Unfortunate, because this is a maddeningly complex region and the wines at the medium and top end are very (very) expensive. No other region has so many designated separate Appellations and each of these has further intricacies and quality levels built in (eg, named Premier Cru and Grand Cru sub-vineyards). Red Burgundy in particular is notoriously unpredictable but when you taste a good one you might not want to drink anything else ever again.
Burgundy is on a micro scale with hundreds of growers and the grower/producer’s name is by far the most important information on the label. Benjamin Leroux is the kind of guy you want to find — small, focused on a few plots, incredibly quality conscious, and also slightly quirky.
Leroux, for example, is still growing Pinot Noir on a Chassagne Montrachet plot when Chardonnay would sell for a lot more, and he is experimenting with steam built barrels (as opposed to fired ones) to reduce oak influence.
His wines are sublime — incredibly pure tasting, silky, complex and delicious. To taste Leroux’s wines you need to book into Kellys Hotel, Rosslare, which probably has the best Burgundy list in the country and Bill Kelly visits the region and producers annually to top up his stocks and keep an eye on the changing vintages.
To stay on a Burgundy theme Ballymaloe LitFest (www.LitFest.ie) is on this weekend and one event I hope to attend is Raymond Blakes’ “The Literature of Burgundy” on Sunday at 1.30pm in the Carrigaun Room.
Raymond is wine editor of Food & Wine magazine and knows the region intimately as he owns a house in Santenay in the Cote d’Or. Earlier this year he published his supremely readable book Breakfast in Burgundy, A Hungry Irishman in the Belly of France.
The book is part memoir, part guide, and of course a paean to the great wines of the region. Wine suggestions this week include four good red Burgundies, one of which costs just over €15. I have yet to find a red Burgundy worth recommending under €15.
Dom. Marchard de Gramont AC Bourgogne “Le Chapitre” 2010 - €15.40 (was €19.45)
Fruit forward with earthy raspberries and hints of spice on the nose, meaty textures and lingering fruit. This is a very solid entry level Burgundy at an outstandingly good price. I liked this so much I ordered 18 bottles plus some of their other wines the next day – I’ll report back in a couple of weeks.
Finca Fabian Rosado, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain - €8.95 (was €10.95)
This is the first rosé I’ve mentioned this year and I doubt you’ll find a more drinkable one under €12. Made from organically grown grapes in a part of Spain renowned for value wines these days (cf Value Wines talk at LitFest) — this is a light cherry scented wine perfect for light summer drinking.
Rebel.Lia Chardonnay-Sauvignon, Utiel Requena, Spain - €11.30 (was €12.95)
It takes a bit of a rebel to blend these two grapes yet strangely it works. This region is located between Valencia and Madrid and is yet another Spanish wine region to keep an eye on for bargains. Fine fragrant aromas of pears and peaches with just enough Sauvignon Blanc acidity on the finish. Summer drinking – best drunk outside.
Stockists: Bradley’s Cork; Green Man Wines Terenure; Le Caveau www.lecaveau.ie
Santenay is one of the least well known villages of the Cote de Beaune but can make excellent value wines. This is from a 1.5ha plot in the heart of the village with fragrant aromas of cherries and red fruit, a silky smooth palate and some structure on the finish to keep things interesting.
Stockist: Wines Direct, www.winesdirect.ie
The Cote Chalonnaise just south of the Cote d’Or is always worth exploring - particularly villages like Rully, Mercurey and Givry. This is typical of the region with earthy black and red berry aromas, more soft fragrant red fruit on the palate and even a hint of liquorice and smoke on the finish.
Stockists: Donnybrook Fair, 64 Wines Glasthule
The Simon Bize AOC Bourgogne red and white are both remarkably elegant and supple and sell for around €22 but this is a bit more serious – darker fruit aromas that you might expect for a Savigny with black cherry fruit on the palate, touches of spice and a lingering blackberry intensity.