Under-the-Radar Burg Value: 2011 & 2012 Alain Gras Saint-Romain Blanc

Posted by Ian McFadden

"Vins de Plaisir"
Alain Gras
Saint-Romain Blanc 2011 & 2012
Under-the-Radar Burg Value

What's that? Haven't heard of Saint-Romain?

Perched on a hill above Meursault and Pommard in the Côte de Beaune, Saint-Romain may be one of the last overlooked, and underpriced, regions in Burgundy. And Alain Gras put this region on the map.

If it's not on your radar, it's about to be. You'd be hard-pressed to find better-value white Burgs than these, in terms of sheer pleasure of drinking and the fact that you can stock up without grimacing.

The wine has a powerful ambassador in its importer, Daniel Johnnes, noted wine director of Boulud restaurants—who, I admit, actually called me out for not drinking this humble little wine from Saint-Romain. Normally, I'm pretty skeptical of importers' pitches (this job will do that to you), but when I tasted the wine, I had to cede to Johnnes: It was downright delicious. Though, to be fair, admitting defeat wasn't so tough in light of this pretty wine I had just found.

These wines are an absolute joy to drink. Set in a cooler micro-climate of the Cote de Beaune, Saint-Romain produces racier whites. Alain Gras's Blanc is sourced from 40-year-old Chardonnay vines on clay and limestone, and it comes alive with a bright acidity, while remaining balanced with warmth, depth, completeness.

"I want to make vins de plaisir," Gras has said, and he has more than met his goal. Gras is well regarded among his peers as one of the finest winemakers in the region. In fact, it was Dominique Lafon who tipped Johnnes off to Alain Gras's wines in the first place. This is a Burgundian's Burgundy, the sort of wine being drunk by winemakers and their friends on a June evening as they think on what the next harvest will bring.

We're offering both the 2011 and 2012 to show just how sensitive the winemaking is here. Every year the quality is very high, but each vintage also reveals a different dimension of the wine. And also because you'll definitely want more than one of these bottles around.

The 2011 whites are continually underrated, and I love them for their generosity, for that elusive balance of richness and acidity. In Saint-Romain in 2012, this streak of acid really shines. The 2012s are classic, pure, but frustratingly limited in quantity—though if this scarcity allows under-the-radar players like Alain Gras to take a front seat, well, that's fine by me.

I can't tell you how heartening it is to find excellent values in Burgundy. I'm a sucker for the wines, but it's undeniable how prices have risen as the region has gone more blue-chip, less country vigneron. That's why I love a wine like Gras's Saint-Romain—and whether you're a blue-chip collector yourself, or just on the lookout for a great summer white, I think you'll get what I mean.

To order, reply to offers@crushwineco.com or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Ian McFadden
Director, Fine and Rare Wine
Crush Wine & Spirits