21 October 2008

Six Burgundies Worth Trying This Fall

18 wines before lunch? Sometimes we just have to take one for the home team. But when we're talking about flights of Burgundy, the task is always easier. Last week, Michael McNeill, resident wine guru (director of education and master sommelier) at Quality Wine & Spirits, came to Athens to show us some of the great Burgundies available currently in Georgia.

I was actually on a serious time constraint, so was able to garner an awful lot of information from Michael, but missed the end of his talk. However, I WAS able to taste through the lineup, and I have to tell you that this particular morning re-awoke my interest in one of my first favorites in the wine world.

First of all, Pinot Noir is of course one of the most noble grapes and a stellar example of what can be done in the bottle. Chardonnay, on the other hand, sometimes gets a bad reputation from people like me because we are so busy trying to wean people off California Chardonnay that we can miss the fabulous Chardonnay grape in its prettiest form from France.

Well, the love affair is back. Roux makes a regular Chard that is fine, but their St. Aubin 1er Cru '04 was smoky like a fireplace the day after you first use it in the autumn. The fruit from this vineyard next to Montrachet is rich, deep, and pretty. And the Pernand Vergelesses "Les Combottes" V.V. from Chateau de Chorey '05 held my attention with these notes in my book: mineral coated candied fruit and yellow apples and pears sprinkled lightly with stones. Even the regular Bourgogne from Thierry Pillot '06 was above the average, with pepper that trips on the tongue balanced with an apricot-like richness.

As if that wasn't enough, I got to taste the reds too! Out of the 9 exceptional wines we tried at varying prices ($18-86), my favorite far and away was Herve & Anne Sigault Chambolle Musigny '06, weighing in at $45. Remarkably stinky on the nose, I was inundated with purple flowers as if I was standing in the middle of a field, with delicious red and yellow plums on the finish. The Taupenot-Merme Passetoutgrains Bourgogne '06 was also nice, with hints of bacon fat and velvety dark fruit; Domaine Muergets Savigny Les Beaune Narbontons '05 had a classic nose of pencil, dirt, and peppered raspberry, along with a note of raspberry jello before it sets.

Since I've highlighted my favorite 6 of the 18 we had, I thought I'd give you a heads up on current and upcoming vintages from Burgundy, since Michael passed this along: since '05 was the best vintage since 1990, these can obviously be hard to come by and are sometimes more pricey. The '06 vintage therefore carries with it better values (not true 100% of the time, but this is common after a classic vintage--the good, even great, vintage afterward is often overlooked to the betterment of those who can see past hype).

2007 was a difficult vintage, so it might be a good idea for you Burgundy lovers to grab a few bottles of the '05s and '06s while the getting is good. And if you're not a Burgundy lover yet--well, that just gives us one more thing to talk about, doesn't it?

After all, as Michael says, "Burgundy is about participation." And I think that's my favorite thing about it, all told--that the most exciting part about finding a good bottle is enjoying it over different stages as it ages, watching the wine mature, and most importantly, opening it up with a friend.

A special thanks to Michael McNeill for taking the trek up to Athens to taste with us last week! (and to Rose Adams for setting the whole thing up beautifully)