Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Borniques”
Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Borniques”

Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Borniques”

Burgundy, France 2017 (750mL)
Regular price$110.00
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Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Borniques”

Wine can be a numbers game, especially in Burgundy, where you can hit a massive jackpot if you know what to look for. Indulge me for a moment: The bidding begins around $350 for a single bottle of Premier Cru Les Amoureuses, and the starting point lurches up to $700 for neighboring Grand Cru Musigny, with extreme examples costing thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. Why do we care? Because today’s Premier Cru “Borniques” immediately borders—without break—both of these legendary sites.

In the hands of visionary winemaker Frédéric Magnien, this 2017 blends tried-and-true methods with the avant-garde, resulting in a powerfully exquisite Burgundy that epitomizes the thrilling beauty of Chambolle-Musigny’s costly crème de la crème. Of course, there isn’t much to go around: The entirety of “Les Borniques” is only 1.42 hectares, of which, again, seamlessly runs into gold-standard Grand Cru Musigny and Les Amoureuses (among the finest Premier Crus in all of Burgundy). With each passing year, getting our hands on a bottle becomes increasingly harder but if it’s possible, we do it, because Magnien’s “Les Borniques” delivers one of the most profound values in Burgundy when it tacks on age.

Having personally met Frédéric Magnien last year, I can assuredly say that he’s an innovative and impassioned vigneron who personifies the term “micro-négociant” (a designation of relatively recent coinage). And today’s wine, from the Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru “Les Borniques,” is a perfect distillation of everything he brings to the table: a jewel-box vineyard site; impeccable old-vine fruit from a great vintage; and a dialed-back approach to aging that lets the nuances of site shine through as clearly as possible. This is prime “collectible” material with a lot of insider cachet.

Having grown up riding his bike through the vineyards of Morey-Saint-Denis, and having learned his craft from his father, Michel (Domaine Michel Magnien), “Fred” has assembled an enviable roster of grower-partners, all of them either certified organic or in the process of conversion. He works closely with these growers, many of whom he’s known since childhood, to produce exceptionally pure expressions of some of Burgundy’s greatest vineyards. Magnien founded his maison in 1995, following an extended period of travel to other great wine regions of the world. The roster of wines now produced under the Magnien label is extremely long and diverse, stretching the length of the Côte d’Or and reaching up into Chablis as well. All the wines display the kind of precision that comes from careful, hands-on fruit sourcing, and there’s no doubt that Magnien considers himself a vigneron first and a winemaker second. 

In recent years, as he has embraced organic and biodynamic practices, his work in the cellar has evolved: Wines have long been fermented with a percentage of whole clusters intact, and only on indigenous yeasts, but starting with the 2015 vintage, Magnien began aging some of his wines—including today’s—in a mixture of used French oak (60%) and terra cotta amphorae (40%), or jarres. He explains that “[the] mix of the two wine ageings unveil the brightness and clarity of wine thanks to the jar, while keeping its complexity and length thanks to the traditional cask.” While I was visiting, we did a tasting of both vessels, and it was mind-boggling that both samples on their own were great but nowhere as good as when blended together. I would never have believed it if I wasn’t there. 

“Les Borniques” soils, like Musigny’s, are streaked with veins of white and yellow clay over limestone but its aspect is marginally different with more of a full east/slight northeast tilt in comparison to Musigny’s (and Amoureuses’) more southeasterly exposition. Ultimately, it’s one of the best illustrations of the “game of inches” we so often obsess over around here. Take about five steps to the south of Les Borniques and you’ve entered an entirely new dimension in terms of price—kind of hard to believe when you walk these vineyards in person!

Today’s 2017 was partially de-stemmed and fermented on indigenous yeasts before being transferred into a combination of neutral French barrels and amphorae. After aging, the wines from both vessels were blended together and bottled without fining or filtration. In the glass, it’s a deep, reflective ruby moving to a bright magenta at the rim. Its nose brims with concentrated black-red fruit in the form of black cherries, black raspberry, wild strawberry, and spiced plums, clearing the way for a light-footed stampede of black tea, pomegranate oil, violets, rose petals, forest floor, crushed stones, and damp clay. Texturally, this is everything you could ask for in Chambolle-Musigny—the wine glides across the palate with silky, feminine grace, culminating in a long, aromatic finish—but its “prettiness” is still very much huddled up in a hardened, young Burgundy carapace. It needs hours in a decanter before one even considers pouring it into large bulbous stems, but the wisest move of all would be to wait until at least its fifth birthday. To be able to revisit this wine periodically, over the course of the next two decades, is a privilege I wish everyone could have yet only a lucky few can. Make sure you’re one of those select few!
Frédéric Magnien, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Borniques”
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France

Bourgogne

Beaujolais

Enjoying the greatest wines of Beaujolais starts, as it usually does, with the lay of the land. In Beaujolais, 10 localities have been given their own AOC (Appellation of Controlled Origin) designation. They are: Saint Amour; Juliénas; Chénas; Moulin-à Vent; Fleurie; Chiroubles; Morgon; Régnié; Côte de Brouilly; and Brouilly.

Southwestern France

Bordeaux

Bordeaux surrounds two rivers, the Dordogne and Garonne, which intersect north of the city of Bordeaux to form the Gironde Estuary, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is at the 45th parallel (California’s Napa Valley is at the38th), with a mild, Atlantic-influenced climate enabling the maturation of late-ripening varieties.

Central France

Loire Valley

The Loire is France’s longest river (634 miles), originating in the southerly Cévennes Mountains, flowing north towards Paris, then curving westward and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes. The Loire and its tributaries cover a huge swath of central France, with most of the wine appellations on an east-west stretch at47 degrees north (the same latitude as Burgundy).

Northeastern France

Alsace

Alsace, in Northeastern France, is one of the most geologically diverse wine regions in the world, with vineyards running from the foothills of theVosges Mountains down to the Rhine River Valley below.

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