the rights and wrongs of a base pricepoint



Pinot noir is a tough mistress, if you want good behaviour, you have to pay – and frankly may still not get the behaviour of your hope!

Regional wines, ‘Bourgognes’, made by ‘small’ producers often have the same level of care and attention both in the vineyard and in the cellar that is devoted to the producer’s more expensive bottles. They can be good bottles, occasionally very good if the vintage favours; 2003, 2005 spring easily to mind, I expect 2009s should also be very good. They are never going to show the the energy and dimension of vines from more gifted sites but, if I may, they offer not only a decent amount of varietal character, but also quite some burgundian character.

I do buy regional wines, but I’d estimate that only about 5-8% of my drinking has such labels. Wines typically cost about 15-25 swiss francs, depending on the optimism of the producer – but what about the cheaper stuff, built for the supermarket shelves, can it be any good? – particularly for 10 francs or less…

Among the best of the genre comes from the venerable Maison Albert Bichot and everything is pared-down for cost-saving; a thin, plastic ‘tear-off’ capsule, a short ‘plastic’ cork (only 39mm) that slides out of the bottle and off the corkscrew very easily, a light bottle and 12%. That sounds just about what you would expect, but you might not expect them to vinify everything themselves, or take a vieilles vignes designation! Albert Bichot are now the largest buyers of grapes (as opposed to must/barrels etc.) in the Côte d’Or, so at least they have a fighting chance of producing something red I suppose:

2007 Albert Bichot, Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes
Medium, medium-pale colour. Forward, friendly strawberry, no bubblegum, and with a slight grassy/herbal backdrop. Decently smooth texture, a sweet-sour fruit impression with acidity that whisks you along just fast enough to avoid you contemplating the sour! Actually the sour is not so bad – let’s call it a talking point. No impression of ‘thin’, also no impression of tannin. Some length, this is actually quite drinkable. It’s not as good as the 2005 or 2006, less beaujolais-esque than the 2005, it’s somehow, almost redolent of proper burgundy…
Rebuy – Maybe

I guess this type of wine, even with such unexpected attention to detail (at the price), is aimed at a specific audience, I’m not sure which one though. It’s better, or at least as good as a 10 franc Beaujolais, whereas at the normal 15+ francs you can buy good cru Beaujolais, so bourgognes typically have a much more competition here. There is a certain level of expectation at this price-point, and this wine did excede those expectations by a comfortable margin, but not enough to become a repeat buy. I would rather spend 15 francs than 10 francs for a bourgogne, but only from some-one who tries as hard as Maison Bichot to give you the maximum for your cash, rather than somebody providing an ostentatiously heavy ‘statement bottle’ for their bourgogne…

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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