Category Archives: Burgundy

Oct 10 2015

White Burgundy Masterclass: The benefits of switching to screwcap!

Posted on October 10, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Australian Boutique Winemakers Masterclass on White Burgundy conducted by wine critic Huon Hooke at the Prince Wine Store in Sydney.  The 12 wines on show, from the Burgundy appellations of Maconnais, Côte de Beaune and Chablis, were made by small independent producers, most of whom favour biodynamic or organic farming methods and only limited use of new oak for barrel ageing.

Overall, the quality of the wines was excellent. The premier cru wines from Puligny-Montrachet and Mersault certainly displayed the hallmark qualities people associate with top-flight White Burgundy.

The bouquet of the Jacques Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Canet 2013 (rrp $256), for example, was both complex and clearly delineated, an enticing mix of savoury and sweet (think smoked and honey almonds!). The elegant nose was complemented by a vibrant, well balanced palate of medium-bodied citrus flavours with a touch of pear and quince. Great length added to the wine’s appeal.

Jacques Carillon is one of Puligny-Montrachet’s high profile producers. Top critics like the Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin regard 2013 as one of his best vintages to date.

Another clear favourite was the Domaine Michelot Meausault 1er Cu Perrières 2010 (rrp $197). Deep golden in hue, it was perhaps more old fashioned in style than the other wines we tried. As Huon explained, its rich, buttery texture was the result of allowing the wine to undergo a full malolactic (or secondary fermentation) and using of a higher proportion of new French oak for barrel ageing. Only when the fruit quality is high and has “guts”, as Hooke described it, do such treatments add complexity and depth without diminishing freshness and fruit flavour.

Interestingly, the Michelot Meausault 1er Cu Perrières was one of only two wines bottled under screwcap instead of … Read the rest

May 05 2014

Burgundy: Australians are spoilt for choice and it’s more affordable than you think!

Posted on May 05, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Australia’s Burgundy lovers have not only benefited from a strong exchange rate but also from a growing number of specialist importers who are really doing their homework on the ground in Burgundy. These talented importers are bringing an exciting array of Burgundies to Australian consumers, as highlighted by a recent Sommeliers Australia tasting of 13 Red and White Burgundies conducted by Est sommelier Franck Moreau.

Taking the time to building strong ties with Burgundian producers is essential for securing decent allocations, as top quality wines are quickly snapped up. In recent decades a growing number of boutique wineries and small negociants have transformed the Burgundian wine market and in the process greatly improved the overall quality of the wines. But whilst this trend is great news for consumers, it’s made navigating an already small and fragmented landscape even more challenging. Hence, the need for dedicated Australian importers who are able to bypass traditional distribution channels and deal directly with the boutique producers individually.

All three of the excellent Chablis wines at the tasting, for example, were made by small producers. One of the finest examples was the fresh, pristine, minerally 2011 Gilbert Picq Chablis Vielle-Vignes. It’s made from 50+ year old vines from the Picq family’s 11 ha of holdings, just 5 kms outside of the grand crus town of Chablis. Winemaker Didier Picq is regarded as one of Chablis most talented winemakers and many critics argue that his wines are greatly undervalued for the quality. In Australia the Chablis is avalaible Randall’s Wine Merchants for around $50 a bottle.

Colin-Morey Chassagne Montrachet

Côte de Beaune’s Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey is also recognised as one of Burgundy’s most exciting young producers. He worked for his father’s Domaine Marc Colin for just over 10 years before starting his own domaine in 2005 with six hectares … Read the rest

Feb 02 2013

White Burgundy: Great value and quality to be found in entry-level Bourgogne

Posted on February 02, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal wine writer Lettie Teague described Burgundian winemaker Pierre-Yves Colin of Domain Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey as a genius.

Colin, 40, is one of a growing number of new generation Burgundian winemakers who have been lauded by the critics for re-establishing Burgundy’s reputation as the benchmark for chardonnay and pinot noir. Through implementing biodynamic and organic viticultural practices and investing in sophisticated winemaking equipment, these boutique winemakers are now creating beautiful aromatic wines praised for their freshness, complexity and ageing potential.

Making Burgundy Affordable

Ah, you might say, that’s all well and good but who can afford Burgundy? Well one of the most surprising aspects of Teague’s article was her excitement over the lowly Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey 2010 Bourgogne Blanc. Here’s a snippet of what she had to say:

It’s not often that a winemaker’s genius can be detected in a bottle of basic Bourgogne. It would be like finding one of the world’s greatest speeches written on the back of an envelope. And yet, when I tasted the 2010 Bourgogne Blanc from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey almost a year ago, it was like discovering the vinous equivalent of the Gettysburg Address. The wine was so good—possessed of an elegance, complexity and finesse far beyond its humble provenance (and $24 price tag)—that I immediately bought six additional bottles. (The New Master of Affordable White Burgundies by Lettie Teague, The Wall Street Journal 15 February 2013)

If you’ve seen the recent Stephen Spielberg flick Lincoln, you’ll remember that Abraham Lincoln affirmed every man’s right to freedom and equality in his groundbreaking Gettysburg Address delivered at the height of the Civil War. I can’t help thinking that talented winemakers like Colin are helping to even the playing field for wine lovers by creating fine quality Burgundies at … Read the rest

Nov 11 2012

Cellarit Burgundy Dinner, 20 November 2012: A wonderful opportunity to sample the best of Burgundy’s boutique wines

Posted on November 11, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

At the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Burgundy Masterclass in March the Burghound’s Allen Meadows talked about the revolution that has taken place in Burgundian viticulture and winemaking practices over the past 30 years.

You may well ask why one of the most renowned and historic wine districts in the world would need to radically shake up the way it did business? But in many respects Burgundy’s transformation was about rediscovering how it had originally forged its reputation as the best producer of chardonnay and pinot noir in the world.

In the 1980s and 90s an increasing number of family-owned growers decided to take control of their own destiny by making and bottling their own wines rather than selling the grapes to négociants. In the process they discovered that they could make vast improvements to the quality of their grapes by reviving traditional practices of nurturing the land. Artificial fertilisers and pesticides were replaced with organic and even biodynamic viticultural practices and, once again, the vines were meticulously hand-tended and hand-harvested.

The result of all this hard work both in the vineyard and the winery, where traditional practices like natural yeast fermentation have been complemented by state-of-the art modern winemaking equipment, are beautifully made, clean wines that truly express the nuances of Burgundy’s unique and fabled terroir.

Fortunately for Australians, over the past several years a group of winemakers and business people from the Hunter Valley have cultivated relationships with some of very best of these small grower-owned domaines. On Tuesday evening 20 November 2012, importer Denis Power from Domaine Burgundy will share his insights into Burgundy over dinner at Restaurant Atelier in Glebe. Top Burgundies from his portfolio will be expertly matched to fine French food.

According to wine consultant Mario Vinciguerra, who will also be on hand to … Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

Moorooduc Estate Moorooduc Pinot Noir: A Worthy Challenger to Fine Burgundy!

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In the March edition of Decanter, Benjamin Lewin looks at whether pinot noir grown outside of Burgundy can ever match the Cote d’Or’s complex, sensual and ageworthy wines? Lewin notes that Burgundian winemakers argue that pinot noir is a grape that expresses the specificity of the place, uniformly stating: “We don’t make Pinot Noir – we make Burgundy.” (Beyond Burgundy by Benjamin Lewin MW, Decanter, March 2012)

Today, only a third of the world’s pinot noir comes from Burgundy. Germany and New World producers in the United States, New Zealand and Australia have demonstrated over the past 20 to 30 years that they are capable of making very fine, ageworthy pinot noirs, often in styles that are different to Burgundy’s but perhaps just as special and interesting in their own right?

Lewin dispels what he calls the Burgundian myth that pinot noir needs limestone soil to achieve its full complexity, noting that pinot noir from slate soils in Germany, for example, are more precise and taut than pinot noir from limestone soils, which are rounder, fuller and softer. Different, yes, but no less interesting!

Singling out “12 Pinots to challenge Burgundy, ” Lewin’s only Australian pick is Moorooduc Estate’s The Moorooduc Pinot Noir 2008 from the Mornington Peninsula. Here’s his review:

Savoury, cereal aroma. Lively black fruit palate shows purity with well-delineated, precise cherries and aromatic blackcurrants. As generally in the region, the 2008 shows more precise, tighter edges than the more overtly generous 2009.

The Wine Detective’s Sarah Ahmed argues that the top pinot noirs from the Mornington Peninsula offer the best of both worlds – “the consistent quality, fruit ripeness and intensity that we’ve come to expect from Australia, combined with Burgundian structure, complexity and balance.” (Mornignton Peninsula Special Liftout Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Tasting, Decanter Magazine June … Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

Single Vineyard Perfection: A Brief History

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you’re want to understand the importance of single vineyard wines, a look at the history of winemaking in Burgundy is the best place to start. No other region in the world has studied more closely how grapes perform in different terroirs. Indeed the very concept of terroir – the idea that the micro-climate, soil characteristics, exposure and orientation of each particular site determine the character of the wine – originated in Burgundy.

As the Burghound.com’s Allen Meadows explained at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Masterclass Single Vineyard Perfection, the Catholic religious orders, who managed the Burgundian vineyards from about 600 AD up to the end of the 18th century, noticed that different plots created wines with unique personalities. They believed that these individual expressions were in fact celebrating messages from God. (Meadows also noted that the idea of a single grape variety for a single vineyard came about because the monks didn’t want to muddle God’s message!)

In medieval times the Cistercian Order classified the best vineyard sites of Burgundy’s famous golden slope, the Côte d’Or, laying the foundation for the current classification of five levels, ranging from Grand Crus (only 2% of the Côte d’Or vineyards) at the top of the pyramid to the regional and sub-regional appellations at the bottom.

Today the classification system in Burgundy is firmly entrenched and unlike Bordeaux, where the wines are classified according to the reputation of the producer, the hierarchy in Burgundy is still geographically based. The Grand Crus Côte de Beaune vineyard of Montrachet, for example, is still widely considered the best vineyard in the world for chardonnay. The almost 8 hectare (19 acres) vineyard is home to 18 owners and 26 producers!

In recent years Australian and other New World producers have embraced the idea of single … Read the rest

Mar 03 2012

A Few Interesting Facts about Burgundy: Masterclass with Burghound Allen Meadows

Posted on March 03, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I recently had the good fortune to attend the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s weekend of wine masterclasses, organised by The Wine Guide’s Ben Edwards.

The Burghound,com’s Allen Meadows led the Saturday afternoon session: “Those Brilliant Burgundians.” For those who may not be aware, Meadows (commonly referred to as the Burghound) is the most widely respected and influential wine critic of Burgundian wines on the planet! The session was packed, which is probably not surprising given that Australia is the Burghound.com’s third biggest subscriber market after the US and the UK!

Meadows’ knowledge is mind-boggling and his presentation skills are superb. In his low key approachable style, he provided many insights into the ‘real‘ Burgundy, gleaned from spending countless time on the ground over the past 30 plus years. Here are a few interesting facts:

The Oil Shock of 1973 ironically helped to revive Burgundy’s fortunes

Most of the big négociants, who buy up and bottle grapes from the smaller Burgundian producers, stopped buying when the world economy collapsed into recession after oil prices shot up in 1973.

Consequently, in order to survive, many of the medium-sized and small domaines were forced to bottle their own wines. This trend was supported by the emergence of mobile bottling companies, which made it easier for the producers to take more control of how their wines were handled through all stages of production. Now in charge of their own labels, the growers started to pay a lot more attention to improving the quality of their wines. Today over fifty percent of domaines bottle their own wines.

New farming practices have led to a deeper understanding of how to get the best out of Burgundy’s famous terroir

Meadows explained that by the 1970s much of Burgundy’s soils were so badly depleted by the … Read the rest

Feb 02 2012

What makes ‘single vineyard’ wine so special?

Posted on February 02, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article on the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz, the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown gives a great deal of thought to the definition of a ‘single vineyard’. She asks “Is there a limit on how big it can be? Is there an implied uniformity of terroir and vine in these words, and to what extent is that even possible?” She argues that “when taken to its ultimate extreme, the words ‘single vineyard’ should conjure images of miniscule parcels of near mono-geological turfs that have long been married to a single varietal soul-mate, perhaps Romanee-Conti (1.8 ha), Le Montrachet (8 ha) or Clos Sainte Hune (1.67 ha).” (Henschke Hill of Grace: Australia’s Greatest Single Vineyard Wine? by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, eRobertParker.com, 6 February 2012)

But whatever the size of the vineyard or the number of distinct blocks of varying soils, vine ages and varieties (the Hill of Grace Vineyard consists of 8 blocks between a half and one hectare in size), Perrotti-Brown argues that a wine should only be classified as a ‘single vineyard’ wine if it represents a “thoughtfully delineated example of elevated quality that stands apart from that which surrounding vineyards can achieve and expresses something, well, singular.”

The custodians of world’s greatest single vineyard wines certainly devote a great deal of time and attention to yielding the best results from their single vineyards no matter their size.  Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), for example, converted his vineyards to organic in 1986 and more recently biodynamic, because he believes that making wine as naturally as possible is the best way to express the nuances of his fabled terroir. (see Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir by Merrill Witt, Cellarit Wine Blog, 12 May 2011)

Perrotti-Brown notes that fifth … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: The Quintessential Expression of Terroir

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you really want to understand how even small nuances in terroir can create wines with very distinct personalities, the wines of Burgundy’s most famous and revered estate, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), are perhaps the most telling examples.

DRC either owns outright or has an interest in six of the Grands Cru vineyards of Vosne-Romanée. These vineyards either adjoin or are closely located to each other and some are very small. The most celebrated of them all, La Romanée-Conti, is less than five acres.

Positioned mid-slope above La Romanée-St-Vivant, the well-drained soil of La Romanée-Conti is stonier, shallower and poorer than the lower sited La Romanée-St-Vivant. Of course, both of these vineyards are endowed with the signature, highly prized soil of the Cote d’Or – a mixture of silt and scree over layers of marlstone and clay on a base of calcium-rich limestone. But the slight differences in soil type, orientation and elevation of the different vineyards impart unique and authentic characteristics to the wine.

According to esteemed British wine critic Hugh Johnson, La Romanée-Conti is the quintessential expression of pinot noir. It is exotically perfumed, richly nuanced, concentrated and complex with perfect balance. La Romanée-St-Vivant is slightly lighter and more elegant in style than La Romanée-Conti. La Tâche, also owned entirely by DRC and just across the road from La Romanée-Conti, is earthier and more muscular than its siblings. (Hugh Johnson, Editor and Hubrecht Duijker, Touring in Wine Country: Burgundy)

DRC is one of the largest landholders in Burgundy, having assembled around 62 acres of vineyards over 140 years. The Domaine was formally established in 1942 and is jointly owned by two families, Leroy and de Villaine.

Under the direction of Aubert de Villaine, the estate has worked tirelessly to improve the vineyards so the subtle differences … Read the rest

May 05 2011

Burgundy: It’s All About the Terroir

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

But to truly understand the importance of terroir you need to appreciate the essential role it plays in imbuing the wines of Burgundy with their unique and special qualities.

Burgundy is the northern most area in Europe to produce great red wine, and a region associated with some of the finest and most expensive wines in the world. It is also the domain of the small vineyard holder. The average holding is around 6 hectares (15 acres) , and the fragmentation of estates is greatest in the region’s heart, the Côte d’Or. Burgundy also has the most complex appellation system in France, with nearly 100 different appellations spread across a 300 kilometres long region that stretches from the northernmost vineyards of Chablis to the Mediterranean influenced vineyards of the southernmost point of Beaujolais.

In Burgundy the soil and climate have an enormous influence on the style and quality of the wine. In the Côte d’Or, for example, the soil is so diverse that even neighbouring vineyards have different soil characteristics.

The Côte d’Or lies along an irregular hillside which starts just south of Dijon and stretches 50 kms in a southwesterly direction to Satenay. The best vineyards are situated on the east facing slopes to catch the morning sun. They are sheltered from the westerly rain bearing winds by a wooded escarpment that runs above the vineyards. Here the most prized soils are a mix of marlstone and scree over a calcium-rich limestone. Together with vineyard practices that favour small crops, old vines, peak ripeness picking and rigorous sorting practices, the best ‘Grand Cru’ vineyards produce complex, elegant wines with a velvety texture and an incredible depth of flavour.

Tomorrow: A look at some of the best wines of the Côte d’Or.

Photo: Link Paris

Read the rest