Region: Burgundy, France
Color/Style: Red Wine
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Cesar
Red Burgundy is inextricably linked to the grape that once grew wild in its forests, later tamed and propagated by Cistercian monks in the middle ages: the legendary and noble Pinot Noir. However, on the far northern tip of Burgundy, in the pastoral hills around Vézelay, there remain a few scattered acres of another red grape, curiously referred to as “César” by the locals. Legend has it that this grape was first introduced to this particular area when Caesar himself marched his soldiers there to face down and conquer the Gauls once and for all at the battle of Alésia. After a long siege and brutal battles, Caesar went home triumphant, with the Gallic leader Vercingetorix in a cage as his prize. He left behind not only fields of the red grape we call César today, but also a local populace with newly learned skills of vine-growing and winemaking.
While the legend may seem tall, recent DNA testing has shown that this far-away-from-home grape is a cousin to Barbera from Piedmont in Italy. Only a few small pockets of it remain in northern Burgundy, where it is blended with Pinot Noir. Fortunately for us, La Cadette is one of those lucky few who give us a chance to sip this wonderfully rustic and brambly blend with hints of ancient history and intrigue.
After not being able to produce this bottling for two vintages due to lower-than-normal yields, Valentin Montanet has delivered an exquisite 2018. The Ermitage parcel in Vézelay, co-planted with both César and Pinot Noir, offers an unexpected marriage that works surprisingly well. The César adds an element of dense, dark fruit and tannic structure, while the fresh, bright, and lively Pinot Noir provides fluidity and high-toned aromatics. The result is a beautiful Cadette rouge with a bit more structure and plenty of pleasure.