The eagle-eyed Burgundy fans among you might already be aware (thanks to a short explanation in the intro to the Burgundy section on page 37 of the latest List) that we’ve taken the tough decision to discontinue our Society’s Red Burgundy.
Our buyer Toby wanted to give some extra information about why we’ve done this, and what alternatives he recommends. He’s shared this with me to post here:
Buying good cheap red Burgundy is one of the most difficult challenges, perhaps like looking for The Holy Grail! Pinot noir’s quality drops off a cliff when it yields much above 55hl/ha in Burgundy. (Most other varieties around the world make wines of declining but still interesting quality up to say 100hl/ha). As yields increase to meet certain price points quality goes down. Bourgogne rouge is planted in the more clay rich soils at the bottom of the slope which are more vigorous, hence producing more yield, but are colder, so the ripening ability is reduced. It’s trapped in a vicious circle of high yields but with less possibility of ripening.
Bourgogne rouge succeeds best in the very ripe years like 2003 where clay soils retain water and the extra heat helps ripen the high yields. But this is infrequent. Despite my entreaties for Burgundy beginners to start higher up the price range, many begin with The Society’s bottling. At this level red Burgundy is a modest, quite austere wine that some really like but many do not. This style is perhaps falling out of fashion.
Going forward I will buy a similar but slightly higher grade wine than the current Society’s Red Burgundy, called Le Levraut, but only in the riper years when the wine is a little sweeter and richer than in the poor or average years, and mature it mainly in large oak foudres to soften the tannins without over oaking the wine. I have bought such a wine in the ripe 2018 vintage which we will sell next year.
For those looking at alternatives sooner than that, I suggest The Society’s Chilean Pinot Noir:
Also Beaujolais can produce similar wines below £10 a bottle in a slightly less austere style. They have a little more fruit and slightly softer tannins and acidity than similarly priced red Burgundy so have a wider appeal.
So there you have it. It’s worth noting, you can still buy The Society’s Red Burgundy as we haven’t yet sold out of our current stock:
But I’d also be really interested to hear what you guys think, and what you’d suggest as good alternatives based on similar styles of wine you’ve enjoyed? Comment below!