The Bring a Bottle Club was in a rather different format for its late January tasting, or rather a refinement of its format. We already have ‘BBC1’ which is ‘bring an interesting/good bottle of any sort’, while ‘BBC2’ has a theme, on this occasion, white Burgundy. The refinement was that one of our number offered to liaise with members beforehand so that we didn’t end up bringing the same wine – a particular problem given that just about everyone in the group has a strong connection with Caviste in Overton. It was just as well that there was this level of organisation as the wines posed the usual challenge in terms of identification. The region and the colour had been fixed and there is a very strong likelihood that we were going to be tasting Chardonnay in its various guises. We started with a pair of wines.
This first wine opened with a powerfully oaky nose, some good lime and peach fruit, sophisticated oak again on the palate, altogether a very polished performer. Nobody spotted that it wasn’t Chardonnay, not even the person who brought it. This a very fine wine made from the Aligoté grape variety, normally the source of thin, acidic wines best made into aperitifs. Arnaud Ente, Bourgogne Aligoté, 2009. I had thought about bringing Sauvignon de Saint-Bris to complete the set of possible grape varieties.
By contrast wine number two was unoaked and full of green apples and lemon, showing vibrant fruit but with a taut, mineral, even seashell, undertone – which sent us all off in the Chablis direction, wrongly. In fact this was Simon Bize’s ‘Les Perrières’, a lieu-dit (named vineyard but not a cru) in Savigny: a fine wine trading simply as Bourgogne 2008, with the racy acidity of that cool year. 2-0 to white Burgundy.
There was a strong connection between wines three and four, with wine number three showing particularly well. Pale lemon in colour and medium intensity on the nose (as most of these were) this had fine, subtle fruit, balance and was very attractive. Eventually, its importer recognised Sur le Mont. Domaine Cheveau, Mâcon Solutré, 2010.
Something had gone wrong here: a heavily oaked wine with caramel and nut notes, a bit dried out if with continuing acidity: Aux Bouthières, Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Michel Cheveau, 2006. The same family of producers as the previous wine, but an earlier generation. The only spoiled wine of the evening.
The next mini-flight was three wines with a connection of some sort. By this point in the evening, I had the advantage of knowing that the two wines which Janet and I had bought had not yet appeared. Wine number one was delicate, with pleasantly spicy oak and a fruity palate that was more intense than the nose. Number two had good lemon notes, good sharp grape fruit (that’s the fruit of the grape rather than grapefruit), and excellent acidity, classy.
Wine number three was all toffee apples and oxidisation; someone else suggested marshmallow – something of a marmite wine. And the connection – all three were from the most northerly part of Burgundy. The complication was that they weren’t all Chablis – after a few moments, it came to me. Wines one and two were the wines we had brought: Cuvée Louis Bersan, Dom. Bersan, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre 2008 – next door to Chablis and great value and Chablis 2008 from Vignoble Dampt, ‘Vielles Vignes’. Number three was Patrick Piuze, Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux, also 2008.
Time for some food: a superb chicken dish from the Red Lion, Overton. Having done Chablis, Mâcon and some outstations, the final line up of four wines had to be from the Côtes de Beaune, from the great white wine communes – and indeed they were. Sorting them out and distinguishing between village level and premier crus was much more challenging. I got the quality levels right but had no idea about the communes.
All from the same cool 2007 vintage, the Meursault was fresh and taut while the village Chassagne-Montrachet was powerful, exotic and fatter. The Chassagne PC, by contrast, was showing a real complexity on the palate with some more vegetal notes and the Puligny-Montrachet an excellent combination of lime fruit, subtle use of oak and some still vibrant youth.
Meursault, Maison Sylvain Loichet 2007
Chassagne-Montrachet, Bernard Moreau 2007
Marquis de Laguiche, Chassagne PC, Joseph Drouhin, 2007
Les Referts, Puligny-Montrachet PC, Bachelet- Monnot, 2007
It is easy to knock white Burgundy – you can find more vibrant young wines in Australia and bigger, more powerful Chardonnays in South Africa or California. But for subtle differences in a range of food-friendly styles, you can’t really beat where it all began.