I’d never heard of Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune until I did my Level 2 wine course. And, after swotting up on the area’s reputation, I soon had a mental image of it as a sacred region of hallowed earth, producing cultured Chardonnays and saintly Pinot Noirs that I’d have to pawn my record collection to afford.
So I was interested to learn that the Co-op now offer this Chardonnay from Saint-Romain, on the Côte de Beaune. Especially as its tag promises it will “knock the socks off Burgundys twice the price”. Seeing as this costs the best part of 20 quid, that’s quite a claim.
Now… I tend to associate white Burgundy with the style of wine you get in the sunnier south of the region, the Mâconnais — a warmer area where the harvest begins two weeks earlier than it does in Chablis (in the far north of Burgundy). In the Mâconnais, the wines are soft and fruity, with sweet stone fruit and honeysuckle. I actually reckon they have more in common with some New World Chardonnays, from Australia and South Africa, than they do with Chablis.
Despite being from central Burgundy, this Saint-Romain is way more similar to a cool-climate Chablis (or even a Champagne) than a Mâconnais. This revelation took me by surprise until I read that it’s from one of the highest vineyards in the region (400m above sea level), and located “at the foot of a large amphitheater of limestone cliffs”. Aha, now it made sense: the cool altitude and limestone are pumping it with steely minerality.
So instead of the peach, honey and pear I was expecting, this Saint-Romain gave me newly-ripe apple, citrus, and tart gooseberry, plus a hint of Champagne-style yeastiness. I personally prefer the fruitier southern style, but this is a wine that exudes elegance. Does it “knock the socks off Burgundies twice the price” though? The honest answer is… I’ve never paid £40 for a white Burgundy so I don’t know. What I can say is, there’s no doubt it tastes uniquely French.
Good for: Fans of steely, elegant, straightforward cool-climate whites such as Chablis and Champagne.
Bad for: Those who can’t handle gooseberry tartness and high minerality, and prefer creamy, oaky Chardonnays or softer, more fruit-forward ones. People who don’t want to spend £18.
Alternatives: For a slightly less expensive (but still high-class) alternative, I’d highly recommend the Co-op’s Saint-Véran (£11.99). Coming from the warmer southern part of Burgundy, it’s softer, with greater emphasis on stone fruits and honey. The Co-op Chablis is also £11.99, but is more similar in style to the Saint-Romain.
4.5 NINJA STARS
Joseph Drouhin Saint Roman 2013, 13% vol, £17.99 at Co-op