Many things have changed in Burgundy over the last few decades. For example, today you can find wines where the grape variety is mentioned on the label, pinot noir or chardonnay. But with all the challenges from the New World wine producers in Burgundy have had to review not only marketing and packaging but also wine growing and wine making. So, how are they facing up to competition? BKWine’s Carl-Erik Kanne tasted a wide range of Burgundies to find out. His answer is, “very well”.
If 15-20 years ago I had seen a Burgundy shaped bottle with a label that both told of a Burgundy origin (AOC Bourgogne) and also mentioned pinot noir, I would have suspect that there was something wrong.
The need to mention the grape variety was rarely felt in Burgundy since the only allowed red grape in the Côte d’Or, ever since AOC was introduced, have been just pinot noir. In the centuries before that similar bans against other grapes existed for shorter or longer periods. The “other grape” that fought for attention was (and is) gamay and the battle has also been one of quality vs. quantity.
A revolution in Burgundy?
But something seems to have happened in Burgundy.
Or is it possibly in the outside world, which means that many producers today have started to put out grape name on the label especially for the simpler AOC Bourgogne wines?
The answer is probably both. Competition from both new and old world well-made wines made from pinot noir in the price range of 10-20 € has increased significantly and many small and large producers in Burgundy have been forced to put their houses in order to keep up.
Greater care in vineyard work, less use of pesticides, as well as increased cleanliness and care in the winery work, has meant that the quality level has increased substantially.
Does that also mean that Burgundy wines today are more “approachable” than they used to be?
Burgundy has long been reserved for the few, either due to the price tag or since the simpler wines were difficult to understand or in some cases perhaps not up to par.
“New Burgundy”? But not Bourgogne Nouveau!
I have participated in many tastings of pinot noir where the wines from Burgundy have been rated as least good, primarily due to their relatively high acidity and lack of power. For more expensive burgundy the difficulty of getting hold of mature wines can have contributed. The very young feels too raw, while those that are in the “tunnel” rarely create a positive experience for the uninitiated.
An excellent opportunity to study the range and test whether the “new Burgundy” feels more accessible took place in early February when the Burgundy Wine Tour 2014 came to town in the Hall of Mirrors at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Organiser was the French Export Council UBIFRANCE in cooperation with the trade association for Burgundy Wines (BIVB).
Some 40 producers were there with many wines, both whites and reds, which made the exploration very interesting, but also more difficult.
(Contributing to the difficulties was an absence of organisation. A list of producers had been circulated in advance, and a directory of the same and the wines were given at the entrance, but no map of where in the halls each one was, so much time was spent on finding each producer. A Tip to organisers of future events is: make it easy for visitors to find the right table!)
A multitude of appellations and vineyards
Burgundy consists of the five wine regions of Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâcon, which have 21 (or is it 23?) regional appellations. Within these there are 44 communal (village) appellations and within these there are premier crus and grand crus. The latter are also appellations in their own right. Complex indeed, not least since the ownership is extremely fragmented mainly in the grand cru sites. It would take too long to try to sort things out completely here.
Since one of the objectives of the visit was to try to test the “approachability” of the regional and village wines I focus the story less on the great wines from cru vineyards.
The following producers and the wines are just a small sample of what was on offer but are some of the ones I think are good examples of The New Burgundy.
The northernmost district of Burgundy, Chablis, will launch this review, partly because one could notice a clear over-representation of wines from Chablis, and partly because the wines from there are among my personal favourites.
The fact that so many were present is no doubt because Sweden is a significant importer of chablis. A common trait among the exhibits was that many had received a dose of oak barrels, usually not intrusive, but still noticeable.
Domaine Louis Moreau
For lovers steel tank aged chablis with resounding acidity the offer therefore was less extensive. But some were present, for example from Domaine Louis Moreau in Beines, which gives only its grand cru wines a light oak cask ageing, while all his other wines are just stored on steel tank to best accentuate the freshness and minerality in the wines.
Both his Petit Chablis and Chablis from 2012 showed lovely minerality and fresh fruit. The latter is available in Sweden for around 20 euro.
His two premier cru wines from 2011 were interesting to compare; Vaulignot (~ 20 euro) (ed. note: prices indicated henceforth are approximate and sometimes based on Swedish retail prices, sometimes on winery consumer prices) had morning sunshine exposure and Les Fourneaux (~20 euro) has the evening sun exposure. Some freshness and minerality versus more floral richness and a hint of minerality! Do try the comparison!
Domaine des Clos
Another winemaker who prefer steel tank for his chablis is Gregoire Bichot, Domaine des Clos (Nuits Saint-Georges). The entry-level wine Chablis 2011 was very flavourful with great freshness (about 12 €) and his Les Vaillons Premier Cru 2009, pure fruit, fine minerality and crisp acidity. A “typical” chablis in my book. (about 20 €)
Domaine des Malandes
At Domaine des Malandes, Chablis, they ferment their wines in barrels and age them in steel tanks, but with very fresh wines as a result. Chablis 2012 (~ 12 euro) had good minerality and great length of flavour and Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2012 showed a nice high acidity, clean fruit and a long fresh aftertaste. Elegant wine that you can keep a few years in the cellar.
The cooperative La Chablisienne, the largest in Chablis, covers all kind of wines and styles in Chablis and has several grand cru, including Grenouilles that is almost a monopoly.
Oak is used with great caution and only in the most powerful wines. Otherwise it is tank storage that applies.
Petit Chablis Vibrant 2012 (~13 euro). Lively acidity with a hint of minerality. Good entry level.
Chablis la Sereine 2011 (~17 euro) has been kept on its lees in tank and in small oak barrels for 12 months. The aroma of white flowers and cool fruit -flavored, certain roundness of oak.
Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2011. (~23 euro) Elegant wine!
Chablis Grand Cru Chateau Grenouille 2009 (~55 euro). This wine sneaks up from behind, from cool white flowers through minerality to an increasing complexity in both aroma and flavour. Enjoyable now with some aeration, but has the potential to develop further.
Domaine Thiery Mothe
Domaine Thiery Mothe, a small family producer in Chablis.
Chablis 2012 (~13 euro). Good entry level Chablis with fine acidity, clean fruit, steel tank aged for 12 month.
Producers with a mix of appellations in the portfolio
If we leave the pure Chablis producers and lok at those with a broader selection of wines we find:
Francois Martenot, Beaune, which has a broad range of wines from all parts of Burgundy and produces many of its own. A few examples:
AOC Chablis Marouettes 2012 (~22 euro). Good balance acidity / fruit, minerality.
AOC Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 (~11 euro). Good entry level wine. Acidity and tropical fruit
AOC Cote de Nuits villages 2010 (~17 euro). A balanced food wine.
Domaine Faiveley in Nuits-Saint -Georges has been away a few years from the Swedish market but is now back, in great form. Some examples:
Chablis 2012 (~17 euro). Clean fresh fruit and minerality.
Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2012 (~26 euro). Aged 12 months on the lees in stainless steel tanks. Lovely minerality and high acidity, clean fruit. Fine representative of the steel tank school.
Mercurey Blanc 2012 (~15 euro). Good entry level wine with fine acidity and a hint of tropical fruit.
Mercurey 1er Cru Clos du Roy 2011 (~22 euro). Good acidity, red berries fruit and balanced tannins provide great structure. A village wine which provides you much of the classic Burgundy style at reasonable price. For another 10 euros you can get a bottle of Nuit Staint Georges 2010 that still feels young but that promises to become an elegant wine with some ageing.
Gavignet Pere & Fils
Gavignet Pere & Fils is in Nuits-Saint- Georges.
Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau 2011. 18 months in a mix of old and new oak (about 12 €).
Henri de Villamont
Henri de Villamont is located in Savigny-lès-Beaune in the Côte de Beaune.
Macon Village 2010 (~14 euro). Good acidity, clean fruit.
Savigny-lès-Beaune Le Village 2010 (~24 euro). Lighter wine with good acidity, fruit and structure.
Louis Max is a relatively large negociant in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Beaucharme Chardonnay 2012, about 19 euro. A lighter food wine with good acidity and gentle oak character.
Beacharme Pinot Noir 2011, a great wine for charcuteries.
Domaine Chevalier Pere & Fils
Chevalier Pere & Fils is a domaine based in Ladoix with 16 hectares.
Ladoix rouge 2011, about 17 €, nice village wine
Ladoix premier Cru Les Corvées 2011, about 25 €, good balance of fruit / acid, long aftertaste.
Domaine des Clos
Domaine des Clos (see above) also has vineyards outside of Chablis. For example:
Beaune 1er Cru Champ Pimont 2012 (about 25 €). Clean fruit, good concentration and structure, long finish.
Domaine des Valanges
Domaine des Valanges in Davayé in Mâcon, with winemaker M. Paquet:
Saint Veran 2012. Slender chardonnay sur lie (aged on the lees) for 7 months, steel tank.
Saint Veran Cuvée Hors-classe 2012. Lovely minerality in both the nose and mouth, long after-taste!
Domaine Parent, one of the more famous wine producers in Pommard showed:
Nice start with Monthelie 1er Cru Les Champs Fulliot 2010. Good acidity / fruit, certain minerality.
Beaune 1er Cru Les Epenottes 2010. Lots of fruit on the nose, the taste was fresh and fruity with a long finish, young but promising.
Pommard premier Cru Les Epenots 2011 was young but with great potential. Elegant.
Finally I want to mention Domaine Cordier, a small but good producer in Maconnais, mainly with St Veran and Pouilly Fuissé wines, such as Pouilly Fuisse “Vers Cras” 2011 (~28 euro).
So, what is the conclusion?
Yes, “New Burgundy” is delicious!
The answer to the question if New Burgundy’s wines are “approachable” is undoubtedly yes! Do explore the examples that you can find at your wine merchant’s, and do take a trip to Burgundy and experience the wines and the food in place.
Carl-Erik Kanne is a long time wine enthusiast and fervent wine taster. He reports from wine tastings and wine events in Stockholm for BKWine Magazine.
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