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Burgundy. Online tasting follow up

Last night’s online tasting threw up all sorts of different judgments about the wines that were chosen. Quite a few tasters were disappointed, and I got the impression that none of the wines really produced that “wow” factor. Some notes criticised pricing (always a contentious issue in Burgundy) and it seemed to me that on the whole whites showed better than the reds. It would be interesting to discuss why those who participated chose the wines that they did and were they satisfied with their choices.
It seems to me that Burgundy, a tiny region with only one grape variety for red and white throws up more issues than any other region.
My own view is that Burgundy is really all about the producer. Going by vintage or vineyard is not reliable. So who are our favourite producers? and why? Would you feel safer paying £20 for a red Bordeaux than a red Burgundy? if so why? Which producers have you come to rely on? My own favourites have been Gachot Monnot, Hudelot Noellat, Christophe Vaudoisey, Jean Guiton, Agnes Paquet, Pierre Yves Colin Morey and Galeyrand. All their Bourgogne generic wines are excellent. If there were to be another online tasting would you go for a different producer?
Having got an impetus going last night it would be good to continue it.

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Ok Andrew…lots of questions there…

For me Red burgundy is always a frustrating enigma, but when it’s good it’s SOOO good that you forget all the cr@p and keep going back for more…

You mention that none of the wines produced the ‘wow’ factor. I was lucky enough to get a 24 year old Pommard that did, but I think partly because I’d already written it off after the previous bottle was so poor.

Secondly. why did I choose the wines that I did? That’s easy, as I had two bottles already opened with Coravin so was able to take a glass of each. You might say that’s cheating, but I don’t! The Pommard had only been Coravined once for a very small sample to check it was still alive…

I agree that Burgundy can be very heavily about the producer. I have relied on a few over the years - not always the same ones now. I do rate the Sylvain Pataille wines, largely the Marsannay. I also like Tollot Beaut for typicity and value. Lamy in St Aubin, Bruno Clair are others that I like on a price to quality basis. Some of the Bellene wines are very good too, though more a negociant than a grower. I have some Roumier too, but wouldn’t buy now at these prices. I have a few others too, some still to be tasted so won’t comment.

I haven’t covered White Burgundy as I don’t buy much now, except Chablis, where I now don’t go past Billaud.

Finally, would I go for a different producer were there another one? Yes, but that’s probably because these were the last bottles I had of the wines in question! :wink:

Adding one question of my own…what did I learn from last night? Firstly, that one of my bottles had completely transformed and come out an extended closed period. I had written it off. Secondly, that my first impressions of the other bottle were right. Thirdly, that it was clear from last night that some wines were opened too young, and that some people were struggling to know when they should open them - which I wholly empathise with. Finally, that there is nothing better than a Red Burgundy when it hits the spot!

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I think you will get a much better Bordeaux for £20 than a Burgundy. But again that is probably because I have producers I trust that I have had numerous vintages of and enjoyed. I tried the Rioja tasting and burgundy I enjoyed the Rioja much more (and it wasn’t at its peak) and it cost nearly half the price of the burgundy

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I still struggle with Burgundy. I want to like it, but my palette doesn’t seem to be compatible.

I recently tried this and didn’t get much from it, interesting on the nose, but otherwise fairly ordinary. The only Burgundy I’ve really enjoyed so far has been the BBR Cote D’or - red berries on the nose, earthy and fatty on the palate - exactly how I’d describe truffle. Not a recommended pairing, but it went brilliantly with sundried tomato and mozzarella pizza.

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Thank you for posting this Andrew, I fancy rambling on for a bit and burgundy is perfect for this. I will witter about reds only.

I have often heard the mantra producer, producer, producer about burgundy. It is quite right and like everything else about burgundy so built up with errors, exceptions and omissions as to be no very useful guide to buying a bottle and liking it.

Producer is, I would agree a good starting point. But then comes the next bit. I really like Jadot wines, at least how Jadot wines used to be, quite big and rich and sweetish. But I also like the more etched and airier producers too. But a lot of the makers that people swoon over have left me cold. For example Rene Engel, Ponsot and Dujac. So what style do we like? What counts as a great producer for us?

Then there is the vintage, which for me is less important than producer but is still a reasonably key factor. I do not have any 2013s for instance. I have just never found one I like that much. I heard much talk of the 2002s and bought a few. I have found them a bit drab and thin.

Then there is the village and cru. I have heard much talk of how you can taste the so-and-so of Chambolle and the coolness of the combes in Gevrey and I have even fancied I can taste it myself but I know that I could no more identify a individual plot or even village than I could lick my elbow.

To come back to producers there are the ones which have caught me fair and square on the chin and left me reeling. Roumier; just amazing, young or old or anywhere in between. Rousseau; keep them, and when you think you can’t possibly keep them any longer keep them another 10 years they seem to just get better the older they are. Dugat-Py; just amazing 99s and 95s recently.
Then there are the ones that make me smile, simple stuff like Tollot-Beaut Chorey, That Drouhin Chorey from Waitrose (the 15 was so much better than the 17). But I don’t expect a £20 bottle of burgundy to blow me away, I have been lucky and bought £30 bottles which have but very rarely.
And then just to prove me wrong and keep me honest there was a load of 2004 Volnay Fremiets from a producer called Parent who hardly rated at all which was gorgeous from start to finish and cost about £14/bottle. Burgundy? No idea, but I spend more on it than any other region by a mile and this will not change any time soon. And you are right, a lot of it is cr*p.

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I think Neal Martin put it well (talking about the reds):

“Bordeaux is a dog. A dog will always fetch the stick or come to heel. Dogs are predictable. But a cat? You never know what a cat might be up to at any given moment—licking its paws or catching mice. Cats are as unpredictable as opening a bottle of Burgundy. You never know what to expect until you pull the cork. Burgundy is a cat….”.

The whites tend to be more predictable (I don’t think people last night were drinking whites old enough to suffer from premox, generally) so that’s one reason they fared better IMO. Also, I think a £20 bottle of white Burgundy will often be delicious, but you need to be much more selective with the reds at price points up to say £40/bottle.

I also got the sense from last night is that a lot of people were drinking bottles of red that I’d consider too young. Right now I wouldn’t touch a 12/13/14 and I also wouldn’t touch a decent 08/09/10. I think this is part of what Neal was alluding to, but a lot the wines in that bracket will be shut down and disappointing - rule of thumb is avoid between 3 and 10 years from vintage, although there are variations (e.g. don’t think 15s are closed yet, and 11s are already open). Personally at the moment I’m drinking village red wines from 10/11/15/17 and 1er/grand cru from 11, 07 and older.

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I think that this again is rather too proscriptive.

It seems to me that the window opens, shuts, opens a bit, then other windows open which you never noticed before. All this over what? A ten, twenty or even forty year cycle. And as you observe some wines seem to arrive shut down others stay open for quite a few years, e.g. 2015.

This is by no means a dismissal of a fundamentally correct view (in my view).

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Yes, I’m definitely generalising too much - had a delicious 2012 Clos St Denis last autumn for example. So many different winemakers and vineyards also mean there will always be exceptions, and people have different tastes too.

I found a lot of useful information in this discussion on another wine board https://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=155013

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It is the age old problem, to what extent can we make a generalisation before it starts to fall apart because of exceptions! I fall into that trap all the time…but I will make a couple of observations.
A few years ago I looked at some MW exam questions and one sprung out at me. It said “Red Burgundy isn’t what it used to be.” Discuss.
I started drinking Burgundy in about 1985 and recall so many that I tried being thin, pale, highly acidic and sour. But since the turn of the century things have generally improved. The use of nitrogen and potassium based fertilisers and herbicides have been drastically reduced. Domaines have cut yields, hygiene in the cellar is much better. So as a broad statement my experiences have been much better in the last 15-20 years than they were in the previous 15.
My second observation is that the green/stalky/unripe textures and flavours could well be as a result of unripe tannins that find their way into the wine (this only applies to reds) as a result of whole bunch fermentation rather than grapes all being de-stemmed when arriving at the cellar. Pinot Noir is very hard to ripen and any slight under ripeness will result in unpleasant tannins in the wine. Of course, different growers have different fermentation practices. Some may completely de-stem others partially and others go in for whole bunch fermentation. Skins also contain tannin but I think it is the stems that could be the real problem.
So my answer to the MW question is “no it isn’t and in my experience it is much the better for it.” But I suspect that would rank as a “fail, unclassified” mark!

On a different note, as regards styles of wine, I am still coming to terms with the concept of “Terroir” which is almost the Burgundy growers mantra, although the word and its application was hardly mentioned on Thursday night, tasters went for primary and tertiary flavours and no real commune comparisons.

What did interest me was that some wines at generic level had lasted better than some 1er cru wines. For example Sylvain Pataille’s 2012 Bourgogne rouge and Gachot Monnot’s 2011 Cote du Nuits Villages received very high ratings. Good makers’ generic wines are usually best value.

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Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed the read and the take on many of the producers and styles. I often find the testosterone style of wine berserkers unedifying so I tend not to look. I believe you are a member of the wine pages forum and as a longtime lurker there I have always found that helpful.

But for a wine region and wine drinkers that seem so romantic it is so much about money. The up and coming producers arrive on the scene out of my price range. The established ones are too expensive to experiment with. But I don’t find producers Bourgognes that informative. Every now and then I find someone different. Usually somewhere I don’t expect. Most of the best discoveries I have found without tasting.

I find it heartbreaking that burgundy is always slightly out of reach, I feel like a skint Gatsby stood at the end of my pier, boats against the current drawn ceaselessly back into the past. Ho-hum.

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A really interesting post @Andrew1990, thanks for taking the time. It made me think of an essay by Auberon Waugh called (I think) “Burgundy then and now”.
Writing around the early eighties he spoke of how burgundy used to be a rich and intense wine but had become as you remembered it, thin and acidic. He then went on to lambast the merchants who were attempting to palm this off as ‘real’ burgundy. Things go in cycles it would seem.

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This. In fact I’m at a point that with the exception of these, I’m not sure I could bring myself to buy a Borgogne Rouge of any level that I’ve not already tried. Even then I worry slightly about how my EP purchases (all of which I’ve tried at EP tastings) will age.

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So sorry to miss it on thursday. I should have been with you, but we had an internet problem. I am interested in the comments made. The Wine Society is very good on Burgundy, especially Toby Morhall. Did he join in? He is good on small producers and those who produce good value wine.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I were to drive through Burgundy, and Toby gave us two wonderful tips for tasting. He then went out of his way to give us a personal introduction in advance. As a result, we tasted Pataille’s Marsannay and Vincent’s Santenay. Both were excellent AND reasonably priced. We were treated to really excellent tastings.
We were on our way to Vergisson, where we are part-owners of a vineyard producing Pouilly Fuisse and Macon Villages. Our viticulteur, Roger Saumaize, is up with the best. He also produces his own wine, under Domaine Saumaize-Michelin.
What I would have wished to discuss on thursday, partly linked with terroir, is the issue of minerality. Jancis Robinson recently wrote a piece about it. Some people deny it. Others say it is hugely important. One of these is Roger Saumaize. We owned a 2018 M V on thursday, the first we have tried. It was delightful, but so different to the PF, which has distinct mineral associations. The complexity thus delivered, is why these wines are very special.
I hope to join another virtual tasting, and maybe the conversation can consider terroir etc.
Thanks.
Bob Reeves

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Sorry. We DRANK, not owned a 2018 MV !!!

Burgundy - heartbreaking stuff.

I suppose one of the first warnings to be made about the reds is to take drinking windows with a bucket of salt. They are well intentioned, but profoundly provisional.

So far as general principles, it’s probably worth mentioning that it has two main drinking windows. Young and mature. It frequently closes down (sometimes completely) in between. Lower appellations usually move through their maturation at a more rapid rate than grander wines, so it can be helpful to look at reports of lesser wines from the same grower. Sometimes - usually in ripe years - they don’t close down at all but move from one gradually to the other. Though even then there can be reports of late closers. Even worse, you can find some Bourgogne Rouges that closed down between the time you tasted them EP and when they got delivered. But that’s extreme.

Beyond that, I think things get more specific.

It can sometimes be surprising how very quickly this closing and opening can happen, but as always, it’s likely there will be bottle to bottle variation.

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Unsurprising that the whites in general had better comments than the reds. Chardonnay is a lot easier to grow and to get right than Pinot Noir. In my limited (due to modest finances) experience the best thing to do is to try a few producers and find your favourites.

Regarding reds, I like the Pataille, Bellene and Maume wines which are regulars with the W/S. I also think Drouhin wines (Waitrose) deliver at the less expensive end.

My main source of Pinot Noir is Germany now, you still have to spend some money but the vfm is better. Also very keen on this from Grenoble (when I can buy again!):

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@Prufrock Your mention of Waugh and Gatsby reminded me of a piece on Waugh in this excellent collection of essays on wine by Jay McIninerny. He explains that Auberon Waugh described himself as “a jilted lover of red burgundy” who, in his search for his lost love, “resembled Gatsby in his search for Daisy Buchanan”. I also found the post by @Andrew1990 informative and helpful. I know little of how to find reliable value in red burgundy but there are certainly helpful tips from Community members on these pages.

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This Grenoble pinot (which sounds delicious!) is relevant to another thread on this site. I’d never heard of the maker so looked them up - their vineyards are organic and biodynamic. But you wouldn’t find that out from the WS website

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Thanks for posting this Andrew, I have this book and the book he is talking about (Waugh on Wine). Jay is one of the contemporary writers I like best on wine. But I think it was because I had recently picked up ‘The Great Gatsby’ that I was thinking of it rather than this.

Jay seems to be the solution to the age old conundrum that people who can write don’t know about wine and people who know about wine can’t write. I think I will have to dig out all 3 of his books of essays once I have finished on my Chandler fest.

Cheers @Prufrock. I’d like to get Waugh on Wine. I have ‘Juice’ a further collection by JMc, there is a third? His writing on wine is excellent, I have quite a list of bottles I want to drink having read his essays. :wine_glass: