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“Chablis” from One of France’s Forgotten Appellations

Posted on: 06/30/22 12:00 PM

Phylloxera continues to write the history of France. In 1874, France had about 2.5M hA under vine. Today, it is about one third of that number. Surely, there were many areas of France overplanted to wine grapes, but there were also high quality appellations that the phylloxera louse drove out of production.

Some of the hardest hit areas were the “marginal” regions in France’s north, where viticulture was always difficult. The Yonne, Burgundy’s chilly north, home to Chablis, is one area where many exciting and high quality terroirs were abandoned in the wake of phylloxera. Today, a new generation of winemakers is revising many of these appellations and some of the most exciting producers can be found in the Auxerrois, St. Bris and Vezelay.


Many of these regions share an affinity with Chablis and Sancerre, in that they tend to be dominated by limestone and produce wines of great minerality, length and salty intensity. Vezelay, in particular, has a deep core of chalky soils. However, in addition to the chalk, there is a good amount of red and blue clay deposits on either bank of the River Cure, a tributary of the Yonne.

Domaine Sainte Madeleine is one of the promising young estates in this emerging region. Alexandre and Blandine settled in Vézelay in 2016, purchasing a promising site called Côte Chauffour, which they planted upon purchase. In the meanwhile, they acquired other sites, most notably Les Saulniers and Bouriats, from which their current releases hail.

While the Domaine is young, ambitions are high. Currently, the couple is leasing cellar space from Domaine de la Cadette while they build out a cellar. Fermentations and elevage take place in steel tank, but there is a plan to move to neutral oak, when the cellar space is available. Vine material is selection massale from a grower in Savoie, who Domaine Raveneau also uses for his Chardonnay plantings.

The wines are exceptional already: intensely bright, chalk-driven fruit, with a subtly rich and creamy undertone, presenting as a sort of slightly riper version of Chablis.

Not only are regions like this exciting, but they also represent exceptional value. Given where Burgundy pricing has been headed, wines like Ste. Madeleine’s Vezelay represents stunning value. Overlook it at your peril.


Posted in Burgundy List By Ian Halbert