Once you acquire a taste for Burgundy,
you may be a lover for life.
Joan and I continue to explore the world of white wines moving further and further away from over oaked buttery California Chardonnay. We really enjoy Burgundy wines and the white’s from Burgundy are no exception.
White Burgundy wines like their sister red wines do not come cheap and many are cellar worthy. We will take a look at the growing season, regions to find value, and of course wines to buy now. What follows is a synopsis of what we found.
How did Mother Nature treat the Burgundy?
Mother Nature reduced the crop by about 30% but the grapes that survived provided some outstanding wines. The 2010 growing season was normal for the area starting with a cold winter right up until flowering which reduced flowering and those berries that developed were tiny without seeds. Summer produced a number of cool nights followed by improving weather in September. The dry winds put further pressure on yields but the berries that remained where concentrated. Part of the growing region received heavy hail and rain in mid September forcing some growers to harvest early. This all sounds a little ugly but the low yield and overall good weather in September provided some wonderful grapes in which to make wine.
You will find the wines fresh; lower in alcohol at under 13% with good acidity. According to WineSpectator “ Overall, the bottled wines show great precision and clarity, combined with density and richness, characteristics that bode well for aging.”
The small crop put further pressure on escalating pricing. Expect to see a 30% increase in prices over previous years. Who says there is no inflation, not me.
What Regions should you look for:
White Burgundy is Chardonnay but not you’re California Chardonnay. The wines will show flavors of peach, apple, citrus, minerality, with good balance. The French label will not say “White Burgundy” but read, Bourgogne, Macon, Chablis, and Pouilly on the low end. “Mâcon and Chablis are the two places I tell customers to look,” says Cécile Repolt, export director of the Nuits-St.-Georges négociant Louis Max. “And, of course, I suggest they try our Bourgogne Blanc.”
You will find value in wines from villages-level bottlings from the Côte d’Or, Chablis and the Mâconnais.
Côte d’Or itself,
In the Côte d’Or itself, Meursault has the largest number of acres planted to Chardonnay and tends to provide the most value, in terms of quality to price.
Chablis to the north
Chablis is a region apart in Burgundy—an hour’s drive north of the Côte d’Or in its own isolated little world. Chablis is still easy to say, and the reliability of this wine from the cool north of Burgundy is greater than ever. This is the epitome of Chardonnay. Whether wood aged or just deliciously fruity, it brings together ripe white- and yellow-fruit flavors, touches of citrus and zesty minerality, which comes from the chalk soil of the region. It’s the perfect ambassador for Chardonnay.
For grandeur, there are premier cru and grand cru vineyards that dominate the chalk hills around the tiny center of Chablis. For value, look for labels that read “Petit Chablis” and “Chablis,” from vineyards spread over the hills and valleys a short distance away from the village itself.
Maconnais to the south
Burgundy’s Mâconnais region is almost in the south of France. Here, the roofs are made of warm-weather red tile rather than Chablis’s snowfriendly slate. From the cool chalk soils of the northern Mâconnais, it’s 25 miles south to the warm, clay vineyards of Pouilly and Fuissé, which are a mere skip away from Beaujolais.
Pouilly-Fuissé is the best appellation in the Mâconnais. In the heart of the Mâcon is the village whose actual name is Chardonnay, according to local tradition the reputed birthplace of the grape variety. Chardonnay de Chardonnay is a good example of one of the two most common styles of Mâcon wine.
Many Pouilly’s cost more than $25 so look to neighboring appellations, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Mâcon-Fuissé and Viré-Clessé, are in a similar style, but still preserve the minerality of good white Burgundy for less.
Bourgogne blanc, are wines made from grapes grown by several vineyards blended together, where the skill of the wine maker is at a premium. Bourgogne reflects the philosophy of the producer more than the land. This can be the most exciting category of white Burgundy for the price—and the most frustrating. Choosing the right producer is essential. But once you have found a Bourgogne Blanc that you enjoy, then the odds are that you will also have found a full range of enjoyable white Burgundy.
But beware, once you acquire a taste for Burgundy, you may be a lover for life.
A search on WineSpectator found several value wines with ample quantities available.
Château de la Greffière Mâcon-La Roche Vineuse Vieilles Vignes 2010 rated 91 $18
A light oak influence adds roundness and a hint of spice to the apple and melon flavors in this white, which shows fine structure and a long, fresh finish. A lemon note lingers on the aftertaste. Drink now through 2016. 2,000 cases imported. –BS
Garnier & Fils Chablis 2010 rated 90 $30
Offers ample flesh, along with peach, melon and citrus elements. There’s also a fine Chablis character, with mineral and herb hints and a steely acidity. Drink now through 2018. 8,250 cases made. –BS
Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2010 rated 90 $24
There’s a floral and spicy edge to the apple pie and grapefruit flavors in this intense and succulent white, with a lingering finish of spice and honey. Drink now through 2018. –BS
Domaine Gilles Noblet Pouilly-Fuissé Domaine de la Collonge 2010 rated 90 $25
A fresh, well-integrated style, boasting apple, peach, hazelnut and acacia blossom aromas and flavors. Balanced, this lingers with buttered pastry and spice accents. Drink now through 2018. 6,000 cases made. –BS
J.J. Vincent & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé Marie-Antoinette 2010 rated 90 $24
A fleshy style, with grapefruit, peach and spice notes coursing throughout the rich texture. Bright acidity adds definition and drives the lingering finish. Drink now through 2018. 5,000 cases imported. –BS
La Chablisienne Chablis La Pierrelée 2010 rated 89 $21
Crisp, with a steely core anchoring apple, lemon and mineral flavors. Still a bit tight on the finish, but shows intensity and a long finish. Best from 2013 through 2018. 1,000 cases imported. –BS
Jean Chartron Rully Montmorin 2010 rated 89 $22
Round and fleshy, offering apple and quince fruit, backed by lively acidity. A hint of mineral accents the moderately long finish. Drink now. 2,000 cases made. –BS
Vincent Girardin Mâcon-Fuissé Les Vieilles Vignes 2010 rated 89 $24
A bright, fleshy style, displaying sun-drenched peach, melon and grapefruit flavors. Everything is in the right place, with a juicy finish. Drink now. 900 cases imported. –BS Country:
Domaine Laroche Bourgogne White Tête de Cuvée 2010 rated 89 $18
This is smooth, with good weight and intensity. Apple, lemon cake and stone notes merge with the supple texture. Fine length and harmony. Drink now through 2014. 2,500 cases imported. –BS
Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Lugny Les Charmes 2010 rated 89 $16
This is generous and also juicy, nicely framing the peach and grapefruit flavors. Shows good cut and touches of herb and mineral to add depth. Drink now through 2014. 15,000 cases imported. –BS
Merlin Mâcon-La Roche Vineuse 2010 rated 89 $22
Plenty of licorice highlights this ripe, incisive white. There’s ample acidity to keep the apple, pear and grapefruit flavors pumping on the long finish. Drink now through 2018. 3,325 cases made. –BS Country:
Christian Moreau Père & Fils Chablis 2010 rated 89 $25
Shows equilibrium between the rich texture and vibrant structure. Green plum, apple and chalk flavors hold the center ground, with a fine, resonant finish. Best from 2013 through 2018. 2,000 cases imported. –BS Country:
Domaine Gilles Noblet Pouilly-Fuissé 2010 rated 89 $25
This white is crystal clear, exuding peach, apple grapefruit and mineral flavors. Vibrant and balanced, lingering on the finish with a touch of spice. Drink now through 2016. 2,750 cases made. –BS
Domaine Talmard Mâcon-Chardonnay 2010 rated 89 $17
This ripe white bursts with apple, peach and grapefruit flavors, shaded by a stone element. A bright, fresh wine, lingering on the finish. Drink now. 4,000 cases imported. –BS
Chanson Père & Fils Viré-Clessé 2010 rated 88 $22
Tightly wound, with keen acidity driving its apple, lime and herb flavors. Shows nice focus and a racy quality, but a tad more ripeness would have elevated this overall. Best from 2013 through 2015. 2,000 cases imported. –BS
Louis Latour Montagny 2010 rated 88 $22
Round, with apple and grapefruit notes shaded by butter. Balanced and fresh, showing fine length. Drink now. 4,500 cases imported. –BS
Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne White Les Sétilles 2010 rated 88 $25
Fine balance sets the stage for the apple, lemon and mineral flavors in this white. Stays focused, with the vibrant structure framing the finish. Drink now through 2014. 10,000 cases imported. –BS
Manciat-Poncet Mâcon-Charnay Les Chênes 2010 rated 88 $16
Plush, exhibiting peach, candied apple and marshmallow notes, backed by brisk acidity. Ends with a flourish of fennel seed. Drink now through 2014. 1,500 cases imported. –BS
Nicolas Potel Mâcon-Villages 2010 rated 88 $15
Peach and floral notes grace this rich white, while a distinctive spicy accent adds interest. The finish offers a pleasant bitterness and touch of herbs. Drink now through 2014. 5,000 cases made. –BS
Georges Duboeuf Mâcon-Villages Flower Label 2010 rated 87 $13
This creamy, balanced white features peach, apple and grapefruit flavors. Gains firmness on the finish, where a citrus peel note reigns. Drink now through 2014. 25,000 cases made. –BS Country:
Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuissé Flower Label 2010 rated 87 $20
Round and opulent, boasting peach and grapefruit notes and finishing with a grapefruit peel accent. For fans of a richer style. Drink now. 20,000 cases made. –BS Country:
Georges Duboeuf St.-Véran Flower Label 2010 rated 87 $18
Ripe with peach and apple flavors, with a touch of honey, this fresh, focused white is sleek and fruity. Moderate length. Drink now. 20,000 cases made. –BS