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"Ultimate Guide to Burgundy"

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:

  1. TWS should ease back on the hyperbole
  2. 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.

Main points

  1. 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.]

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4.  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.
  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.


Palate surely???


Ah I was really talking about my home-made compost bin at the allotment. Which is about as good at identifying wine flavours as I am.

Thanks, Philip

I haven’t read the document (yet) but FWIW I agree in principle that most of it is in the bouquet or nose with red Burgundy. Putting a % on it does give a sense of false precision though…


From the TWS Pallet, to my palate for a palette of taste sensation (or farmyard muck with mushrooms depending on what’s gone in the glass). I suppose Burgundy can give you both.


@DrEm Isn’t TWS Pallet from Muscadet?

Or Palette from Provence…? It’s all becoming unpalatable.


I do think, when I look back over forty years of purchasing fine wines that wine buyer hyperbole has somewhat got out of hand. Whilst I could be criticised for taking a ‘policemen are getting younger’ attitude to the fact that many of today’s wine buyers weren’t born when I started buying the stuff, I think a lot of them should have paid more attention whilst at school, especially in English.

Wine notes do seem to share the same poetic license as, well ‘poetry’, where anything goes these days. We live in superlative times. Everyone seems to be a hero, a legend or something similarly gloried. A touch of reality would be refreshing!


I’ve read it quickly now…my takes on your critique :slight_smile:

  1. The title - probably not chosen by Toby. Some hyperbole is there…wine may have been included in it for the benefit of google searches?

  2. I suspect this part of the article - which looks like it was standalone - was catalysed by people with the wrong expectations making unfair comparisons. Perhaps a clearer statement of its purpose is needed.

  3. I agree it could be improved. Bit of a lazy edit I suspect.

  4. Would have been better to head it up Red Burgundy, as that’s what it’s really about, and most of the points made are addressing questions about it.

  5. I agree with Toby here. Good red Burgundy is predominantly on the nose for me. Also, I do agree that red Burgundy is pretty complicated! Or at least properly understanding what really matters is.

  6. I think reference to Beaujolais would only serve to confuse. Different grape, different geology etc etc.

  7. There is quite a large section about tasting. Some of it goes back to the Bordeaux v Burgundy theme, but much of it is standalone and actually quite helpful, on background to the wine, temperature to serve, etc. Perhaps a bit more on the capacity for some wines to ‘close up’ for a period would be useful.

I agree that the article isn’t well structured for all the reasons you write, and might have been better left as a standalone guide to red burgundy (maybe a bit expanded in places) and then a comparative analysis of Bordeaux and Burgundy as a separate not.

Replying to this has successfully made me procrastinate going to the gym! :rofl::rofl:


The late great Richie Benaud summed up well in a different context…" that was pretty ordinary cricket" was an honest and truthful summary!


I’ll agree to disagree with you on points 5, 6, and 7.

Toby did confirm the title was not is choice and, indeed, neither was the use of his two separate pieces of text, which had been written for other purposes.

Critiquing the Guide stopped me from going to the allotment - the nearest I get to a gym.

I too have an allotment…but the mere thought of going near it in driving sleet made the gym seem very attractive!

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This applies to many other aspects of modern life too. The overuse of the word amazing these days is well…

It’s all gone a bit ‘red chinos’ in here for me today.


I know what you mean, I keep getting strange bouts of deja vu from school with essays covered in swathes of red ink… :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Thank heavens it’s nearly time for a drink…