Awarded 95 points and a Platinum Best In Category (Red Cote de Beaune over £15) at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards (www.decanter.com): see their August 2016 DWWA supplement (see blue link below).
Chateau de Santenay Les Puilllets 1er Cru 2014 - August 2016 Decanter review
This magnificent property, which dates back to the 9th century, is also known as Château Philippe le Hardi, as it was once owned by the first Duc of Burgundy. Philippe le Hardi is famous as the person who banned the cultivation of Gamay in the Côte d'Or, saying in his edict of 1395 that only Pinot Noir could be used in the production of red wines from the already fabled slopes. Despite its long history, the property had fallen on hard times until it was taken over by the French bank Crédit Agricole in recent years. They have invested heavily, bringing in a new team to support the general manager, Gérard Fagnoni, and putting the emphasis on quality. The property has 98 hectares of vineyard, 72 of which are in Mercurey. These are remarkably well-made and good-value wines from the Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise.
The eight hectare 'Les Puillets' vineyard is located on the south-south-west facing hillslide slopes in the Chalonnaise appellation of Mercurey. The average age of the vines is 30 years. The soils here are rich in clay, but the limestone is still very present as well as some areas of marl. These characteristics give the red wines of Mercurey power and a beautiful structure.
The 2015 vintage experienced a hot, dry midsummer, which was immediately followed by a cool, damp August. These conditions produced small but perfectly concentrated Pinot Noir berries with thick skins, intense colour and flavour, and soft tannins. Hot weather towards the end of the vintage brought fears of losing acidity so most wineries picked early, helping maintain a delicate acidity in the final wines.
Most of the fruit from their vineyards was hand harvested. On arrival at the winery, the grapes were cold soaked for seven days at 8°C to extract colour and flavour from the skins. Temperature controlled fermentation lasted 12 to 14 days with daily pumping over, finishing with a rack and return, or 'délestage', to impart the grainy tannins that give the wines a lovely structure and length. The wine was then aged in oak barrels for 13 months, of which 20% were new, before bottling.
This Mercurey is a dark garnet colour. The nose is focused on woody notes and kirsch. Full and rich, the palate shows red cherry and redcurrant flavours with mouthwatering freshness and pleasant tannins on the finish. Though drinking well now, it will reward some time in the cellar. Dark ruby in colour. The nose is intense with aromas of dark berries, cherries and spicy notes. The palate is full yet elegant with ripe, dark fruits and a surprisingly long and complex finish.