I’m a new berserker – I’ve been drinking wine for about 6 years; the last three being serious. I started with Cali cab and grew into Bordeaux, which I really love. However in the last few months I’ve become enthralled with burgundies, both red and (to a lesser extent) white. Much thanks should be given to this board for promoting this wonderful region; I feel as though I’m “in the know” reading what you all have to offer and its prompted me to explore. At this point I’m familiar with the classification system.
Gratefully, I’m hoping to draw on your experience to help educate myself (and others) on the region and answer some questions that I’ve come across. First the questions:
What is the deal with the huge burgundy producers (i.e. Jadot) – are they worthwhile (keep in mind I’m used to Bordeaux)? I went to the Jadot website the other day and was overwhelmed in about 12 seconds; I can’t believe how many wines they make. I’ve had a few, some of which have been good (and very affordable), others have been spectacular (and pricier). I also see a lot of Latour, however I’ve not tried any that are of any significant quality (yet). I’ve experimented with other random well-known producers (e.g. Leflaive, R. Dubois & Fils) and had mixed results.
Are there any books or other materials you can recommend to familiarize oneself with the region? I’ve noticed Clive Coates’ book referenced in several posts that I’ve read but I was curious as to whether or not there were any others covering the estates, their history, and/ or their topography that would be helpful in discerning what’s what. I’ve found this approach very helpful in understanding Bordeaux.
Now for the open question:
If you had to give someone a crash-course in burgundy, which producer/ vineyards / vintages would you recommend someone concentrate on to begin their education? Let’s say I don’t want to spend more than $500 on a single bottle and consider $100 per bottle to be fine. My apologies if this is too ambiguous, I’m just looking to draw some bumpers within the classifications themselves.
Thank you in advance with any guidance you can provide!
Haha yeah - I guess my limited storage space gives me some leeway when it comes to the wines I buy! In all seriousness, I was hesitant to put a dollar amount in this post. The point of it being in there is to emphasize that I’m open to more expensive wines although I, like many others, can’t afford some of the most coveted names (i.e. DRC).
There is no simple answer to most Burgundy questions! For the bigger negociants, be aware that they only “make” their “domaine” wines (look for the words Recolte du Domaine, or something like that), and some others where they use someone else’s grapes. Others are brought in as made wines and then aged in the negociants cellars. Jadot is particularly good at differentiating via the small print on the front label.
Vintage quality, and style, is very important in Burgundy. The weather patterns are very variable and no two vintages will be the same. It’s hard to find two that are even “alike”! Some drink well young others don’t, so getting reports is important. Burghound.com is probably the best source. Aeration and serving temperature are also critical. I prefer the slow-O approach where one doesn’t decant, but that is most practical with reasonably aged and older wines. It may take too long with younger or fuller-bodied ones.
I’ve found Clive Coates’ two books (“Cote D’Or” and “The Wines of Burgundy”) to be excellent resouces to browse and study. How the producers are “ranked” is useful. It’s also good to have maps of the areas, as nearby vineyards will usually share some characteristics of flavor and style. Hugh Johnson’s “Wine Atlas of the World” is good for that.
Age is really necessary, I think, to show the best in the good wines. That’s when the character and complexity can emerge from the domination of youthful fruit and oak regimens, etc. Winemakers are careful now about exposure to oxygen before bottling, and the wines in the bottle are fresher and longer lasting than was the case pre-1988. So now, a Burg that is 20 years old may still be youthful (! - like '93s), whereas that wasn’t the case years ago, even with very good vintages. I do miss the old style though. They showed delicacy and elegant age after maybe 15 years, and it’s almost impossible to get anything old enough now!!
Have a look at the BIVB - http://www.bourgogne-wines.com/ is their English website. They have a great interactive program which will introduce you slowly to the basics. The biggest difference to Bordeaux is that there are just under 4000 wine producers in Burgundy and yet they produce only three and half percent of French wine, so quantities are much smaller and take a little longer to get to know.
Thanks to everyone for the posts. I’ve also found the interactive maps on the Jadot website helpful in figuring out where what I’m drinking is coming from. I’ve noticed some posters have topographical maps of the region, maybe that’s next…
With Burgundy, and also with Germany, maps are very useful in making sense of what you taste, as the wines are very representative of their terroirs, and it changes all the time as you move around. Neighboring vineyards will virtually always show some flavor nuances in common. And then too, sometimes a producer will have a strong “signature” that will obscure these flavor nuances. And then too, each vintage imparts its own personality on a wine, and that is another feature to look for and identify…!
My apologies, it was the Kobrand site, not Jadot (they’re an importer of Jadot wines and display the logo). In any case, here’s a link to their interactive maps. It takes a little getting used to but you can select a village and drill down to the vineyard level, zooming in helps a lot too. They’re coded by Grand Cru, 1er Cru, and village level. The site has other regions as well but I haven’t looked at them.
I’m a 1%'er and have a nice collection of boutique CA wines and have never spent more than $275 on a single bottle. It’s not about the price per bottle, but about finding a diamond in the rough. The thrill comes in finding a $25 bottle that drinks like $100 wine. They’re out there, one just has to do the research.
Burgundy is a very complicated region. The vineyards are rated, based on their potential quality they can produce. This however very much depends on the viticulturist. Most of the hard work is done in the vineyards, and a lot is dependent on experience. e.g. canopy management, planting density, pruning, how much green harvesting, when to pick etc. In difficult vintages, tirage is very important, and based on the quality of the harvest, one needs to adjust the winemaking technique. e.g. length of cold marceration, how much punching down to do, how much stems to leave in etc. Some vintages can withstand more extraction, others can’t. One must also to pay attention to the ripeness of the phenolics. All these decisions require a lot of experience, and most Burgundy winemakers grew up making wine, so by the time they take over in their 20s and 30s, they would already have a dozen or more vintages under their belt.
Even with the same climat, different domaines might produce different quality of wines due to where their vines are situated. Just like in real estate, which is always location, location, location, this is never more true for Burgundy. The steepness of the slope, the drainage of the plot, the thickness of the top soil, the hours of sun exposure (some areas might have shadows cast by trees or a wall, for example), even wind exposure, average temperature all matter. Vintage is also very important as Burgundy climate is pretty marginal for ripening of Pinor Noir. At the end of the day, the winemaker trumps all else. In the hands of a talented winemaker, even supposedly inferior plots can yield great wine (e.g. Grivot Clos de Vougeot), whereas even great climats can yield unsatisfactory results due to poor attention to detail (e.g. Lamarche La Grande Rue in the 1980s and 90s). As they say, there is no bad vintage in Burgundy, only bad winemakers.
Therefore, I tend to buy wine from great climats made by great winemakers in supposedly poor vintages (since they are more affordable than usual), and village or even Bourgogne from great winemakers in great vintages (since they are usually no more expensive than usual). Hence, I have lots of grand crus from 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and tons of village cru from 1999, 2002, 2005, 2009 and 2010.
lots of threads on this subject, just search. Start a wine group so you can spread the pain of buying Burgundy and try more bottles, find a local wine store that does tastings, and read–a three-pronged approach to studying Burgundy. It’s very easy to learn some information, very difficult to learn a lot. My favorite Burg book–first and second editions of Remington Norman’s Great Domaines of Burgundy. Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Burgundy is also great, but hard to find now.