I took offence at TWS’s claim to have published the “Ultimate Guide to Burgundy Wine”. Having moaned via Twitter I thought it only fair to substantiate my criticisms and wrote to the author, Toby Morrhall. For what it’s worth my letter is below, I will spare the Community my scribbled comments on the article print out.
Toby very kindly rang me and explained that this “Ultimate” Guide was actually two separate buyers’ guides (whatever they are) that had been stuck together. Couple of thoughts:
- TWS should ease back on the hyperbole
- If TWS is going to publish a guide then it should make more of an effort and commission something specifically for that purpose, not just cobble together old material and hope no-one notices the literals, repetitions and odd structure. I think TWS is uniquely place to produce really good guides and sell them, this was not one.
[Letter to Toby Morrhall, 9 Feb 2020]
Some thoughts on The Ultimate Guide to Burgundy Wine
I accept yours is a personal view, indeed in my opinion making this even more personal would have been a much better way to go than attempting a slightly haphazard guide. Three or four key aspects to help those who don’t know much about the region to reduce the risks and achieve happiness when taking the plunge. For example:
Expectations vs reality
Importance of vigneron style
Ability to enjoy Burgundy young (I did read somewhere that better Burgundy can have a period after its youthful exuberance where it becomes less accessible before achieving the splendours of older age. If you agree, then this would be worth mentioning.)
Read the label to know what it is you have in your hand
In this way the focus could really have been on advice to help with buying. Quite a lot of this text is not really about buying at all.
The title didn’t put me in a good mood. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and accept that you would never describe this as “ultimate”. [On a minor, but nevertheless irritating, point the George Orwell disciple in means hates seeing unnecessary words. Therefore the word “wine” in the title was also upsetting. Of course it’s about wine - you’re hardly going to be writing about anything else for TWS.]
My mood was further worsened by the emphasis on comparing Burgundy and Bordeaux. Why do that? Is Bordeaux some sort of example for all other wine regions to try and emulate? Or is it assumed that readers who know little of Burgundy will be familiar with Bordeaux?
With all due respect (and I was journalist so I’m as chippy about my writing as the next person) the text needs a good edit. It’s repetitious, structured in a haphazard way, over-long and has too many literals. My suspicions are that a fair bit of cut and paste has gone on here.
My take is that you’re not much of a white Burgundy man, the bits on white seem to be a sort of after thought. Why not compare white Burgundy with, say, New World chardonnay? There’s so much about Bordeaux.
My palette is rubbish - wife and youngest son both much better than me - but I genuinely enjoy Burgundy more and drink more Burgundy than wines from any other part of the world. When we switched from mostly Claret to Burgundy it was because the pleasures of Burgundy are so uncomplicated - it’s happy juice. Agree that if you do have a good nose and palette then Burgundy is even more enjoyable but that’s probably true of all decent wines. So I don’t buy this 70% in the bouquet at all. Also don’t think Burgundy is so complicated as you make it out.
While I tend not to think of Beaujolais as being Burgundy, quite a lot of wine sellers lump it in so something to explain how it relates would be helpful
Nothing about tasting, especially younger wines. I would love to see advice on better predicting how a young wine is likely to evolve.
Apologies, I planned to critique the content of each section and suggest a more rational structure, but I started to lose the will to live and so gave up. What I managed follows.
I would have expected something more general - an elevator conversation sort of thing. In fact what we get are some contentious statements and facts. Interesting but not an introduction. If you’d gone the more “personal view” approach the introduction could have set out the three or four key aspects.
Background to Burgundy
Like you, I suspect, I’m not that bothered with statistics, but in a Background maybe a few could be justified and helpful? Where Burgundy stands in wine production stakes, history, geography (especially in light of the current INAO debate on what can call itself Burgundy), major regions, the general grading system, etc. I would have covered the basics first before just dropping them into the text here and there.