Burgundy is in some ways a bit of a contradiction. One of the names synonymous with great Old-World wines, it does indeed have some of the most expensive bottles in the world, and that can make it seem intimidating for some beginners. However as a region it’s actually quite easy to get to grips with, because it has just two main grape varieties – Pinot Noir for Bourgogne Rouge and Chardonnay for Bourgogne Blanc.
We have always been great fans of red and white Bourgognes, and are happy to announce some newcomers to our collection for sale. We hope you enjoy exploring them as much as we did.
It’s the terroir that makes Burgundy unique. Terroir is an all-encompassing word that means not just the soil the vines grow in, but the whole way they grow – the weather, the amount of rainfall, the way the slopes face the sun, the surrounding countryside, when they are pruned, everything. The soil itself in this region of France in the central-eastern region is limestone – the chunks of limestone or marl (limestone mixed with clay) still contain fossilized sea creatures. Chardonnay does especially well in limestone-dominant soil.
Winemaking in Burgundy goes back to the Roman period, but it was Catholic monks who really established the vineyards in the Middle Ages. The monks figured out that different soil types and locations could dramatically influence a wine’s flavour and characteristics. They divided up the vineyards into around 1,200 parcels, known as “clos”. The Dukes of Burgundy were once so powerful and proud of their wine production that the region very nearly became a kingdom in its own right.
The soil in Burgundy can change dramatically from one vineyard to the next. Just a few inches might separate a Grand Cru vineyard from a Premier Cru – which makes a big difference to the taste, as well as the price.
It’s the combination of factors that makes Burgundy wines so expressive and special – and sometimes so expensive. Some Burgundy Pinot Noirs are some of the most elegant, aromatic and delicious wines in the world. The best Chardonnays are powerful and rich, with complex fruit flavours and notes of earth and minerals. More affordable Chardonnays — for instance, those simply labelled ‘Bourgogne Blanc’ —are crisp and lively, with apple and lemon flavours. Chablis is perhaps the best-known area for Chardonnays, and produces steely, age-worthy wines. Geographically Chablis is closer as the crow flies to Champagne than it is to the southern end of Burgundy, and winters here are long and can be very cold, with spring frosts very likely.
Grand Cru Burgundies are the big guns of the region, and the most expensive wines. They include famous names like Romanée Conti, La Tâche, and Montrachet. They account for just over 1% of Burgundy’s annual production, they are complex and made for cellaring. There are a total of 33 Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy.
“Village” wines are named after the towns near to where the grapes are sourced. Think Puligny-Montrachet, Volnay or Mercurey. These wines can be simpler, less layered and complex than the Grand Crus, but this statement, like any other Burgundian ‘truths’, comes with caviats. Find the right producer, vintage or even bottle and a village wine might give you as much pleasure as a Grand Cru. It is definitely a wine region which rewards research and patience.
Burgundies, both white and red have proven to be some of our most popular wines over the years, and there is plenty to reward connoisseurs, beginners or just anyone who appreciates delicious wine. All of our new range are affordable and offer excellent value, a perfect way to enter the wonderful world of Burgundy wines.
The new reds
Chorey lies on flat ground across the main road from Savigny and Pernaud near Beaune, and is well known for its reds. Jancis Robinson lists Tollot Beaut as one of the villages’ exceptional producers, which ‘makes some of the finest wines of the Beaune appellation’. Really sensual wine with a dominant flavour of dark cherry. Good power, with savoury tannin on the finish, a very flavourful wine.
|Domaine Bertrand Bachelet, Maranges 1er Cru 'La Fussiere', 2015 £31|
|Really perfumed nose, then lots of lovely floral fruit. Pretty and fresh, but with some animal, earthy notes. Very good value.|
|Mercurey Premier Cru 'Clos du Roy' Domain Charton £31|
|Mercurey is the most important village in the Cotes Chalonnaise district. The appellation includes 32 Premier Cru vineyards, making up 20% of the total. Their Pinot Noirs tend to be deeper in colour, fuller in body and more capable of ageing than those of neighbouring villages. This is a classic Pinot Noir with characteristics of earthy notes and stalk. Dark cherry nose, then nice power, good concentration and length. Lovely wine that offers very good value.|
|And two whites...|
|Samuel Billaud, Chablis, 2019 £26|
|The Billaud family have been producing Chablis since 1815. Samuel set out on his own in 2010 and is now one of the very best growers in the region. These are the sheer embodiment of purity and poise, with the classic steely mineral quality of a Chablis. From vines located above the Grand Cru vineyard of 'Le Clos'.|
|Bruno Lorenzon, Montagny, 1er Cru Les Truffieres, 2017 £39|
|The nose is very intense and very fragrant. A floral fruity style is embellished with a mineral touch. Very nice overall balance. Typical nose with notes of butter, almond and peach. The richness of the vintage is obvious, with minimal acidity, but despite everything, it has a beautiful overall harmony, with a chiselled mouth, a little bitterness on the finish, and a touch of heat as well (14.5% alcohol). Medium length.|