Burgundy is the biggest mine-field in the world of wine. There
are fabulous wines to be had here, but for a variety of reasons, it's one of the most
difficult wines to understand.
First, the producers tend to be tiny. While a Bordeaux property might make thousands
of cases of a single wine each vintage, in Burgundy a producer might make but a couple of
thousand cases. Of this production, they may make six or twelve different wines,
meaning that each batch of wine is very small, sometimes amounting to but one or two
barrels of a particular wine.
Add to the mix that the wines are made of Pinot Noir. This is perhaps the
greatest red grape, but because it's not as easy to understand as Cabernet, Merlot,
Zinfandel or Syrah, you have a variety of opinions as to the quality of a particular
wine. There are a number of critics who, for one reason or another, cannot assess
Burgundy. When you're tasting Pinot Noir and expecting it to have the color of
Syrah, the body of Zinfandel and the tannins of Cabernet, it's not surprising your tasting
assessments and ours are not in agreement.
Many producers are wary of many of these critics.
Robert Parker now has an associate
who writes about Burgundy as Monsieur Parker is sometimes not a welcomed taster.
Wine Spectator is also not welcome on the grounds of a number of top domaines.
is due, in part, to the winemakers' feeling their wines are not fairly judged. We
can understand the stinging criticism from wine writers can be difficult to accept.
How would you like it were your work held up to a worldwide audience and someone who has
not traveled in your shoes writes something to the effect that your work for that year
should never have seen the light of day? I am thinking specifically of one
producer's wines. Had someone on the Left Coast made the same exact wine, these
critics would herald them with great enthusiasm and pronounce the winemaker a
Sometimes the standards are different.
A wonderful facet of Burgundy is the variation in vintages.
Some years produce
wines with very high levels of tannin. The critics tend to view these are
Lighter wines or those which are drinkable in their
youth tend to be maligned.
If dinner is tonight, what's wrong with putting a young
and ready-to-drink bottle on the table?
Paramount is "it's who made the wine that's important."
make good wines. The rubes get lucky in a good vintage and are lost the rest of the
time. Good winemakers are sensitive to the vintage and adjust their winemaking
Taste wines from vintages such as 1991 and 1992. This is where
you can separate good winemakers from poor. We had a wonderful "mixed
appellation" tasting of 1992s---one wine was poor, but seven were delicious,
including a wine from the producer whom the Wine Spectator said shouldn't have bottled
anything (that vintage). It won the tasting, by the way.
Some estates use lots of new oak. We've visited some cellars where the American
importer supplies the barrels! Some importers dictate other winemaking practices
such as "no filtration". The "field" is varied and there
is an incredible array of red Burgundy to be had. Some are great. Some are
schlock. Almost all are expensive!
We don't have a large or deep collection of Burgundy. We select wines we like.
If the critics like them, fine. If they don't like them, I DON'T CARE!
And a number of Burgundy lovers will tell you to turn upside-down the
ratings from Robert Parker and The Wine Spectator. Many times these people are
looking for the same characteristics in Burgundy as one looks for in Cabernets.
Tasting in a Burgundy cellar...
Some Burgundies We Like:
what I've read about Joseph Roty, he was quite a curmudgeon and quite a
perfectionist. Sounds like our kind of vintner!
He'd been described as an "enfant terrible" by some
I noticed that despite the fame and wide recognition for
his wines, you won't find an entry for the estate in the annual wine guide
from Revue de Vin de France. Nor will you find the wines tasted by the
Guide Hachette crew. The Roty family doesn't submit wine to these
The domaine is now run by his son, Phillipe. Sister Patrice takes care
of the office chores. Brother Pierre Jean works in the vineyards.
Mom, Francoise, was in the cellar when I visited, topping barrels. The
"kids" represent the 11th generation!
The domaine began bottling its own wines in the 1950s. They currently own
12.5 hectares of vineyards, while Philippe owns another 2 hectares, as well as
buying fruit from a 'rented' vineyard. Some of the wines have the
Joseph Roty name on them and there are some bearing Philippe's name.
Mom, Francoise...Pierre-Jean and Philippe in 2011.
They have very old vines,
with most of their vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin and
Marsannay. Farming is said to be biologique and they
tend to have very old vines. The Marsannay from Les Ouzeloy comes
from vines over 90 years old. The small production of fruit per vine
accounts for the rather amazing character and quality of this wine.
We have a couple of Roty wines in stock presently.
The Marsannay "Quartier" from 2008 displays hints of cherry fruit and a
smoky element on the nose and palate. The flavors are wonderfully
elegant and refined with the complexity of far more famous appellations,
frankly. It's delicious and ready to drink, especially at cool cellar
The 2008 Gevrey Chambertin is a treat! The Fontenys vineyard is close to
two grand cru sites, Ruchottes and Mazis Chambertin. It has some of the
bacony, smoky notes we love in Burgundy. It's a medium-bodied red with
hints of cherry and forest floor fragrances. Match this with some sort of
porcini mushroom dish and you'll have a most memorable wine and food pairing.
The 2006 Gevrey is similarly styled if a bit less 'grand.'
- Currently in stock: 2008 Marsannay "Quartier"
(List $45) SALE $39.99
2008 Gevrey-Chambertin "Fontenys" (List $140) SALE
2006 Gevrey-Chambertin "Champs Chenys" (List $80) SALE
is a small wine village north of the "metropolis" of
Beaune. The vineyards in this appellation cover some 380+ hectares,
a sizeable quantity. As a result, value conscious Burgundy drinkers
know this town as a potentially good source of wine.
Lucien Camus-Bruchon, his wife Bernadette and their son Guillaume farm some 9.2 hectares of
vines, mostly Pinot Noir. Lucien took over from his father in 1971
and he's the sixth generation, son Bill is the 7th...
Like most vintners in this area, Lucien's holdings are scattered amongst
several different crus. You'll encounter Les Lavières, Les
Narbantons, Les Gravains along with an old vines' bottling of
Savigny. They also make a small amount of Pommard from the Premier
Cru site of Les Arvelets (a recently purchased vineyard), as well as a
Beaune Premier cru, Clos-du-Roi.
At this domaine, as with many others, the wines are "made in the
vineyard" and the Camus-Bruchon team are down-to-earth farmers at
heart. And the work in the cellar is done with care and precision along
with a chef's sensitivity to cooking...
The "Vieilles Vignes" bottling of Savigny-Les-Beaune comes from
89 year old+ vines in Savigny. The Aux Grands Liards (a
"liard" is a black poplar) comes from vineyards planted in 1913
and 1922. Old vines are a way of life at this domaine, although his
white wine is from a vineyard planted in the early
We tasted some exceptional wines in this cellar. Especially
surprising is Camus-Bruchon's white wine, a Savigny-Les-Beaune Blanc
"Les Goudelettes." This is a delicious, smoky, toasty
Chardonnay that spends about eleven months in wood. Lucien stirs the
lees during the secondary, malolactic fermentation. As a result,
you'll find a nice bit of fruit and toasty notes here. Quite dry, of
course. Don't have any presently...
The red wines of Camus-Bruchon are quite good in their youth.
However, they also generally have good structure for cellaring. We
tasted a rather youthful 1993 Vieilles Vignes bottling, while the 1982
vintage was amazingly fine! This demonstrated the dedication of the
winemaker, as 1982 is not especially highly regarded. Yet a 20 year
old bottle is magnificent and memorable.
You're quite in luck should you own a bottle of 1976 Savigny-Les-Beaune
"Les Lavières." This wine displayed some gamey Pinot Noir
aromas with earthy, truffley aromas and some pencil lead
The 2007 Savigny from the Le Pimentiers site, comes from Pinot Noir vines
of 80-something years of age. It's a classic example of Burgundy and
the wine is medium-garnet in color and teeming with cherryish fruit and a
faint floral note, reminiscent of violets. There's a hint of
wood...just a hint, though, as the fruit really shines here.
We find this to be delicious now and suspect it will cellar well for 5-10
more years, maybe even longer.
The wines from this property are well worth purchasing, on the basis of
high quality and outstanding value.
Lucien & Bernadette
- Currently available: 2007 CAMUS-BRUCHON Savigny-Les-Beaune
"Les Pimentiers" $34.99
- MICHEL MOREY-COFFINET
- A small domaine of less than
9 hectares, Michel Morey is the son of Marc Morey, another
famous Chassagne producer. Michel's son Thibault is now running
We've been pleased with the white wines from this estate and a number of the
reds have been remarkably good. We've had some good Chassagne rouge
but currently are featuring a most price-worthy wine. If you're a fan
of good Pinots and are hunting for something sensibly-priced, you may find
this to be as fine a bargain as we do.
Recently shipped to the Bay Area is a Bourgogne Rouge which puts to shame
many "village" level Burgundies. I'd venture to guess most
tasters would probably identify this wine, if tasted blind, as some sort of
pretty good Burgundy such as a Volnay, Chassagne rouge or even something
from farther north. In fact, it's more stylish and charming than just
about any "Bourgogne Rouge" we ever tasted. The price is
also remarkable, especially considering how well this does on the dinner
table. It's a medium-bodied, cherryish Pinot with a nice touch of
oak. Drinkable now (and how!), this is best served at cool cellar
- Currently available: 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet "Morgeot"
2010 Bourgogne Rouge $19.99
Thibault in 2011.
DOMAINE DES MONTS LUISANTS
an estate that's got a familiar name, Monts Luisants, but it's actually a
new label and a new domaine.
Jean Marc Dufouleur's father had a few hectares of vineyards and in 2000
Jean Marc started to vinify the fruit. Previously the family had sold
off the grapes.
There are some 3.4 hectares of vines in Morey-Saint-Denis and these are
tended, as we're told, with great care. Dufouleur is described as a
perfectionist and we understand he did not even vinify his 2004 crop as he
was not happy with the quality of the grapes. Wow...that says
something about this vigneron, doesn't it?
I tasted a few of the Monts Luisants 2005s and 2006s and was awe-struck by
the premier cru bottling of Les Genavrières. This comes from a
small parcel that borders Clos de la Roche to the east and Clos Saint Denis
just to the south with Monts Luisants just north of it.
The perfume of this wine is incredibly enticing. The nose shows
nuances of black cherry, plums, sweet spices and a woodsy element. I'd
have bet the wine saw a fair percentage of new oak barrels, but the importer
contends new oak is minimal. Given that the production of this wine
totals close to 120 cases, that would mean Dufouleur had 4 or 5 barrels'
worth of this wine.
The structure of the wine is firm and probably will allow for 5-10 years of
cellaring, but it's so charming now, holding this for several
years may be out of the question.
Currently in stock: 2006 DOMAINE DES MONTS LUISANTS
Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru Les Genavrières (List $120) SALE
- DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI
- What can I possibly add to what has already been written about this
producer? It is the top estate in the world of red Burgundy. It is a target
for wine writers who can easily bemoan about the high prices these wines
fetch. We're partial to their "cheap" wine from the Echezeaux
appellation, being content with the DRC style at their "entry level"
Owning some 24 hectares of vines, the wines include the famous
Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Grands Echezeaux and
Echezeaux. All new oak. Low yields. Truly hand-made wines (our last
visit we saw the cellar master hand-racking from barrel to barrel). They also make a
modest amount of Le Montrachet and we sometimes can purchase their brandy (marc or
fine). DRC reds are the standard by which all others are measured.
We are amused by the reviews this estate gets from The Wine Spectator.
A few years ago the Spectator bashed an entire vintage of DRC wines. I
recall a blind-tasting we conducted of 1992s, I believe, and the DRC wine
won the tasting. The Spectator had written something along the lines
of "these wines should never have been bottled."
Participants in that tasting felt most of the wines were worthy of
I had sent off a note to another winery, saying we enjoyed their wine in
this particular tasting and they forwarded my note, bemoaning the lack of
taste on the part of some journalists. One of the owners of DRC,
Aubert de Villaine, called them immediately to say it was pleasant to see
signs of intelligent life in, of all places, the USA! The wife of the
owner of the other domain, by the way, sent a note back saying few wine
writers recognize the work that goes in to making these wines, especially in
In any case, we were told a few years ago that Wine Spectator staffers were
not permitted to visit the domaine! I don't know if this policy has
changed, but we were amused upon hearing of a local hotel stopping by to
purchase a case of DRC wines and the DRC staff were certain these bottles
were for a Dictator tasting.
Look on any vintage chart and you'll see poor ratings of 1982 and
1984. Those vintages of DRC wines sold for modest money. We
enjoyed the wines in their youth. In June of 2001, a friend opened a
bottle of the 1982 DRC Echezeaux and this was the wine of the evening!
I don't want to beat the drum too enthusiastically, but wish to merely point
out: taste what's in your glass.
Unfortunately the wines of "The Domaine" (as many people call it)
are purchased by people who do not intend to ever pull the cork. These
people are "investors," speculating that the wines will increase
in value. This tends to drive up demand in those harvests dubbed by
"experts" as "top vintages." If you want to get an
idea of what this winery produces, splurge on their wine in a so-called
"smaller" year. I have never been disappointed.
- The 2008s are the most recent arrivals. The prices are a reflection of several
factors: the increasing demand for the wines of DRC, the weak dollar
and the US importer having to sell these wines to dining establishments with
ostentatious wine lists. (I'm most specifically referring to the
sudden huge demand for these wines in Las Vegas, for example.)
In tasting the 2002s I found the wines to be quite good, with the Romanée-Conti
being a shade lighter in color than the other wines and not quite as
impressive as La Tâche or Richebourg. In 2002 they produced for but
the third time in their history as "Vosne-Romanée" appellation
wine. This is a lovely Burgundy unless you serve it alongside
one of the other heavy hitter bottlings.
We had a bottle of 2000 La Tâche at Thanksgiving in 2007. Lovely
wine. Really nice fruit and beautifully balanced. I just
received an offer from an importer for this wine...it turns out the current
value is about a thousand bucks for a single bottle! Yikes.
Our dear friend, the late Mario Perelli Minetti had long spoken about wanting to taste
a DRC wine. The man was 97 years old at the time, so we figured we'd better hurry
up and pop the cork. I picked him up at home and we drove to a spiffy
restaurant. We had a lovely bottle of Laurent Perrier's Grande Siecle
Champagne to start.
Mario ordered the Sea Scallops.
"Mario," I cautioned, "we're opening a bottle of fine
Burgundy tonight...maybe you might find something else?"
"Hell, I'll drink the wine with sea scallops. I don't mind."
So we poured the wine and he tasted it.
"Say, this is damned fine Pinot Noir. What's a bottle of this
"Mario, it's a ten year old vintage. The most recent is being
offered for $440 a bottle wholesale."
"Wow...they have a strong marketing department!"
More recently, a Chicago-based wine rep told us she'd worked for a company
in Illinois, selling (okay, taking orders) DRC wines and she'd never been
offered a taste. When she was heading to California on a sales trip,
we extended an invitation to dinner...
- ...and we opened a bottle of 2000 vintage Grands-Echezeaux. This
wine, at 9+ years of age, was a delight. It's a classic
Burgundy...essence of Burgundy...deep cherry notes with toasty oak, forest
floor fragrances and a bit of truffle...magnificent!
Currently available: We receive but a few bottles each vintage
and they're purchased by regular customers who buy them every year...
CLOS DU MOULIN AUX
- This is an old property with some new owners and their over-achieving
son whose learned not only at the nearby University in Dijon, but at the De
Montille Academy and Lafon College of Burgundy...
The Clos du Moulin aux Moines was purchased in 2008 by a couple who run two
fancy Paris hotels (The Hotel Lancaster and the Hotel Montalembert) and they
enticed their son to move to Burgundy and become a bona fide vigneron.
The domaine, then, is owned by Grace and Stephane Andrieu and their kid
Jordane runs the place.
thing he learned from De Montille and Lafon is you need to have healthy
vineyards to produce fruit capable of being vinified into worthy wine. The
estate is cultivated biodynamically and they're turning the soil in the rows
using a horse to drag the plow.
I had tasted a few of their wines in 2012 and found them to be
impressive...and a re-taste of a "simple" (or not-so-simple) Bourgogne
confirmed this is a winery worth following.
The 2009 "Bourgogne" caught the staff by surprise. Everyone
thought the wine was of some higher appellation, since it doesn't taste like
most Bourgogne Rouge. And in fact, the wine comes from a parcel near the
Chateau de Pommard and it's a little more than one hectare. The vines are
35 to 40 years old on clay and chalky soils. It might not be quite
as regal as a grand bottle of Pommard, but it goes to the head of the class when
it's labeled simply as Bourgogne and costs a mere $24.
The wine spent about a year in wood, with 20% of the barrels being brand
new. This gives just the right amount of oak, in our view, to this classy
- Currently in stock: 2009 CLOS DU MOULIN AUX MOINES
"Bourgogne" Aux Seurrets $27.99
BONNEAU du MARTRAY
Bonneau du Martray estate is pretty much synonymous with Corton and
Most of the domaine's holdings are planted with Chardonnay, but they do have
a small patch of Pinot Noir in the Corton appellation amounting to about one
and a half hectares.
Jean-Charles le Bault de la Morinire is the architect of this property,
taking over the reins back in 1994 after returning from Paris where he was,
well, an architect. Stung by criticism of the domaine's Corton Rouge,
he has worked diligently to upgrade its quality.
Yields tend to be fairly modest, generally around 30hl per hectare.
The fruit is de-stemmed and the juice is given a pre-maceration cold
soak. Wood is not a major part of this wine as they seek to highlight
the fruit and particular terroir.
We have some bottles of their very fine 1999 vintage. It's a
medium-bodied Pinot, displaying some dark cherry fruit and a hint of
spice. The tannins are modest at this stage. Very fine.
Interesting to think this is perhaps the lone domaine in Burgundy which
makes "grand cru" level wines exclusively.
Currently in stock: Bonneau du Martray 1999 "Corton"
$74.99 (last bottle or two)
Comte Georges de Vogüé
estates in Burgundy have remarkable histories.
This is one of them.
The family can trace its roots back to the mid-1400s. Comtes Georges
died in 1987 and the estate was run by his daughter, Elizabeth.
Since these people often have titles, hers is "Baronne Bertrand de
Ladoucette." Now her two daughters are involved and they are the
Comtesse Gerard de Caussans and her sis, Marie de Vogüé.
Their wines tend to be a bit 'severe' or quiet when they're young.
These are not made with an eye towards fashion, nor do they make wines for
today's critics who rush to judge the most recently crushed grapes in an effort
to be the first to bestow praise or criticism on a wine. The wines of this
domaine, like it or not, are wines for those who have the patience and storage
conditions to allow these Burgundies to actually develop and, in fact, mature.
If you're looking for instant gratification, you'll undoubtedly be disappointed
in the Comte de Vogüé wines. These are not as flashy as the wines of the
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, for example. They're more difficult to
assess when they're young and, unless you're willing to wait a decade (or two or
three), these may not be the wines for you.
The property comprises nearly 12-and-a-half hectares. A significant
percentage is in the vaunted Musigny appellation, with 2.75 hectares in Bonnes-Mares.
They also make a tiny bit of "Bourgogne Blanc," the wine coming from
vineyards within the Musigny appellation. I think they make about 4 or 5
barrels of this annually.
There's a lovely, elegant Chambolle-Musigny and a Chambolle-Musigny Premier
Cru. Along with these they make a few barrels of Chambolle-Musigny Premier
Cru "Les Amoureuses." Then there are the grand cru wines of
Bonnes-Mares and Musigny.
We periodically see some bottles of the Comte de Vogüé wines.
- Currently in stock: 2005 COMTE DE VOGÜÉ Chambolle-Musigny
Premier Cru $184.99
- This is a small domaine situated in the northern part of the Macon region,
just south of the Chalonnaise area in Burgundy.
Naturally, the Moreau name is found in various towns in Burgundy.
Chablis and Chassagne-Montrachet each have several Moreau families making
wine. In Champagne they're coming out of the woodwork and, speaking of
wood, there's a famous barrel-maker, Seguin Moreau.
But this little vineyard comprises all of seven hectares of grapes
(Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay). We tasted a remarkable Pinot Noir
from the 2009 vintage. The wine has a classic aroma of Burgundian
Pinot Noir and there's even a touch of oak here (supposedly 10% new wood).
It's a medium-light bodied red wine and ready to drink now or over the next
- Currently in stock: 2009 DOMAINE BERNARD MOREAU
"BOURGOGNE" ROUGE $17.99
- MORE RED BURGUNDIES