01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

Burgundy for a novice - help required

I’m wondering if I might be able to ask the wisdom of the forum for some help.

I love Pinot Noir, but I’ve only really found New World pinots that I truly love and they mostly come from South Africa. I’ve enjoyed some from New Zealand too although I tend to find you get more for your money in SA. Same issue with Oregon - I have enjoyed some but a lot of them feel a bit confected for my taste and again I’ve found better value in SA.

I feel like I ‘should’ love Burgundy but for some reason I’ve been put off trying to get to know it until now. Maybe it’s the price or past disappointments but I’ve never quite got it. I’ve recently tried a few Bourgogne rouges including those from Pataille & Bellavoine but they just don’t do it for me - simple, fruity and ok but I can probably get more interest in Beaujolais or the Loire for that style.

Can I find the best bits of South African pinot in Burgundy (only better)? Looking at my favourite Pinot tasting notes they include the following: cherry, strawberry, raspberry, leather, smoke, tobacco, spice, forest floor.

I clearly like the oak ageing alongside those pure and fragrant fruit flavours.

So where do I look to in Burgundy? I know it’s a minefield and an expensive habit once you get sold on it but I’m happy to take the chance!

Appreciate any advice as to where to start.

Thanks

7 Likes

FWIW as it’s only my own personal opinion and one that should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

The answer is yes, but only at a considerable price. The flavours you’re looking for are the same I crave too but they’re most likely to be found in a Premier / Grand Cru wine from the Cote 'd’Or. The best Bourgogne and ‘villages’ wines from producers in that part of the world hint at what can be found at that level but they’re still unlikely to deliver what you’re looking for.

If you can find a producer whose Bourgogne / Hautes Cotes / Villages you enjoy then you’re on the right route and it might just be worth taking a punt on something higher up in their hierarchy. Even so, that’s a risky and costly business and there’s still no guarantee you’ll truly find what you’re looking for. It’s an oft used analogy but it’s like seeking the holy grail in the respect that disappointment is an inevitable part of that search.

The best advice I can give to try and reduce the risk of a fruitless search would be to attend a tasting with wines from multiple producers ( and one which you’d probably have to pay for ) to see if any of their differing styles actually tick your pinot boxes. Good luck hunting should you do so !

It would be remiss not to add, that on a personal level, I’m no longer prepared to take that risk or pay the price of entry for that matter. These days, I mostly stick to SA, NZ, Australian and Canadian producers whose wines I know and love, that come at a fraction of the cost, and can provide every bit as much enjoyment

20 Likes

I have had the same experience so would love to know which producers in the new world you recommend checking out?
Thanks!

2 Likes

This article might be helpful. In particular

“My advice to those beginning their exploration of red Burgundy is to start at a more elevated price level, say a £25-60 bottle premier cru from a ripe year and a producer who makes relatively rich wines. Producers such as Sylvain Pataille, Alain Burguet, Denis Mortet, Louis Jadot, Comte Armand all make quite rich and accessible wines. (In the guide to Domaines below the wines are arranged in ascending order of richness). If you like this then work your way down in quality.”

This could be a very expensive experiment!

8 Likes

Ouch!

Is it not a little absurd to suggest that as a beginner’s bottle? I get Burgundy is expensive, but if that’s the suggestion, surely the OP is just better sticking with SA Pinot that they already enjoy?

2 Likes

Not my words!

Yeah, fully understand that, but still, just seems crazy.

Good point although quality pinot probably isn’t ‘cheap’ anywhere and I’m prepared to spend a bit of money. I suppose I was hoping there might be something in the £20-35 range to begin with though.

Attending a tasting is probably a very good idea, but I was hoping to order a few bottles as a starting point if there were any specific recommendations.

1 Like

My opinion is somewhat different from those of @Embee, but still of course just an opinion.

The flavours I crave are very much also present in Bourgogne Rouge. I’d just suggest that you select a good quality Côte d’Or producer. Even those are not exactly cheap any more - expect to pay around £20 I guess, though it has been a few years since I have bought any so it might be more. I’m sorry, but I cannot really be more specific than that. I personally like Bertrand Ambroise’s, but you would probably do well to explore to discover your own taste.

IMO, as you go up the quality ladder, the flavours become more intense, and more complex perhaps, but essentially have the same character. You will also find that more time is required for the wines to acquire the mature notes that many people value, so you pay extra doubly - once for the steps in the quality ladder, and once for the older wine.

I think you’d do well initially to find opportunities to taste top quality mature Burgundy rather than diving in and throwing your money around. There’s no shame in admitting that it’s not worth the money - many of us find ourselves in that position these days. My view is that the money being asked these days is totally ridiculous, and out of all proportion to the pleasure that could be gained by spending it in other ways.

11 Likes

Yes, not an experiment I would undertake.

It does seem that red Burgundy is an “acquired taste”, and the acquistion doesn’t come cheap. That said, I do enjoy the odd modest bottle.

3 Likes

The problem with Burgundy is supply and demand. I love the stuff but there is an awful lot of overpriced village wine out there that trades off the name of the region in my opinion.

I would whole-heartedly agree with the Pataille recommendation and Clos du Roy in particular. In my experience, all his wines benefit from aging, including the Bourgogne. I’ve also found that the vintage makes a huge difference having been buying his wines for nearly ten years now. Are they value for money? In terms of other offerings from Oregon and places like Martinborough in NZ, probably not but they do offer an insight into the heights that fine red Burgundy can reach (see my post on my first ever Grand Cru with my son in Chicago).

The problem with the bloody stuff (top class Burgundy that is) is that it can be so good that it sets you off on an eternal search for an affordable alternative, possibly doomed from the start!

So my strategy is to drink something else in the £10 to £15 price bracket, indulge in the better offerings from Oregon, NZ, Tasmania and SA in the £15 to £30 bracket (aged Pataille being the exception) and to (as and when I can afford it) to buy Premier Cru from reputable producers and the odd Grand Cru from the more affordable end of the market (which shockingly is £70 a bottle minimum). All PC and GC wines need cellar time at the point at which I can afford them. So you need good storage conditions at home or to use something like TWS Members reserves (they are probably the best value that I have come across btw).

I have a feeling that you might rue the day you discovered what the Pinot Noir grape is capable of at the top end! Its a bloody expensive habit…but boy, when it sings it sings!

11 Likes

Oregon and Willamette (damn it!) in particular. TWS offerings are pretty good in my experience.

4 Likes

For Burgundy if you dig around and avoid big names you can find some gems

Jean Guiton makes terrific Ladoix, Savigny-les-Beaune and Volnay
Dubreuil-Fontaine’s Pernand- Vergelesses is excellent
Try Gachot-Monnot’s Nuits st Georges
Christophe Vaudoisey is an unsung hero in Volnay.

Take a punt on Givry and Mercurey: Lumpp or Juillot or Domaine Charton.

There are some very good German Pinots from Pfalz and Baden. I have tried one or two and will try and dig out their names. But Fürst’s Pinots are outstanding.

11 Likes

Since you asked ( thread deviation alert ), and with the usual proviso that individual tastes can differ. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences from the first two over many years now. Both close their wines with screwcaps so they can be cellared with confidence with no risk of cork taint.

Kooyong ( Mornington Peninsula, Australia ) - their single vineyard wines ( Haven, Meres, Ferrous ) are superb but their entry level wine, Massale, is very close in quality and considerably cheaper too ( £19 Vs £34 when last listed by TWS ).

Felton Road ( Central Otago, New Zealand ) - although none of their wines can be considered bargains, their ‘Block’ wines especially, their Bannockburn bottling always delivers…

https://thewinesociety.com/product/felton-road-bannockburn-central-otago-pinot-noir-2020

…in relative terms, bearing in mind the 1998 was £20 back in the day, it’s still fairly priced too.

Although I’ve yet to try it, previous vintages of this have been good…

https://www,Craggy Range Te Muna Road Martinborough Pinot Noir 2018

From Elgin, SA - Catherine Marshall’s wines are well worth trying. The last time her wines were listed they were £16 IIRC and, IMO, provided proper pinot typicity at a very fair price.

From the same part of the world, the 2018 of this ticked my boxes too…

https://thewinesociety.com/product/oak-valley-groenlandberg-pinot-noir-elgin-2019

…member reviews are mixed however ( possibly due to the cork closure ? ) so fingers crossed on that one.

Wines from Crystallum, Hamilton Russell and Newton Johnson, all based in Hemel-en-Aarde, SA, have impressed here too in my limited experience. Unfortunately their prices seem to have skyrocketed over the last couple of vintages to the point they’re now off the ‘investigate further’ list !

18 Likes

I’m going to be a bit contrarian here. I don’t think it’s worth pursuing what you seek (in Burgundian wines). The things that SA etc do well are not the things that Burgundy does well - there are notable exceptions (many mentioned above) but even they are price inflating more rapidly than the new world counterparts. By all means give it a go but from my perspective the truly great burgundies are not at all like the new world counterparts.

Another thing to bear in mind is that there will be a lot more kissing of frogs to find a prince in burgundies - though the hit rate is much better than it was.

9 Likes

Ps I should stress I drink and enjoy both categories and enjoy them for what they offer.

2 Likes

Villa Wolf Pinot noir was one of the Pfalz wines I was trying to remember

1 Like

One point to throw into an already complex mix is that red Burgundy always has a period when it closes down and goes into what I can only describe as a “green stalky grumpy teenager phase.” The length and intensity of that phase varies depending on whether it is plain bourgogne, village, 1er or GC. There are, alas, no specific time frames. You just have to wait patiently and take an educated guess at optimum opening times. So you may buy a bottle of red Burgundy for a large sum and open it and think “yuk, this is thin horrid and sour.” But the same bottle two years later will be rich, silk and a wonderfully complex palate experience does not happen very often.
Oddly, I have not had the same closed down experience with NW Pinot noirs. I have no idea why.
I am going to tentatively suggest that if you want a village wine to drink now, try 2015 or 2017. You could drink a 2019 which may be showing primary fruit at the moment. 2016 was very good and may be starting to show its true colours.

8 Likes

Useful stuff Andrew. I’ve recently started dipping my toe in the lower end of the Burgundy pool again.

I now have a modest selection of a couple of 2 Barthod '16 BR’s, 1 Patailley '18 BR & 2 Bellene Cote de Nuit Villages '18.

I was intending to hang on to all for at least a year or 2, but any advice on when to get into them would be appreciated. Sounds like the Barthod should be the first in line?

2 Likes

It’s definitely the case with the last 2 premier cru Gevrey Chambertin I had. Both were unripe and underwhelming. I thought they would be drinking fine but no. 2008 and 2013 were the vintages

1 Like