Looking through Kahn’s (Keystone Avenue, Indianapolis) current newsletter, a listing for Lecheneaut’s 2007 Chorey-les-Beaune for $29.99 caught my attention. I confess I do not know this particular wine, but I do know something of Chorey-les-Beaune, and I think a bottle of red Burgundy for $30 is very good value. The Lecheneauts are known for producing fine wines in several Burgundy villages, so I have no doubt their wines from Chorey are of exceptional quality.
The reason this announcement caught my attention was the village name. Sadly, we do not see wines from Chorey-les-Beaune very often or in very many places in the United States. I learned to like them in the 1970s when Serge Dubs, sommelier in the Auberge de l’Ill, offered us a bottle of Domaine Chateau Chorey-les-Beaune at lunch. It was considerably less expensive than most of the red Burgundies on that restaurant’s legendary wine list. And it was good enough for me to plan a visit there at my first opportunity.
Serge explained that because Chorey is on a flat plain along the Saone, it lacks the drainage and direct sunshine of the Cote d’Or and consequently produced no wines of Grand Cru status — but other than that, they possessed all the charm and complexity expected from Burgundy. My wife and I drove unannounced to the chateau in the spring of 1972. The woman who answered the door — Madame Germain, it turned out — explained that her husband Francois was ill and couldn’t show us through the cellars. However, Francois, draped in blankets on a couch near a roaring fireplace, overheard our conversation and realized we were American and called for us to come in.
He had the flu, but for an hour we sat by the fire and listened to him sing the praises of the wines of Chorey. Of course we sampled a couple during our conversation, but I don’t recall what they were. We took home a case of wine labeled simply Chateau Chorey-les-Beaune.
We began to see Francois every couple of years, occasionally organizing group visits for colleagues working with us in Heidelberg. In 1976 I was there for the start of the harvest and ultimately was able to agree that that was an exceptional year for all of Burgundy. Through the 1980s, Chorey-les-Beaune and the Domaine Chateau Chorey-les-Beaune first growth Teurons were regularly on our dinner table, and we sought them in restaurants from Paris to Strasbourg. I haven’t been back to the chateau since Francois retired, in 1989, I think, but hope to include it on a visit to Burgundy next September.
In a Burgundy we expect an earthy silkiness, a fragrant red fruit essence, and the wines from Chorey deliver. I don’t think there’s any risk in buying one from the Lecheneauts.