Wine Review: 2011 Patrice Rion Chardonnay

Update: Because it's a Monday and I'm starting a little slow (is it Wine Wednesday yet?) I forgot to remind you that this White Burgundy would be absolutely perfect to pair with Thanksgiving dinner!


So, a comment before I start this review. The name of this wine is something of a misnomer. This is, indeed, a Chardonnay. The wine is made from the Chardonnay grape. But, it’s from Burgundy, in France. A Chardonnay from Burgundy is not just a Chardonnay - it’s a White Burgundy.

Burgundy. Ohhhh...Burgundy. This wine region is heavenly torture for wine students. It’s one of the most complex and disorienting wine regions in the world, but produces some of the most spine-chilling, complex, and devastatingly beautiful wines.

Burgundy grows (mainly) two grapes: Pinot Noir (Red Burgundy) and Chardonnay (White Burgundy). There are all kinds of levels and hierarchies in Burgundy, from the simple red Burgundies made with grapes from across the region, to the Grand Crus - the pinnacle of the region’s quality pyramid - which can run you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Burgundy is also tricky because it requires you to know specific producers. It’s different than any other wine region, in that one person or family owning one entire vineyard is...not really a thing. Owing to a number of historical anomalies, vineyard ownership in Burgundy can be split between 5 owners or 80 owners. Yes, in Burgundy, you can own vine rows 5 through 7, while your neighbor might own rows 26 through 54. It’s weird, but that’s Burgundy. (The reason it’s like this has to do with the Napoleonic code instituted after the French Revolution. Basically, the code revised inheritance laws, and while this did make it more equitable between sons and daughters, it also seriously fractured the area’s land holdings. And, because it’s France, it’s been that way ever since.)

So, that brings me to the wine. This wine is a White Burgundy - all Chardonnay, through and through. This particular producer, Patrice Rion, is actually Patrice and Maxime Rion - a father and son team out of Burgundy (Michèle Rion, Patrice's wife, also gets in on the action). They are a rare breed for a few reasons. First, they are something called a monopole - they own their own vineyard. They don’t share it with any other owners. A rare and magical thing, in Burgundy. Second, they are biodynamic producers. “Biodynamic” refers to a method of viticulture that involves absolutely no chemicals, and in which the timing of harvest, application of homeopathic remedies, and basically anything having to do with the wine, is timed in accordance with the rotation of the moon and stars.

I’ve raised a skeptical eyebrow to biodynamic viticulture, in part because of my own biases about something that sounds a little hippy-dippy. But, my own biases aside, I can objectively tell you that for whatever reason, biodynamic producers are producing some great wines.

White Burgundy is made in the traditional way - harvested, pressed, fermented and aged. It’s sometimes given old oak (which gives you a buttery flavor) during the aging process, but mostly, the fruit is allowed to shine through. The wine should have some body and weight.

This Patrice Rion Chardonnay checked all those boxes, and then some. On the nose, it gives you endless fruit - lemon curd, ripe pear, yellow apple, white peach, apricot and hints of honeysuckle. Take a sip, and the wine sits on your tongue like a dream.  It’s light, but with a lovely richness with apricot, peach and pear coming through. The acidity is refreshing and gives the wine shape. The finish goes on for forever and a day.

At around $40, this wine is drinking beautifully right at it’s price point.

Rating: No, I Won’t Be Sharing. Place of Purchase: DCanter, Washington DC. Retail Price: $40. You’ll like this if you like: New Zealand or Australian Sauvignon Blanc, Un-oaked Chardonnay from anywhere, Chenin Blanc