Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tasting Burgundy

I had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting devoted to celebrating the wine heritage of Burgundy recently that was sponsored by the Burgundy Wine Council. I wanted to share some of my observations from that tasting with you. Getting over my Burgundy anxiety was one of my 2007 wine projects, and I can't say that I had a lot of success. I still felt that I was paying too much for wines that were pleasant, but not memorable. And I was often stumped in the wine store by selections of wine that I simply could not afford. So I was particularly interested in this tasting because the organizers were emphasizing "Burgundy Best Buys" that cost less than $35. I wanted a chance to taste these wines, and to compare them with more costly wines from the same region.

Here are my thoughts, after tasting more than 60 different wines from this one spectacular wine region.

1. Yes, there are great buys in Burgundy.
Let's get that out there right away. Sparkling wines, white wines, red wines--there were excellent choices for under $35 in each of these brackets. I loved the fresh biscuity aromas and flavors of the 2004 Dufouleur Pere et Fils Cremant de Bourgogne ($NA), and the unexpected anise note in the finish. Among the white still wines, I adored the aromas of golden apple in the 2006 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Sentier du Clou ($NA). Though the 2005 Champy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Charmois ($NA) had more muted aromas, the soft and balanced flavors of apple and citrus opened up nicely and I was impressed by how food-friendly the wine would be. Among the reds, the 2005 Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey ($35) was a stunner with aromas and flavors of earth, spice, and cherry. There was a pleasant lift at the core of this wine's flavors, and a nice silkiness, too.

2. These affordable Burgundy wines are not easy to find. Burgundian vineyards are tiny, tiny, tiny in most cases. The small number of cases each producer is able to produce means that it's going to be difficult to find these wines in most markets. The one bargain I could find online, for instance, is available only through NY merchants.

3. There are a lot of great wines that aren't being imported into the US. I tasted some great, great wine that is simply not available in US markets--and not because the winemakers don't want us to drink it! Champy, who makes the great white I mentioned in #1 is looking for an importer. I tasted nine of their wines, and with one exception each one was a wine I would recommend. They were complex, balanced--and not available in the US. Other producers whose wine I loved across the board, but who don't have importers at present, include Maison Lou Dumont and Domaine de Mauperthuis.

4. Gevrey-Chambertin. Because I was able to drink wines from many different appellations, I was able for the very first time to realize that I love wines from Gevrey-Chambertin, with Pommard coming in as a very close second. The 2005 Maison Albert Bichot Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corvees was just lovely, with its pure cherry aromas and flavors and spicy notes. And the 2005 Maison Albert Bichot Pommard Clos des Ursulines Domaine du Pavillon ($43) was just as nice, with deep aromas of black cherry and plum.

5. Entry level Burgundies can be just terrific. If you think there's no point in drinking entry-level Burgundies, think again. These will not have a specific vineyard or appellation associated with them, and often carry a varietal designation. But I was really impressed by the freshness and appeal of the "Bourgogne Chardonnay" and "Bourgogne Pinot Noir" that I had. the 2005 Maison Albert Bichot Bourgogne Chardonnay Vielles Vignes was clean and fresh, with creamy apple aromas and flavors. The 2006 Champy Bourgogne Pinot Noir had lovely aromas of cherry and cherry blossom, a gorgeous true ruby color, and a slightly drying finish. And the 2005 Maison Lou Dumont Bourgogne Red (which retails in Europe for around 10 euros), had a terrific structure and a cherry nose with a pleasantly earthy underpinning.

In just one tasting I was able to push my knowledge of Burgundy well past what I knew going in to the event. And it gave me hope that with some more experience, I might be able to return to my Burgundy project one day.


Anonymous said...

You beat me to the punch! I've been trying to write up a post pleading importers to consider taking on Lou Dumont and Dom. de Mauperthuis but I just haven't had proper time to devote to it. They really deserve attention, and thanks for pointing them out to people. I hope there are lots of importers and distribs reading your blog!

ARBeck said...

Since you've already broken the silence on Garagiste, I've found they are a great source of affordable Burgundy. Almost all the wine I buy there is in the $10-$25 range, and all the Burgundy I've had I can recommend.

Dr. Debs said...

d547, I hope there are lots of importers/distribs reading my blog, too. I would like a stash of the Mauperthuis, for sure. Andrew, that's good to know about Garagiste. I've got 4 different wines from Burgundy that I've ordered from them over the last year. None have arrived, but all were under $30 and from the 2005 vintage so it's good to know that you've been happy with what you've received.

ARBeck said...

dr. debs,

Which wines did you purchase? I probably have them all in my cellar as I've bought just about every reasonable 2005 they've offered. Since I live in Seattle, I get to pick them up when they come in. I'd love to compare notes with someone.

Dr. Debs said...

Andrew, I bought the Thevenot, the Ninot Mercurey, and the Claude Nouveau. None have arrived yet, though, so I have no notes as yet. But when they arrive, I'll let you know. Are you on CTracker? Have you opened any?

ARBeck said...

I think I have all of those as well. I have not yet opened them up, but they are all in my cellar. I don't use CTracker, because I am a nerd. Why use something like that when I can re-invent the will.

You can visit to see everything I have, you can even sort the wines just by things I've gotten from garagiste. Feel free to email me if you want.

Anonymous said...

Burgundy Wine lies at the very heart of France, and is one of the world’s finest wine producing regions. Located two hours to the southeast of Paris, the wine area starts in Chablis in the north of the region and then it follows the autoroute A6 southerly to Lyon.

The Burgundy soil is mainly based on oolitic limestone, upon which both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes flourish. The red wines, made with the Pinot Noir, are more difficult to grow because these grapes are more sensitive to disease or to being badly handled. Towards the south of the region, from around Macon, the soil changes to a reddish granite schist and sand of the Beaujolais. Here, the Gamay grape flourishes, making excellent red wines, many of which are drunk while they are young.

If you have not been to Burgundy, try it. It is a great part of France to visit for a holiday. Alternatively, stay at home and simply drink and enjoy the wine.
You can more information for the Burgundy Wine in: