In the Tenderloin

Chandon de Briailles’ wines are quintessential renderings of Corton and its surrounding villages, capturing the soul of the northern Côte de Beaune.
 
The domaine’s whites include both Corton-Charlemagne and Corton Blanc but savvy Burgundy connoisseurs know that the sleeper in Chandon de Briailles’ portfolio is the Chardonnay from Corton’s neighbor, Île des Vergelesses.
 
As Clive Coates has written, “Lying at an altitude of between 270 and 285 metres above sea level, on a relatively gentle slope facing exactly to the southeast … the Île is ideally placed. It is surely a contender for elevation to grand cru.”
 
In other words, like other great sites in the Côte d’Or, Île de Vergelesses lies right at the tenderloin on its slope, where the soil and angle of the sun combine to bring its fruit to a glorious balance, its nuanced elegance supported by structure and depth.
 
John Gilman agrees that it “can often approach grand cru quality.” In the hands of co-directeurs Claude and François de Nicolay it very nearly does, its famed elegance perfectly matched by Chandon de Briailles’ style of transparency and finesse.
 
Their single hectare of Chardonnay runs vertically down through the center of the Île des Vergelesses slope, marrying the very chalky top with the richer clay at the bottom, for a perfectly balanced expression of this great site en blanc.
 
Claude and François, whose family has owned Chandon de Briailles since 1834, tend their Île de Vergelesses vines biodynamically and the white winemaking is ultra-traditional: whole-cluster pressed, a long cold fermentation with the native yeasts and aging on the lees in neutral barrels.
 
The result is one of the great under-the-radar white Burgundies. Its fine, mineral-charged structure frames a white Burgundy of excellent complexity and length for its class. The fine vintages of 2011 and 2010 produced classic wines from the Île, and they’ve vanished from the market just as they’ve reached their plateau of perfect maturity.

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