Monday, 28 January 2013

In search of Burgundy value

It goes without saying that a good proportion of the wines we drink Chez Stolarski are from southern France. But life would be rather boring if that was all we ever drank. It amazes me how some people stick doggedly to their chosen favourite region, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there is so much variety to be had out there in the wonderful world of wine. OK, so in my humble opinion, southern France remains one of the best sources of fine wines that don't cost the earth. Which is not something you can say about Burgundy - so many fabulous wines, most of which are made in tiny quantities, from a total area a fraction of the size (in both geographical and viticultural terms) of Languedoc-Roussillon. And with the supply/demand gap ever widening, Burgundy prices continue to rise on an almost mind-boggling scale. Never mind the Grand and 1er Cru wines - when one has to pay more for a decent (and in some cases average) Village Burgundy than, say, Domaine de Trévallon (in my opinion, one of the world's great wines), one has to draw the line.

Not that it is yet impossible to find the occasional bargain. With the right sources (auctions, for instance) and friends with the right knowledge, there are still a few gems to be had at the lower end. It isn't necessarily about the absolute "perceived" quality (i.e. cost), but simply about seeking out and enjoying bloody good wines. By which I mean one doesn't necessarily need to scale the pyramid in order to appreciate the finer points of Burgundy. And being able to appreciate them at both ends (and all points in-between) of their development is such a treat, especially when they are as good as this pair of beauties.

Domaine Guillot-Broux Macon-Cruzille Beaumont 1996
This cost me all of £7 per bottle, from an auction. And for all its cheapness, perceived (over)-maturity and lowly denomination, this is a wine which - with each successive bottle - has given TLD and I a great deal of drinking pleasure over the last few years. My only worry is that it may be our last bottle...... unless I have a few odd bottles still buried at the bottom of a pile of inaccessible boxes at my wine store. I hope I do, for this little artefact is still clinging on to life nicely, and certainly isn't going to fall off its perch too quickly. Much as a good Moulin-a-Vent or Morgon can do, a Gamay from the nearby Macon is more than capable of relatively long ageing and, as it does so, taking on more than a hint of "Pinosity" in its efforts to mimic the aromatic and flavour profile of the more esteemed red wines of the Côte d'Or. And this is an excellent example, possessed of an earthy, forest floor and wild strawberry bouquet, with hints of tobacco and spice, whilst the palate is all about tertiary red fruit and citrus flavours, with the merest hint of fruity sweetness offset by tremendously mouth-watering acidity and a touch of rustic tannin. OK, so it isn't really Burgundy (some Burgundy snobs wouldn't touch this sort of stuff with a bargepole) but I have had many a young, acidic, fruit-frugal wine from the Côte d'Or that will never be a match for this. And perhaps it is a sign of my age that I get all dewy-eyed about a wine that was made when I was in my mid-30's and still (much like me!) has much pleasure to offer. ;-) Oh, and it went very nicely with a pork shoulder joint, slowly roasted on a bed of onions and blackberries (which I then used to make a rich sauce, with the addition of some home-made turkey and chicken stock) and some red cabbage and haricot beans.

Domaine Michel Gros Bourgogne Haute Côtes de Nuits 2005
This wine, on the other hand, is a mere youngster at less than 8 years of age and shows all of the vibrant fruit and relative chunkiness of an immature (or at best semi-mature) red Burgundy. Having said that, it has evolved nicely since my previous bottle, which we drank this time last year. At £16, it is a relative bargain (indeed, I also have some of the 2008, which was even more of a bargain at 10 Euros from the cellar door). And although from a relatively lowly denomination, it is from an undoubtedly excellent grower and vintage - a combination which almost always pays rich dividends. It is certainly a delicious wine, which hints at its Nuits Saint Georges origins, whilst actually avoiding the toughness and rusticity I occasionally find in some of that appellation's more elevated wines. The nose is evocative of mixed curry spices, fine tobacco and polished old wood, mingled beautifully with ripe red cherry, raspberry, wild strawberry and even a hint of dried orange peel - everything that is so sexy about good red Burgundy. The palate perhaps lacks the structure and complexity of the wines from the lower (and much more expensive) slopes of the Village and 1er Cru wines, but certainly doesn't lack for charm. A rasp of cherry and raspberry fruit and once again a hint of dried orange makes for a delightfully tangy, ever-so-slightly spicy and peppery wine, with relatively fine tannins and plenty of juicy acidity. All-in-all, it is high-toned and tangy, but with plenty of depth and enjoyment. And whilst it still feels quite primary and will undoubtedly benefit from another 5 or more years in bottle, it is eminently drinkable now. And it went very nicely with a medium rare rump steak with mushrooms and french fries. Yum!


Alan March said...

Can't believe how much prices have sky rocketed the last 2 or 3 years. I always called off in the area to buy on the way back from the South but it's just not worth the heartache as I can't afford the wines I used to buy from producers who are not at the top end of the market! I love red Burgundy but what I've got left in the cellar will suffice. I've been a regular at a couple of places in Chorey, Volnay and Santenay as well as buying some treats from Vosne and Nuits. Last year I called in to Nuits to someone who remembered me and I was so embarrassed when he showed me the prices and I realised I wasn't going to pay that much. The best QPR is in Fixin Clos Perriere a recommendation from Bill Nanson.
i'd be interested to hear anyone else's recommendations

Leon Stolarski said...

Alan - You really must visit Guillot-Broux. Not only for the Gamays, but also for some pretty serious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I have every intention of one day importing their wines - perhaps even this year.

Interesting about the Fixin - I assume you mean Domaine de La Perriere. Judging by the notes and comments on Bill's site, it looks like the Clos Saint Perriere 1er cru is at least 80 Euros and even the Village wine is north of 30 Euros (and that was a few years ago)!

Alan March said...

Whoops I must have wrong estate. I'll go check

Alan March said...

Domaine Berthaut - that's it, Called a couple of times now, excellent producers who punch well above their weight and have some 'better' vineyards too in Gevrey

Leon Stolarski said...

Ah, that looks much more like it. A quick look on wine-searcher reveals that they are (probably) not imported into the UK. French merchant prices look eminently reasonable, though. I may check them out in June.

Graham said...

I occasionally wonder if I'm in the "stick doggedly" category, and when it comes to buying it's close to 100% L-R. That said, I must taste 100+ wines a year from elsewhere.

Leon Stolarski said...

I guess I'm lucky that I probably taste well in excess of 1200+ from elsewhere...... but still plenty from southern France as well, of course!