A focus this week on France, specifically on Burgundy thanks to two interesting tastings that occurred in recent weeks.
I’d love to focus on Burgundy more often but their wines are rather out of reach in price terms and are consequently rather poorly distributed.
The most exclusive of all Burgundy is of course Domaine de la Romanée Conti run by Aubert de Villaine — their top wine costs over €15,000 for a single bottle. In the 1970s Villaine purchased an estate in Bouzeron in the Côte Challonnaise between Santenay to the north and Rully and Mercurey to the south.
The estate is now run by his nephew Pierre de Benoist and you can find the Domaine’s wines for considerably less (€35-€38). Reds from the village are labelled Côte Challonnaise while the Bouzeron AOP is reserved for wines made with Aligoté.
Bouzeron is the only village with an Aligoté appellation although it is grown elsewhere in the region in small quantities.
Aligoté wines can be excellent, mineral and complex, and it is easy to forget that prior to the devastation of phylloxera (and the replanting of the region on immune American rootstock), that Chardonnay was once just one of many grapes grown in the region.
D. de Villaine’s 2016 Rully had an interesting salinity mixed in with dense pear fruits while his 2016 Mercurey was packed with ripe fruits, bitter cherry and taut intensity. I recommend the Bouzeron below.
Another producer showing off 2016s in January was Louis Jadot who are imported by Findlaters so their wines are more widely available — eg, O’Briens and independents.
I’ve mentioned their Fleurie in the past and their Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc are around €17. Recently Findlaters showcased Jadot’s 2016 vintage along with the vintages in stock.
The wines were all excellent with the 2016’s showing fine fruit despite their youth.
The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin is dense and full and already showing silky soft fruits while the Corton Grand Cru was inevitably denser but also had warmth and openness.
The whites such as the Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Chablis Fourchaume had lovely purity and focus.
SuperValu has a French wine sale on this week with a number of wines with good reductions and I feature three below.
Watch also for the Vinsobres (€12) and the Domaine de la Baume Elisabeth Viognier — buy any six bottles in the sale you get an additional €10 discount.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Fleurie André Goichot 2016, Beaujolais, France - €10
Fleurie is easily the is easily the best known Beaujolais Cru village and it is rare to find a drinkable one at such a low price. This has aromas of cherries and red fruits with a hit of warm spice, fruity and full flavoured with good ripeness and an earthy touch on the finish. Beaujolais is great with grilled or barbecued meats and also with spicy food.
Rémy Ferbras Vacqueyras 2015, Rhone, France - €12
Vacqueyras is a neighbour of Gigondas and both are just to the east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape — while neither have Châteauneuf’s fatness, both villages offer considerable fruity pleasures. This has ripe red fruits with a hint of clove and allspice, decent fleshy dark and red fruits on the palate and enough structure to make this a good steak wine.
Bendel Cuvée Caroline Côtes de Provence, France - €8
Is it too early in the year for Provence Rosé — I think not! France now drinks more rosé than white wine and a wine like this will match spicy Thai or Indian dishes, seafood or anything with garlic (try with fish, chips and aioli dip). Redcurrant and raspberry aromas, fruity with some soft red fruits but bone dry.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Louis Jadot Moulin à Vent 2013, Beaujolais, France - €22.95
Stockists: Sweeneys, Whelehans , Mitchells & on order from JJ O’Driscolls, Bradleys, 1601 & No. 21.
The south facing slopes and pink granite soil of Moulin à Vent makes for richer more structured and age-worthy wines than any other cru. The 2016 is still a little young but had good bright chewy fruits while violets and floral notes dominate the nose of the 2013 with sweet cherry and lithe darker fruits on the palate.
Louis Jadot Meursault 2013, Burgundy, France - €49.95
Glasnevin, Parting Glass Enniskerry, on order from JJ O’Driscolls, Bradleys, 1601 & No. 21.
Meursault is just south of the village of Beaune and typically has a pleasing ripe fatness — this richness came through a little better in the warmer vintages of 2015 and 2016 but the Jadot 2013 still has lovely melon and pear fruit and a generously textured supple palate. The Saint Romain and St Veran are also excellent and a bit more affordable.
A & P de Villaine Bouzeron Aligoté, Burgundy, France - €35
Stockists: Mitchell & Son www.mitchellandson.com, 64 Wines
Aligoté is the second (and underrated) white grape of Burgundy and the sole AOP grape in the Côte Challonaise village of Bouzeron. Over-ripe melon and tropical fruit aromas with a hint of clove, supple mineral attack, textured, taut and complex with floral hints and a lingering dried apple finish. This house’s Rully and Mercurey are also excellent.