Value can be found in Burgundy’s lesser-known parts, which are soon to be given the official recognition they deserve. For publication 18 January 2016.
Some of the more simple 2014 Burgundies that don’t require oak or ageing are trickling onto the market now. We’ll have to wait another year or so for most of that vintage. But the question is, in the midst of all the excitement over the 2015 vintage (for example, 2015 is said to have the potential to be the best vintage ever for Clos de Vougeot), how was the 2014 vintage?
As with the 2012 and 2013 vintages, things were less than perfect and even though some great wines are out there, yields were again down.
With interest in Burgundy showing no signs of waning, producers don’t need to worry too much about a drop in the number of cases: demand and supply sort themselves out, in the Keynesian way. But for the consumer who is not about to pay US$100 for a bottle of Chardonnay, albeit a premier cru from Meursault, the worry again raises its head. Is there any affordable Burgundy left and if so, from where exactly?
Value can be found in pockets in the core regions. For white, St Aubin is one. Up the hill beyond Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet, its fresh, mineral and elegant wines are similar in style to Pulignys but at a quite different (lower) price point.
For value, the most obvious solution is to head south, away from the Cote d’Or – which comprises the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune – to Maconnais and Cote Chalonnaise.
The quality of pockets of the Maconnais is soon to be officially recognised. They are seeking premier cru status, based on existing lieux-dits. These include Saint Veran: try the excellent-value Jean-Claude Boisset St Veran La Cote Rotie, a mineral, complex and flowing wine. This Cote is one of the top two or three sites in Saint Veran, according to Boisset winemaker Gregory Patriat.
Meanwhile, up to 20 per cent of vineyard sites in Pouilly-Fuisse are under consideration to receive elevated status. The white wines of this region are, in 2014, tending towards a richer, rounder and less mineral-driven style.
In the Cote Chalonnaise – its main villages are Mercurey, Rully, Givry, Montagny and Bouzeron – there exist a number of premier cru vineyards, and 2014 is a good vintage across both red and white. The wines of Domaine Stephane Aladame, who works with seven hectares of organic, premier cru vineyards in Montagny, are certainly worth seeking out, particularly his Cremant de Bourgogne, a ripe and applely extra brut sparkling. The village is dominated by cooperatives, making often rather dull wines, so he is something of an anomaly here.
The top village in the Cote Chalonnaise is Mercurey, which is subject to the same yield restrictions as the Cote d’Or. The wines of this village are much beloved by the French. Florence Garnier of Chateau de Santenay, a magnificent property dating to the ninth century, says that 90 per cent of production is consumed domestically. However, it is the largest producer of wine in Burgundy, with 650 hectares of vineyards, so some wines have reached export markets. The Chateau de Santenay Mercurey Blanc 2014 is a lovely mellow, subtle wine with buttery notes, and costs little more than US $20.
Well north of the Cote d’Or in Chablis, grand cru wines can be pricey. At the same time Petit Chablis wines are generally a bit too lowly for the wine lover. But there’s plenty of middle ground and some wonderful surprises. Domaine Laroche Chablis Vielle Voye 2014 – which should retail for less than US $30 a bottle – is a “wow” wine, mineral to the point of pebbly. Charismatic winemaker Gregory Viennois says: “I love this block!” It is a 6.5-hectare site, but this wine is made from a single hectare that lies just under Les Vaillon premier cru. It is the first village-level, single-vineyard Chablis.
Viennois says that in Chablis 2014 was one of those classic vintages for dedicated Chablis lovers: fresh but with good fruit, and, critically, high in minerals and acids. Domaine Laroche Chablis St Martin 2014 tingles with freshness while, at the top of the money scale, the bright and crisp Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014 delivers a neat lemon juice hit and definitely needs some years of bottle age.