Burgundy is a region full of confusing labels, two main grape varieties (Chardonnay & Pinot Noir), and arguably the best wine in the world. Being one of the oldest wine-producing regions, it’s difficult to keep the descriptions of wines from this sophisticated region simple and easy, but I’ll try. These four wines are listed in order from most northerly to most southerly. The soils change from Kimmeridgian Clay in Chablis, to Limestone in the Cotes d’Or and Macon, to Granite and Schist in Beaujolais. Each soil type yields different, noticeable nuances in the wine. As you taste each one, knowing the sub region, you will hopefully be able to taste the differences created by varying soil structures.
Albert Bichot Les Vaillons “Domaine Long-Depaquit” Chablis Premier Cru Chardonnay
Chablis—not the jug wine that your grandma used to drink—the real Chablis; Premier Cru Chablis. This is the region, the most northerly in Burgundy that is one of the best white wine regions in the world. Chablis is a cool climate, close to Champagne, allowing a long ripening season. It is full of Kimmeridgian Clay which is packed with decaying prehistoric oyster shells. You can imagine the flavors the grapevine sucks out of that type of soil! Domaine Long-Depaquit is a small, less than 10 acre vineyard plot in Chablis. Aged 90% in stainless steel tanks and 10% in neutral French oak, this wine is chalked full of bright acidity, lemon peel, minerality, and a long finish. For a Premier Cru wine, Les Vaillon is one of the best values on the market. Pair with raw oysters on the half shell and serve no colder than 55 degrees. $35
Vincent Sauvestre Savigny Les Beaune Chardonnay
As we move our way south, we hit the Cotes d’Or, or “Golden Slope.” Within this section there are two sub regions: Cotes de Beaune & Cotes de Nuit. Only 25 miles long and 2 miles wide at most, this is the home of all but one of the Grand Cru (highest ranking) vineyards. Sauvestre’s vineyards are composed primarily of limestone with some clay. This soil type gives flavors of stony minerality, opposed to the challky minerality of Chablis. With more subtle barrel influences, look out for toasted hazelnut, a touch of almond, and bright lemony acidity to wash this dry, hay-colored wine down. Pair with a picnic & double cream brie with honey. Serve no colder than 55 degrees. $19.99
Joseph Drouhin Cotes du Beaune Pinot Noir
Staying in the Cotes d’Or, we are now entering into Burgundy’s famed red grape, Pinot Noir. The limestone and clay-rich soils give an unrivaled complexity to Pinot Noir. Drouhin is one of the oldest negociants—who buys grapes from leased vineyards to make in their own facility—in Burgundy. Drouhin is known as being one of the best in the world. This Pinot Noir yields flavors of fresh mushroom and earth along with silky smooth tannins, vibrant acidity and tart red cherries. Drouhin Cotes du Beaune is a great example of what Red Burgundy should be. Pair with mushroom and tarragon tagliatelle. Serve at 60 degrees. $33.99
Jean Paul Brun Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2011
We’re now in to the southernmost section of Burgundy (and back to white wine), all the way to Beaujolais. This is still technically Burgundy, although most know this region for its candy-flavored Beaujolais Nouveau. This region puts out incredible Villages and Cru-level wine (Red & White) at outstanding values. Jean Paul Brun rebels from the standardized yeast strain that gives the typical candied flavors of Beaujolais Nouveau and only uses yeasts that are naturally on the grapes. This gives the flavors of the area, known as “terroir”, a French word meaning that the wine should taste like the region: the soil, the climate, and the year it was made. This Chardonnay is one of my all time favorite relaxing wines. It is loaded with the mineral flavors of granite and schist; it has lemon, pear and apple flavor; and it also yields extremely crisp acidity which makes it perfect for the boat, dock or picnics. Pair with very rare grilled sesame-crusted sashimi grade tuna. Serve at 50-55 degrees.$17.99
Peter Andrews CSS, CSW, MBA, is the General Manager of Grapes & Grains, a fine wine, craft beer, and small-batch spirits shop in Barrington, RI. Any questions, comments or suggestions on the Monthly Wine Review? Give Peter a call at G&G- 401/245-2100.