By Celia Strong
We all know how nice it is to have family and friends close for the holidays. Hopefully, we all remember what it feels like to be one of the ones going home too. And, to be one of the ones waiting at home for someone to come. For many of us, I hope, nice wines came along with all these great memories. Today, we’ve got two new ones. Wines. A red and a white for us to enjoy. And remember.
Our wines come to us from the Burgundy region of France. As a bit of review, this is a region in eastern France known for great red wines made from Pinot Noir and great white wines made from Chardonnay. Some of these are the most expensive in the world. The Celts probably grew vines and made wines in the area before the Romans conquered Gaul in 51 BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, monasteries played a major role in continuing wine making in the region. In the centuries that followed, there were ups and downs for the industry. From 1985 to 1995, growers and producers worked diligently to “clean up” their growing and winemaking. Their wines became deeper and more complex and, today, they are reaping the benefits of that work. Benefits in their quality reputations and in their prices.
Needless to say, we could go on for hours about Burgundy, but the clocks are ticking. In more ways than one. This is Christmas week! So, on to our winery for this week. Domaine Lejeune. This is a family owned operation, with ancestors going back to 1783, based in the town of Pommard. Named for Maxime Lejeune, who died in 1864 and whose estate was over 50 acres. A sizable holding in Burgundy. Today, Julien de Pommerol, a former oenology professor at Beaune’s Lycée Viticole, oversees the property and the winemaking. The cellar at Lejeune has many large, traditional oak fermenting vats. One of these is circled with 17 hoops made from white birch. This is the traditional type of vat in Burgundy and the oldest one still in existence. And still being used!
At Domaine Lejeune, they use a combination of older, traditional winemaking techniques and modern technology. Their goal is to make wines, especially Pommard since that’s where they are based and own the most vineyards, with traditional flavor profiles and the potential for aging and developing as well. Their method of vinification is worth noting. Clusters and bunches of grapes are sorted. Overripe berries are removed but the stems stay. Each vat is filled, less than half full, with whole clusters and bunches. These are trodden by foot (Yep! Think of the old pictures of men in shorts stomping around, in their bare feet, on bunches of grapes) until there is enough juice to start the alcoholic fermentation. Using natural yeast spores. Then, the vats are filled up with more bunches of grapes, and the weight of these presses down and releases more juice. This alcoholic fermentation takes five to seven days. Technically this is a carbonic maceration. The “wine” that is started here is protected from oxidizing and fermentation continues in these vats. More foot pressure, hand pressure and special poles are used to make sure all the grapes are crushed and their juices released. After 21 to 26 days, three to four weeks, wine is run off, out of the vats into barrels. After time in barrels, Lejeune does not fine or filter their wines before bottling them. This leaves all the structure, body, aromas and flavors possible in the wines. Which we now get to taste.
The Lejeune Bourgogne Blanc, Chardonnay, is smooth and balanced. It has moderate fullness with pleasant fruit flavors. Pale yellow in your glass, with aromas that pop up at your nose. It has a creaminess in its nose, along with apple, pear and green herb notes. And a hint of lemon zest. The creaminess follows into the palate, balancing a crisp acidity. A clean style Chardonnay, made to serve as both an apéritif and with foods like fresh seafood, salads and more. For $16.99.
And, the Lejeune Bourgogne Rouge is Pinot Noir. This wine is a traditional styled red Burgundy, not heavy, not pumped up with other varieties, and clean, almost crisp flavors. It is cherry red in your glass with aromas of cherries, strawberries and cranberries. Hints of black pepper, coffee and truffle hide in the back. Its flavors are mild but not weak. Also traditional. This is a great wine for seafood too! But it will also go with cheeses (I just had a sip with a taste of Époisses – a cheese from the Burgundy region.) For $16.99.
But where are the kids? Well, “Lejeune” means the “the young one.” The “kids” are here. Happy Holiday! Enjoy.