The large annual Burgundy tasting, organised by its growers and merchants’ association (BIVB) presents a feast of plenty. Where do you start with 90 stands and over 500 wines? This year I arrived with a vague notion of trying to pick off as many different village appellations as possible. Most wine lovers will have heard of Meursault and Nuits-Saint-Georges, but Ladoix and Givry?
Of course I didn’t stick to this plan but I got quite close it. The Exhibitors’ Choice tables lined up a special selection of 40 whites and 40 reds. There was a slightly curtailed version of the selection in the press room which offered the advantage of being very quiet and a table and chair to aid note taking. Short of going to Burgundy, this is pretty close to vinous heaven: comfort, the chance to concentrate and 80 great wines to choose from!
As a result I did get the chance to try three different Rully Premier Cru (white), two Fixin Premier Cru (red), one Maranges, one Givry and the Ladoix came later. Of course one couldn’t skip the great village names which made up most of the cast: Gevrey-Chambertin, Echezeaux, Chambolle-Musigny, Pommard, Volnay, the Montrachets, Pouilly-Fuissé and Chablis. The overall impression? The big names are famous for a reason, but, and it’s a big ‘but’, their is real value, as well as curiosity, in the byways. For example oaked Chardonnay from Rully Premier Cru Le Meix Cadot 2009 (Domaine Roland Sounit) offers the vanilla and cinnamon of new oak, and then ripe, peachy fruit, good acidity and is quite long. Or, Domaine Parent’s Ladoix Premier Cru La Corvée 2008 (which is €13 in France) has good concentration and balance and is full of red berried fruit.
And the stars of the show? Sophie Cinier’s Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Vers Cras’ 2008 had suitably assertive peach to lime fruit, while perhaps predictably William Fevre’s Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2007 was among the best of the Chablis. A pair of distinguished wines from the same vintage (2007) and the same vineyard (Corton Grand Cru, even if its a very large vineyard) showed a big difference of style. The startling difference of colour was there for all to see. Domaine Parent was a good pale to mid ruby, while Chateau Corton André was pale and interesting. You can see the difference even in the photo:
It would be interesting to follow up the wine making practices – different quality fruit? longer maceration? higher temperatures? While the Corton André was outstandingly fragrant and the palate delicate and even ethereal, the Parent had greater intensity and fine, subtle, raspberry and strawberry fruit which just begs to be savoured and drunk. I also particularly liked Domaine Taupenot-Merme’s Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin 2007: the classic combination of red fruit and cloves to begin with, then succulent and refined fruit all brilliantly tied up with fine oak. Superb.
And the event by which we will all remember the day? The fire which broke out – in an understated English sort of way - in one of the huge lighting fittings, high above the floor of Old Billingsgate Market, prompting puzzlement and good humour to start with and then the eventual inevitable evacuation of the building. Fortunately by then I had a plate of food to enjoy outside, on the walkway by the Thames, during a cold but clear January day, while the fire service did its bit. We all returned and stopped exchanging quips about smoky wines and Syrah. Whether you choose the highways of the famous names or explore the better value byways, the best of the recent vintages of Burgundy entice and delight.
PS I did taste the white wines; I just don’t seem to have photographed any of them!