Everything about Burgundy is eternal; nothing about Burgundy is predictable.
Except for one thing: The Little Drummer Boy could not have afforded L’Enfant Jésus.
When I was a fledgling fan of French phantasmagora, I used to use the mnemonic Beaune—pronouced ‘bone’—to remind me that the stunning wines of Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune were white as a bone, whereas the great wines of the Côte de Nuits (nuit means night, which is dark) are primarily red. But as I said, nothing about Burgundy is predictable, and so the wine that fits into the obligatory category of a Christmas wine is both red and Beaune.
There are, of course, a number of stellar red wines from the northern part of Côte de Beaune, and the town itself—ground zero for much of Burgundy’s wine trade—is an appellation whose wines are predominately so. And by red, it is understood to mean, wine pressed from Pinot Noir—the flagship variety in the commune. They are distinctive, delightful wines, leaner and racier than the heavier reds from neighboring Pommard and less domineering than the wines of Corton to the north.
Les Grèves is a hallowed vineyard in northern Beaune, a Premier Cru climat considered one of the best in the appellation. Despite ‘Beaune’ being pronounced ‘bone’, Les Grèves does not mean ‘grave’ but ‘gravel’; it is the high proportion of small stones in the plot that gives the land it’s characteristic drainage as well as a root-warming, subterranean rockpile. Maison Bouchard Père et Fils owns a handful of these acres, and from them, Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus has been produced since 1791.
It’s a delicately scented, scarlet wine, luminous in the glass with a concentrated perfume of tangy red cherry and currant with a wash of spice. There’s a fragility in the nose that becomes elevated in the mouth; the wine is fleshy and freshly acidic, supported by a framework of velvety fruit and sumptuous tannin. 2012’s weather conditions limited the yields in Beaune, resulting in smaller grapes with suberb focus, and this carries through the wine’s finish, which is long and lavish.
At a hundred plus per bottle, this is not a wine for drinking from a dirty paper bag in the park, but would do fine paired with a clean, contemplative fire in the hearth. At Christmas, especially—although the only little drummer boy I can think of under whose pay grade it falls is named Starr. You know, the like one shining in the East?