A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life

OLDER UNDER THE RADAR WHITE BURGUNDY

John Tilson • 12/12/14        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

WHO SAYS WHITE BURGUNDY HAS TO HAVE A THREE DIGIT PRICE TAG?

White Burgundy (1)

White Burgundy has long been my favorite white wine. White Burgundy can come from five areas:
• Chablis (100% White Wine)
• Côte de Nuits (5% White Wine)
• Côte de Beaune (30% White Wine)
• Côte Chalonnaise (40% White Wine)
• Mâconnais (85% White Wine)
With the exception of a miniscule amount of Aligoté, all White Burgundy is made from the Chardonnay grape. Historically, the best White Burgundies have come from the Côte de Beaune which is also the home of the most expensive White Burgundies. These include: Montrachet, the hyphenated Grand Cru Montrachets such as Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet, Premier Crus, and the wines from the villages of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet as well as the Premier Cru and village wines from Meursault. In recent years, Chablis has enjoyed a surge in popularity as well and the Grand Crus and Premier Crus command much higher prices, albeit not generally at the level of the comparable wines from Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.

Sadly, with the outset of the Premox epidemic in the late 90s (to read my article on Premox click here) it has become, as I have said, a game of Russian Roulette for many of the great White Burgundies. And, once again, I am definitely not a fan of Russian Roulette! So I don’t buy very much Premier and Grand Cru White Burgundy to age like I used to. However, there are a few producers whose wines are age worthy and I stick to those (these include Coche-Dury, Raveneau, Pierre Yves Colin Morey and a few others). But, all of these wines continue to command higher and higher prices.

However, under the radar, there are White Burgundies that I buy and drink as everyday “house” wines. They have great appeal young and some even age gracefully for many years. These are wines generally from areas outside of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny- Montrachet, and Chablis, which are the home of the greatest Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines. These under the radar areas include the relatively new area of St. Aubin which is next to Chassagne-Montrachet and has Premier Cru designated vineyards, the Côte de Chalonnaise, and Mâconnaise. All of these areas are gaining new followers and increased popularity as a result of the work of an increasing number of wine growers and producers. These growers and producers have eschewed some long standing practices (such as maximum production and many wines made in cooperatives) for lower yields and traditional wine making. Some of the better producers here include Pierre Yves Colin Morey, Domaine Saumaize Michelin, Domaine Robert-Denogent, and Domaine A. et P. De Villaine as well as many others.

Also, not to be missed is Bourgogne Blanc. Bourgogne Blanc can come from grapes grown anywhere in the region of Burgundy. However, many of the best ones come from wines made from grapes grown in the area where the producer is located and are made from estate grown grapes. Look for wines from producers such as A. et P. De Villaine, Ramonet, Roulot, Grivault, Paul Pernot, Leflaive, and Coche-Dury which are usually made from estate grown grapes. Some Bourgogne Blancs such as those from Leflaive and Coche-Dury have escalated a lot in price. These are both at a quality level way above their Bourgogne Blanc designation. This is particularly true for the Bourgogne Blanc from Coche-Dury which is often better than most Premier Crus. It also sells at a triple digit price so it can hardly be called under the radar. But most Bourgogne Blancs are relatively inexpensive. Many are in the $25-$45 range and at these prices they represent very good value. There are also the Bourgognes made from the Aligoté grape. Aligoté was the original white grape of Burgundy. But, after Burgundy was ravaged by disease in the late 1800s, Aligoté was replaced with Chardonnay. Today only a little Aligoté is grown in Burgundy. Some of the best ones are from Roulot, Ramonet, Ponsot, and A. et P. De Villaine. Since 1998, Bouzeron Aligoté is the only Aligoté with its own appellation which is within the Côte de Chalonaise. Aligoté has a nice bright acidity which I really like and is terrific with simple fish dishes.

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In recent weeks I have consumed several bottles of delicious under the radar White Burgundies that I had aged for several years. The vintages ranged from 2010 to 2005. These wines were originally priced in the $25-$40 range and current vintages of most of these wines can still be found mostly in this price range. This makes them very attractive in today’s market. Below are notes on these wines. I found all of them Outstanding and absolutely delicious to drink now. In short, if you are looking for value priced White Burgundies, the wines from these lesser known areas are wines to seek out.

2010 Domaine Albert Grivault Bourgogne Blanc
Here is what I had to say about this Domaine in an earlier article: Burgundy is a very special place in many respects. But one thing I have always found interesting is how certain vineyards and producers fade in and out of favor over time. At least this has been true for the 40 some years that I have been drinking and visiting Burgundy. A case in point is the Domaine Albert Grivault in Meursault. This Domaine dates back to 1879 when Albert Grivault was able to buy the property. It consisted of the monopole (sole owner) vineyard Clos des Perrières as well as a portion of Les Perrières and other vineyards in the area of Meursault.
There are no Grand Cru Vineyards in Meursault, but the Clos des Perrières and Les Perrières are rated Premier Cru and generally acknowledged as the best vineyards in Meursault. I remember many years ago when Lalou Bize Leroy told me that she felt Les Perrières should be a Grand Cru and that the Clos des Perrières was the best property in Meursault. Shortly after that my friends and I were able to arrange a visit and taste the wines. We felt the wines were good, but nothing really exceptional in terms of the best Meursault producers.
However, in recent years, I have begun to notice an improvement in the wines. Last year I was very impressed with the 2009 Clos des Perrières. And, now I have tasted the range of the 2010 Albert Grivault white wines and I am even more impressed. Under the leadership of Michel Bardet and his sister Claire, who are the grandchildren of Albert Grivault, there has been a big step up in quality at this Domaine.
The French wine magazine, Bourgogne Aujord’hui, recently conducted a survey of several top French wine reviewers in order to determine what was felt to be the best of the white Premier Crus. The winner was the Clos des Perrières. Although, I have never tasted a really old bottle of Clos des Perrières (the oldest for me is 1979), reportedly the wine can age for a very long period with bottles back into the 1800s still sound.
All of the Domaine’s 15 acres of vineyards are contiguous and Michel is currently involved in trying to get the Bourgogne Blanc elevated to Meursault and the Clos des Perrières elevated to Grand Cru. The Bourgogne vineyard is in the same Clos where the Meursault comes from at the back of the domaine. The front is Meursault and the back part, closer to the hills, is Bourgogne. But, both parcels are within the original Clos. Given the history and location of the vineyards, it seems like the elevations may have a very good chance of succeeding. Perhaps all of the Perrières vineyard should be upgraded? But, in the case of the Clos des Perrières, the vineyard has the same orientation as Montrachet and the soils in the Clos des Perrières have a higher proportion of minerals and stones than the rest of the Perrières vineyard. So we shall see what evolves over time.
However, for now, the Albert Grivault wines are still not at a price level that they would be should the vineyards be upgraded. So that makes them a bit under the radar and relative bargains. These 2010 Albert Grivault White Burgundies are wines to buy! (To read an earlier review of Domaine Albert Grivault wines click here).

This 2010 Bourgogne is lovely and drinking beautifully now. Light yellow in color it has s gorgeous perfume of citrus, white peach and pineapple. With great style and finesse, the wine is bright, crisp and flavorful with floral, citrus, peach, and pineapple nuances. A terrific wine by any standard – Outstanding.

2010 Domaine Saumize Michelin Pouilly Fuissé Les Courtelongs
Here is what I had to say about Pouilly Fuissé and the wines of Domaine Saumize Michelin in an earlier article: Pouilly-Fuissé is an area in Mâconnais subregion of southern Burgundy. It was established in 1936 and today covers some 2000 acres. There are no vineyard classifications in Pouilly-Fuissé because the growers never applied for them. The wines are made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. In the last decade or so there has been a steady improvement in the wines of southern Burgundy. Pouilly-Fuissé is now considered by many to be producing the finest white wines in the area, yet they continue to remain Under The Radar. As such they represent some of the greatest values in White Burgundy today.

Domaine Saumaize-Michelin
I first became acquainted with the wines of this small family owned domaine with the 2005 vintage. I was extremely impressed and bought a lot of the wines which have aged beautifully and are delicious today. There was a lapse in importing the wines for a few vintages, but now the 2010s have arrived. They are stunning wines. These are wines to buy and this is a domaine to follow. Great wines at great prices, what else is there? (To read an earlier review of Domaine Saumize Michelin wines click here)

What a gorgeous wine. It is delicious now, but should keep for many more years. The color is light yellow gold and the wine has a lovely floral citrus tinged perfume with an exotic nuance. Rounded, lush, and supple, there is lots of floral tinged fruit accenting by an exotic tinge and a nice crispness on the finish – Outstanding.

2009 Domaine A. et P. De Villaine Rully Les Saint-Jacques
For over 30 years I have been buying, cellaring, and drinking the wines from this superb Domaine owned by Aubert De Villaine (of Domaine de la Romanée Conti fame) and his wife Pamela. The wines are consistently brilliant year after year. (To read a very early review of a 1979 A. et P. Villaine Bourgone Blanc that at $7.50 was rated Best Buy click here).

At 5 years of age this wine is drinking beautifully. It is light yellow gold in color and has lovely floral perfume with hints of pear and citrus. Very pure with lots of finesse and elegance, this is a very balanced and beautifully expressive wine. Floral flavors accented by citrus and pear are followed by a wonderful crispness on the finish. Delicious now, but I would expect this wine to age effortlessly for several more years – Outstanding.

2007 Domaine Robert-Denogent Pouilly Fuissé La Croix Vielles Vignes
Here is what I had to say about this Domaine in an earlier article: In 1988 Jean-Jacques Robert took over 12 ½ acres of his grandfather’s vineyards in southern Burgundy just outside the village of Fuissé. There were small parcels of 7 vineyards. And, although most of the grapes had been sold to cooperatives, the parcels were well situated and consisted largely of old vines some of which are now approaching 100 years old.

La Croix is one of 4 Pouilly Fuissés made at this domaine. The vines at La Croix are 79 years old and the other 3 vineyards have even older vines. This 2007 is light yellow in color with a golden hue. It has a great perfume of orange blossoms with a tinge of spice and has wonderful spice tinged fruit showing depth and richness with a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding.

2005 Domaine A. et P. De Villaine Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise Les Clos (To read earlier reviews of Domaine A. et P. De Villaine wines click here and here).
Here is what I said about this Domaine in an earlier article: Aubert de Villaine is the co-proprietor of Domaine de la Romanée Conti. But, aside from that, he and his wife, Pamela, own Domaine A. et P. de Villaine in Bouzeron. Bouzeron is the first village in the Cote de Chalonnaise which is just South of Chassagne-Montrachet and Santenay in between Rully and Mercurey.
Vines in Bouzeron were first planted by the monks of Cluny in the Middle Ages. The Domaine A. et P. de Villaine consists of over 50 acres of vineyards planted to Aligoté, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Since 1986, the vineyards have been organically farmed. Yields are controlled through selective planting, severe pruning, and occasional pre-harvest thinning. As a result, yields are typically about 20% below the yields authorized by government regulations. This produces wines that are flavorful, yet refined.
I first started buying and drinking wines from this Domaine in the late 1970s. They have always given me great enjoyment. They are wines of great harmony, balance, and finesse. The wines are attractive in their youth, but most of the wines can be aged for an extended period. They are also attractively priced and represent very good value. If you are seeking wines that are harmonious and balanced with moderate levels of alcohol… and are great accompaniments to a wide variety of foods, then these are definitely wines for you to try. …Wines from this Domaine are very consistent and can be bought with confidence year in and year out.

At nearly 10 years of age this Bourgogne is simply wonderful. At a peak, but showing no signs of fatigue, it is harmonious, lush, balanced and flavorful. The color is light yellow gold and the perfume is stunning with a honeyed quality and a tinge of bee’s wax accented by floral citrus nuances. Very pure and expressive with faint honeyed notes and citrus tinged fruit, this Bourgogne Blanc speaks volumes of the potential for Côte Chalonnais wines – Outstanding.

de Villaine Bourgogne2

So there you have it. These are wines that I have known for a long time. I regularly buy, cellar, and drink them. They are consistently gorgeous wines and great values to boot! You now know what I know. Who says White Burgundy has to have a three digit price tag?

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