the white wines of burgundy, jasper morris (1988)


The-White-Wines-of-BurgundyNot so long ago I made a basic search using the keyword ‘Burgundy’ and up popped this book. A quick email to Jasper elicited the response that this was “obviously the single finest book on burgundy ever written….” 😉 If nothing else, it is clearly the leader in value; the purchase price was a princely £1 before P&P.

This book is a thin hardback of relatively large format – just a little less than A4 size – delivering a mix of text, tables and photos in its 77 pages.

There is a foreword by Simon Loftus: I’m not normally a fan of ‘forewords’, but in the case of Simon I’m more than happy to make an exception as his writing is, sadly, too little seen; his monograph of Puligny-Montrachet being my most favourite of wine-related reading for its insight and crystal-clear delivery – I think I should revisit it – if only I could write in such an uncomplicated way…

Anyway enough of Simon and onto Jasper:

My copy of the book is a “rare unsigned copy” of the original 1988 publication with a sticker price of £4.95 (I’m not sure if it was ever reprinted), it splits its content under three main headers:

  1. Burgundy and its white wines
  2. A buyers guide
  3. Through the vineyards

Jasper certainly starts on the right foot by immediately including a recipe for turbot with green peppercorns and fresh herbs in his introduction. The emphasis is clear, white burgundy and food, they should not be separated – a shame then, that it was the book’s only recipe!

Every vintage is different in size, quality and style. The weather imprints a different mark each year.

The beauty of older books is that there is no ‘sell-by date’ for good advice; what worked then, works now – this is particularly evident in the section how to buy wine and the tips that he offers. Jasper makes a good differentiation between the growers, négoce and all shades of capitalism in-between, though it’s interesting to note that ‘only’ 20-or-so years ago, there were many, many fewer domaine bottlers.

The label is a mischievous piece of paper containing lots of information which may mean one thing to the producer, another to the authorities and something completely different again to the purchaser.

Beaune is the vinous heart of the Côte d’Or, complacent capital of the wines of Burgundy

This section provides some nice négociant thumbnails – still relevent today – before jumping into the meat; The Great Vineyards of the Côte de Beaune. Despite being halfway through the book I was still a little shocked that we moved directly from the hill of Corton to Meursault, forgetting the subject of the book!

Meursault is the heart of the Côte de Beaune, source of more white wine than any other village and finer than all but the Grand Crus.

It sounds like Jasper prefers his Meursault to his Puligny – at least of late 80s vintages 😉

Page 66 is heralded with a title that no aspiring writer would consider suitable today – everyone is looking for a scoop – but Jasper shortly discusses the wines of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Ladoix, Pernand, Savigny, Côte de Beaune, Monthelie, Auxey, St.Romain, St.Aubin and Santenay under the header; “Lesser Vineyards of the Côte de Beaune” – poor St.Aubin, it was sure it had made it!

Insight and sage advice for £1 – close to indispensable really!

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

There are 2 responses to “the white wines of burgundy, jasper morris (1988)”

  1. Phil Eaves8th January 2010 at 11:22 amPermalinkReply

    Bill great book for its day, and the quote you pick out about labels was one of the inspirations for my own research on cru vineyards and their names which has led me down a very difficult path with terroir. Have you seen the sister book Red Wines by Mark Savage forward again by Simon Loftus another great read, I should add this is a little difficult to find and my copy came through a friend in the trade who tastes with Mark Savage.

    • billn8th January 2010 at 12:06 pmPermalinkReply

      I have that very book on order since just before Christmas Phil – also £1, and signed by the author no-less! – though given my pile of things to read, it could be March before I get to it, even if it arrives this week!

  2. Jasper8th January 2010 at 2:58 pmPermalinkReply

    We should run a sweepstake on how much the book will be worth on ebay in 2020 – maybe not.
    To fill in the background, French publishers (Grund) wanted to do a series on classic bvineyard areas and their research showed that all the best selling wine authors at that time were anglophone.
    So they commissioned the series via Octopus with Simon Loftus as series editor. I subsequently did one on the Loire and my sister Arabella Woodrow did one on the Rhone – plus red burgundy by Mark Savage and Bordeaux by, I think, Bill Bolter.

    And Bill, yes, I am very much a Meursault person – and St Aubin had barely peeped above the parapet in 1985.

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