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1. 2012 Whites: A wider perspective on what to buy…

If you want to buy white Burgundy from 2012, and there are brilliant wines out there, then the simple question is ‘how to find them?’ Here is my rough guide; though don’t for a moment forget that it reflects what I look for in white Burgundy – tension, acidity and a personality that begs you to take another sip. If you prefer a richer, more contemplative style, then life will be much easier for you than commentary indicates, and let’s be clear, rare bottles of 2003 are treats now, but I still don’t want to drink them every day!

Luckily, if you don’t want to spend too much time on research, you have a reasonably simple guide – and that’s geography – the further south you head, the rarer are the bottles that I consider balanced.

Chablis

Simply brilliant.

Chablis is not just the most consistently impressive label for whites in 2012, it also offers brilliant value. Market forces are at work on grape prices here too, but for 2012 (at least) the value is as brilliant as the wines.

As with most of Burgundy in 2012 (red and white), there is a palpable extra concentration to what nature has delivered, but here in Chablis it is delivered with a super baseline of acidity. Villages wines have the heft of 1ers from most vintages, and likewise there are 1ers that could easily be taken for Grand Crus. Just as importantly for buyers, there seems absolute consistency, both within individual cellars, and comparing cellars.

If anything could be overblown, you might suspect that the Grand Crus may suffer, but no, the fruit remains cool, the acidity focused and there is a dry extract in the finish that I’ve rarely witnessed. Let your glass warm a little too much and you’ll lose focus, but poured directly from your wine-cooler you’ll have a mouthful of freshness, zing, and concentration. I have ordered wines across the range of Crus, even Villages wines in magnum for the summer – and maybe the next few summers too!

Given how good the vintage is, perhaps I should already have looked more at Petit Chablis – maybe I can do this when I next visit in April – but for now, I’ve largely focused on 1er and Grand Cru. You will find something approaching 100 tasting notes in the March ‘Extra’, plus there will be further coverage in the April ‘Extra’ too.

The Côte d’Or

I covered the situation in the Côte d’Or for whites in the last ‘Extra’, and indeed, it remains rather complex. Lots of concentration and intensity to the wines, but even in the same cellar, there are wines that excel and others that are more lumpen. There’s lots that I would buy in 2012, but very little that I’d consider buying ‘blind’; I’m not even sure that ‘scores’ are a particularly useful guide – I think only notes offer value in this case – balanced, fresh, vivacious, ebullient, dynamic, energetic – seeing any of those descriptors would help me greatly!

The Côte Chalonnaise

Here, I admit to being short on ‘hard’ info – I have visits planned for April and May, but have so-far sampled only a few wines from Mercurey and Montagny. The general geographic progression of my observations mandate that I wouldn’t buy anything without tasting, but for now, I’ll remain on-the-fence.

The Côte Mâconnais

OOF! Massive!

These are wines with great concentration for their labels, and they offer aromatic density too, but overwhelmingly I find that they lack elegance and/or energy. There are exceptions, some of them surprising, but really, and sadly, there’s little here to excite. Considering the potential ‘value proposition’ of Mâcon, that’s a shame.

Were I to buy, I’d look at the cuvées made by the big négoce such as Jadot/Bouchard/Drouhin etcetera – it seems that they were able to make good selections from what they were offered/produced and there is freshness to be found. There’s a ‘higher-end’ selection that also made very drinkable, concentrated but fresh wines, amongst whom I’d include Bret Bothers, Heretières Lafon, Guillot-Broux and Olivier Merlin, but they are small islands of comfort in an ocean of heavy wine. (I’ve not yet tasted anything from Leflaive.)

I’ve (approaching) seventy notes from 2012 white Mâcons in the next ‘Extra’, though I have to admit that I’m not looking forward to reliving (typing) them! On a more positive note, punctuating the 2012s with an occasional 2013 was a lovely, refreshing experience; not the same concentration but the green-apple freshness to both aromas and flavour that they delivered was very, very welcome!

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

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