Dujac and Rousseau are two the the great Côte de Nuits names that have year after year produced outstanding wines. There are a handful of Burgundian names, such as Roumier, Roulot, Coche-Dury, Leroy, Gouges, Huledot-Noellat, Barthod, Fourrier, Dugat, D’Angerville, Comte Armand, PYCM, Leflaive, Comte Lafon, and of course DRC who like Dujac and Rousseau manage it year on year. (There are a few others).
But, what has always struck me is the grumpy adolescence that seems to afflict Burgundy (reds usually) and you can never quite tell when it starts and when it is going to finish. There is a phrase sometimes invoked that says “drink it on the fruit.” Which is a convenient shorthand for “try it within a year or two of bottling, when the primary fruit flavours are still fresh and you might get the benefit of a touch of nice oak before it closes down and goes from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan some years later.” The “ugly duckling” is a tart thin wine slightly stalky with a short finish.
I opened a bottle of Ghislaine Barthod 2017 BR last night and it still had a slightly bitter finish but was really gaining complexity and more weight. I bring it up from the cellar still quite cool, and uncork it, pour out two glasses and try a sip then wait for 20-30 mins and it is still a little bit cool but much more open. Another few months needed in the cellar.
I never decant red Burgundy.
Alas, I have a poor sense of smell, but what makes it for me with red Burgundy is the elegant silky texture, sweetened very slightly by the glycerol, and the red and black fruit which turns darker and more complex with age.
Yes, there have been disappointments and faulty bottles, but that is life.
Other reasons make me fascinated about Burgundy. It is (mostly) an area of small artisan growers, who welcome you into their cellars and will cheerfully sell you a bottle or two.
In 2019 I spent 4 days staying in Beaune and each day walking through the vineyards. (85 kilometers in that period) chatting occasionally to vineyard workers. Reaching Clos Vougeot was extraordinary. Seeing the medieval wine presses in the Chateau, looking at its majestic uneven sweep down to the RN974 was captivating. Studying Burgundy’s history from the time the Nibelung family drifted down to it, the Merovingian and Carolingian rulers, then going to the Hospice de Beaune brought home an historical continuity.
Walking from Beaune to Meursault through Pommard and Volnay and then back to Pommard, wandering into the Café opposite the smart hotel/restuarant and being offered a free espresso when the café owner asked me where I had been…
I am sure other wine areas have that sort of close knit community spirit, the Barolo region being one, but somehow Burgundy just has a combination of history that the others don’t. That medieval monastic world that carried on when the romans left off, being a prime example. ( Part of Germany has monastic wine origins but they were both originally part of the Carolingian empire when it all got going). There is a Domaine that makes wine near Cluny in the traditional monastic way: Clos des Vignes du Maynes Cuvée 910 made by Julien Guillot, 910 is the year of the founding of the abbey at Cluny. I shall open a bottle tomorrow and post a photo and tasting note…
So I confess to some element of non-wine reasons for being fascinated by Burgundy.