It’s not just big-ticket bottles in Burgundy – you’d be surprised at the number of wines combining drinkability with affordability, says Adam Lechmere
This month sees the release of the 2014 Burgundy vintage, and the wines are a delight, chiefly because of the blistering quality of the whites. While the reds can be charming – classic in profile, light and fresh – these wines, from Chablis down to Mâcon, are opulent, luscious, and balanced by steely acidity. Chablis, the region’s northerly outpost, produces wines of mineral intensity in which fruit often plays second fiddle to structure. In 2014, the weather particularly favoured its whites. A damp, cold summer allowed fine acidity to develop in the grapes, then a gorgeous September gently finished off the ripening. The result? Acidity tight as a guitar string and luscious, even tropical, fruit. A lovely combination.
Chablis can be difficult though, with Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines carrying hefty price tags, and big-name producers at the cheaper end often coming out with thinnish stuff. But if you choose carefully there are gems to be found, such as the Premier Crus from Domaine Chanson – its Chablis Montée de Tonnerre offers a crescendo of honeyed fruit and mouthwatering acidity and is available from Mentzendorff later in the year. Oddbins has an exclusive Chablis made for them by Samuel Billaud, son of a veteran winemaker. The Jules Billaud (below) is entirely unoaked with rapier-like acidity and freshness. The 2014 will be in the shops this month but many merchants will still have the 2013, also well worth a look.
Things get lusher further south, from village wines like the honey- and-lemongrass Domaine Perraud Mâcon-Villages at about £15, to Domaine de Montille’s magnificent (and pricier) Les Cailleret Premier Cru from Puligny-Montrachet, whose limestone slopes are considered to produce the world’s finest expression of chardonnay.
The de Montille is from one of the legendary communes of the Côte de Beaune, and costs more than £80 a bottle. But go down a couple of levels and you get to Olivier Leflaive’s Oncle Vincent (below), at basic Bourgogne level but from vineyards a stone’s throw from Puligny. When it comes to the reds, you won’t be seeing the 2014s for at least a year, so I’m focusing on the available vintages. I was particularly taken with the wines of Jane Eyre, a former Melburnian hairdresser who arrived in Burgundy in 1998. Eyre rents parcels of vines and vinifies in hired winery space. She prefers to buy very good grapesfromless-exaltedappellations rather than bankrupt herself buying Grand Cru grapes. Her basic Gevrey- Chambertin is a wonderfully pretty wine. At nearly £50 a bottle it’s not cheap, but it’s from an appellation that at Grand Cru level can cost five or ten times that much.
If you pick your producer with care, there are excellent wines to be found outside the great appellations of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Further south, in Côte Chalonnaise, the village of Mercurey is renowned for its fine, deep reds – see the Domaine Marguerite Dupasquier below. And I’d urge you to look at Château de Santenay’s Premier Cru Les Puillets (£25), which starts out with ripe red cherry and ends with a fine wash of sweet juice.
Olivier Leflaive Oncle Vincent Bourgogne 2014, £16
Spiced, creamy nose and sharp, bright acidity on the palate with zingy cut apple notes. Excellent length. Drink with grilled sea bass.
Available at:Wine Society
Jules Billaud Chablis 2013, £16.99
Unoaked with ringing acidity and green-apple freshness. Tingles on the tongue but there’s a sweet hint of lemongrass to add complexity. Sip with creamy clam chowder.
Jules Billaud Chablis 2013, £16.99
Nose of white flowers tinged with sharp spice, then a brisk palate with apricot and sweet honey notes. Powerful enough to drink with roast pork belly.
Domaine Marguerite Dupasquier 2013, £13
One of the best- value Mercureys I know. Dark ripe raspberry and soft round tannins, full- bodied, meaty and robust. Drink with game bird.
Louis Latour, Aloxe-Corton, Les Chaillots 2011, £34.99
Power and finesse with damson and licorice. Tannins structured with real grip; core of mineral acidity leading to juice at the end. Enjoy with guinea fowl or grouse.