintages. Post-global-warming, however, Saint-Romain occupies a far more enviable position, never suffering from the excess of mass and weight that can sometimes afflict warmer Burgundian terroirs in richer vintages, and benefitting from increased ease of ripening due to warmer temperatures overall.

Saint-Romain stands apart from the rest of the Cote de Beaune not only geographically, but historically as well. When the appellation system was created in the 1930s, codifying and classifying the historic vineyards of Burgundy into an intricate system of Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Villages, and Regionals, Saint-Romain chose not to participate—and thus, still today there are no Premier Cru or Grand Cru vineyards in the appellation. While that may present a slight disadvantage from a market-minded, prestige-centered perspective, it also keeps prices sane and allows ambitious vignerons more room for exploration. With Burgundy prices on a seemingly never-ending upward climb—especially in a uniformly “great” vintage like 2015, and extra-especially with the drastically reduced quantities of 2016 on the horizon—wines from Saint-Romain, from such fastidious and talented growers as the Buissons, represent some of the last true values in the Cote d’Or.

Henri Buisson

There is a particular joy in young, on-the-rise winegrowers finally experiencing a vintage that allows them to fully shine—where nature is a kind and supportive hand rather than a stomp-happy, steel-toed boot. 2015 was a vintage of ample sunshine, warm temperatures, and few difficulties, yielding grapes of perfect maturity and thick, healthy skins. As with these sorts of “dream vintages,” however, there is a temptation among certain growers to extract heavily and squeeze every drop of goodness from such beautiful grapes—resulting in wines of too much tannin and not enough lift. Not so at Buisson, where Franck and Frédérick hit 2015 right on the money. The whites are ample and concentrated, yes, but they maintain a scintillating acidity, which is a hallmark of this domaine’s wines. In addition, the reds are layered, majestic, and certainly structured, but with a suppleness of fruit and an underlying sense of drive. There is no doubt that their 2015s comprise the most impressive set of wines we have ever encountered at the estate.

Rosenthal Wine Merchant will receive the magnificent 2015s from Franck and Frédérick Buisson the second week of July, and we cannot wait to share these treasures with you.

2015 Saint-Romain Blanc “Le Jarron”
A brand-new cuvee for us, “Le Jarron” is a southwest-oriented parcel located directly opposite “Sous le Chateau” (see below) in the valley. Buisson’s plot lies high up on the slope, where the topsoil is poor and the gradient quite severe. From their 15-20 year old vines here, the brothers produce their raciest and most linear white wine. The gras of the 2015 vintage fleshes this out nicely, but the main event here is a sizzling interplay of brisk acidity and driving minerality. Salty yellow fruits frame the clinging, intensely kinetic palate, and the wine finishes long and lively.

2015 Saint-Romain Blanc “La Perriere”
Always a highlight of the Buisson cellar, northeast-facing “La Perriere” yielded a stunner in 2015, hitting a real sweet spot between its ever-present mineral intensity and the natural generosity of the vintage. The unabashedly expressive nose offers a limestone roar that nearly assails the taster, as if one came too close to a working quarry. The ample fruit of the vintage shows more in the density of the palate than in any specific flavor characteristics, as even in a richer vintage the mineral force of this wine muscles the other elements into a supporting role. The white-pepper-tinged finish is very long and incredibly intense, hinting at long age-ability for those able to resist the wine’s current electric charm.

2015 Saint-Romain Blanc “Sous la Velle”
The family’s oldest vines—60 years old on average, with some over 90—are to be found in “Sous la Velle,” which always provides a fascinating contrast with “La Perriere” above. A sunnier parcel with a higher presence of marl in its soil, “Sous la Velle” typically produces an earthier, broader wine than “La Perriere,” and the 2015 is no exception. If a touch less fine and bracing than its neighbor, it is perhaps more layered and complex on the palate, with an intensity more brooding than soaring. Its long, tightly wound finish reveals its pedigree, as well as the sheer material of the vintage.

2015 Saint-Romain Blanc “Sous le Chateau”
“Sous le Chateau” is Buisson’s warmest, best-exposed holding, and this 2015 offers more amplitude, concentration, and thickness than the three wines above. If “La Perriere” is Grand Cru Chablis, “Sous le Chateau” is Chevalier-Montrachet. The minerality here, while just as intense as that of “La Perriere,” is more team player than ball hog, and the wine carries itself extremely gracefully despite its largeness. A quinine-drenched nose combines the limestone power of “La Perriere” with the soil imprint of “Sous la Velle,” and the broad, almost viscous palate still delivers ringing acidity—a testament both to the Buisson brothers’ sensitivity and to the advantage Saint-Romain possesses in an ever-warming climate.

2015 Saint-Romain Rouge “Combe Bazin”
In a relatively cool terroir like Saint-Romain, it is the red wines that really reap the benefits of a “solar” growing season like 2015. This is our second vintage with the Buisson’s relatively young (13-year-old) parcel in “Combe Bazin,” and it is certainly a deeper, more profound wine than the 2014, though it maintains a vibrant snap that keeps it fresh and delicious. The dense, concentrated fruit is pitched toward black cherry, with a subtle spicy underlay, and the finish reveals ample but fresh tannins. Franck and Frédérick have an uncanny ability to fully harness the qualities of a given vintage without leaning into them to excess, and this wine encapsulates that ability perfectly.

2015 Saint-Romain Rouge “Sous Roches”
The Buissons own a parcel of 60-year-old Pinot Noir in this well-situated vineyard immediately north of “Combe Bazin” above. Always their most complete and complex red wine, the 2015 is exceptional, offering stunning concentration for a Saint-Romain. An enchanting nose of sous-bois, red and black fruits, and subtle menthol gives way to a palate of youthfully inward fruit and impressive structure, and a sense of energy underlines the elegance and poise lurking inside the wine’s broad-shouldered carriage. One really senses the Buissons’ skill with extraction as well as the vigor and health of their fruit in this bottling. A bit of patience may be needed, but it will undoubtedly provide huge rewards down the road.

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