Burgundy week doesn’t have to be cancelled
Red or white, these Burgundys are the kind of joyous wines that make life a little more bearable
Burgundy week, which takes place every January, is one of the jolliest events in the British wine calendar. The big merchants like Berry Bros & Rudd and Justerini & Brooks play host to their Burgundy producers who show samples of the vintage from two years before. You won’t get to taste Domaine de la Romanée-Conti but you will be able to sample the latest offerings from pretty fancy producers like Ghislaine Barthod or Jean-Marie Fourrier.
What amazed me when I first started writing about wine semi-professionally was how easy it was to get an invite to taste these expensive and rare wines. Nobody was dying to read my view on the 2010 vintage and yet most merchants not only let me in but even let me drag along my father. Daytime events are sober affairs with wine critics tasting, spitting, and scribbling notes before scuttling off in a desperate attempt to try everything. But the private client events in the evening are much more fun; with people throwing back glasses of Bonnes Mares or Chambolle Musigny with gay abandon. In 2012 my father had so much fun at a Goedhuis tasting that he had his first – and thankfully only – attack of gout when he got home.
Young reds are usually hard work, I wouldn’t want to taste Bordeaux en primeur unless I was being paid, but young red Burgundy can be deliciously fruity and – thanks to global warming – is becoming increasingly so. Vintages where the Pinot Noir ripens fully all over the region used to be rare; all those grand crus and premier cru vineyards are only patches of land where grapes ripened more reliably and you paid for them handsomely. But now areas that in the past made rather peely-wally wines, as my Aberdonian mother might put it, like Mercurey, Maranges and Marsannay, or plain old Bourgogne Rouge, are worth looking at.
Red or white, these are all the kind of joyous wines that make life a little more bearable
2019 is looking like a year for just such lesser reds. My local merchant Jonny Wren from Songbird Wines in Kent described it as “the kind of vintage where the quality has cascaded down to villages and generic level.” A not entirely disinterested Tom Harrow described it in the FT as the best since 1865. Me? I have no idea as, for obvious reasons, Burgundy week is not happening this year. Some wine writers went out last summer to try the wines and others have requested samples but there are too many producers producing too many different wines in tiny quantities for the merchants to send wines to me. Happily, J&B has filled the gap by sending me a few recent vintages of the sort of lowly reds that are increasingly worth buying. I’ve included a couple of whites too because who doesn’t like white Burgundy? Red or white, these are all the kind of joyous wines that make life a little more bearable.
Château de Meursault Bourgogne Rouge 2015 (£21.61)
This is a world away from the thin Bourgogne Rouges of the past. In fact, with its big spicy flavours and robust structure, this is red Burgundy with a nod to the Southern Rhone. You can really taste the warmth of vintage.
Château de Marsannay Rouge 2017 (£27.67)
Quite prominent spicy oak gives way to some violet perfume with raspberries, a touch of thyme, and a slatey refreshing finish. The longer this stays open, the more the floral and raspberry notes come through.
Bruno Clair ‘Les Longeroies’ Marsannay 2017 (£34.68)
Red cherries on the nose and a lovely perfume, dark spice. Crunchy fruit on the palate, light body, a little tannin and lots of freshness. Very pure and delicious, it’s hard to resist now but will be truly spectacular if you can wait five years or so.
Bachelet Monnot Bourgogne Blanc 2017 (£19.18)
In contrast to its red brother, plain old Bourgogne Blanc from a good producer has long been a safe bet. This comes across like a baby Puligny-Monrachet: lots of brown apples with lemon zest and a glorious finish of pure hazelnuts.
Domaine de la Folie Rully Blanc ‘Clos Folie’ 2017 (22.68)
If you enjoy Chablis, then you’ll love this wine. The taste is of green apple and lemon zest with a creamy texture. Textbook unoaked Chardonnay, this is the sort of thing I can imagine drinking with a pile of fresh shellfish. It’s Rully rather delicious. Sorry.
All wines available from Justerini and Brooks.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try three issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £5Subscribe