2010, Berry Bros. & Rudd Press.
Subtitled: The vineyards, the wine & the people.
This is a book not just of academic weight – the delivery package was 200 grams heavier that Allen Meadow’s Pearl of the Côte. This book eschews a dust-jacket, though I don’t know if that’s because they become more cumbersome for books of a certain girth, or whether it will be the BB&R corporate ‘look’ for the future.
There are over 650 pages to this book, and save for maps and the well demarcated border between the sections of the book, it is pure text – and a relatively small font too. The last 40 pages of highly useful appendices use an even smaller font; here alone, there is perhaps 100 pages if typeset with images and a larger font for a different book.
None of the book is given over to images or tasting notes; in this respect you are paying for pure content so despite the relatively high entry price – £50 – you will be the winner from a value-for-money perspective, and it’s only the cost of a villages wine in a restaurant!
- There is no such thing as a perfect book; all are accommodations based on many factors; knowledge, time, resources and more often than not, the publisher’s specification for its ‘target market’. This is a no-nonsense reference work and, in my opinion, Inside Burgundy is the greatest reference work of our generation – actually a number of generations – it is Dr Jules Lavalle for the 21st century generation. It is its own benchmark.
- Jasper is clearly ‘well-read’ and delivers his pages with a lucid writing style – the latter being a prerequisite if you are going to work your way through every word – as I have done. Unlike the Great Domaines of Burgundy, ‘by’ Norman / Taylor, and despite Inside Burgundy’s clear positioning as a reference work, there is no impression that you are reading a formulaic approach to each page.
- The standard approach for this book is to introduce some history of a particular village before a discussion of all its grand and premier cru sites, mentioning good producer examples along the way. Don’t expect chapter and verse on every vineyard, some are but a throwaway 10-20 words, but that’s more exposure than many have previously enjoyed.
- It is the only source of such similarly detailed information (with maps) of the Auxerrois, Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais and Pouilly-Fuissé regions.
- Maps, which have been updated from Pitiot/Poupon originals, are included for each region. For the size of the pages they (almost) always do an excellent job. Note the extra detail brought to maps of the Clos de Vougeot and Montrachet, and great maps of the Côte Chalonnaise, Pouilly etc. Where else (other than Arlott & Fielden) will you find a detailled map of Givry?
- After discussing a village’s vines, a selection of (not always) better known domaines are profiled – in most cases ‘thumbnailed’. It’s an interesting mix, and for those looking for wholesale copying of the BB&R winelist into the pages of this book will be disappointed – it’s a good, varied and interesting selection.
- ‘Mistakes’ are few and far between – mainly just a few typesetting errors and things that spellcheck missed. There is not always consistency, but there is little that is factually incorrect and I appreciate that it wasn’t written in one week!
- Clive Coates’ relatively recent offer is the only other book that comes close to the scope of Inside Burgundy. Even if it were not for the former’s appalling (actually lack of!) editing and an unfathomable navigation, if I was given a choice of one or the other for my bookshelf, I would unhesitatingly take ‘Inside Burgundy’.
In more detail
- The introduction already broaches Jasper’s potential for ‘conflict of interest’, but from my own appraisal of the content, his words are objective.
- The book’s content actually starts out with ‘how to use this book’ such is the breadth of information here. Jasper just doesn’t list the current classification of particular vineyards, he lists older (Lavalle, Rodier) classifications and even adds his own too.
- (Take a breath!) History, the trade, place, weather, grapes, viticulture, harvesting, styles and how to make wine(s) are dealt with in about seventy pages, followed by appellations and classifications. With this knowledge on-board, Jasper now decides that you are ready for the meat of the book.
- Page 60:
Birds are less of a problem in Burgundy than the New World vineyards – having mostly been shot and eaten.
(Talking about a beetle) All remedies against it failed, except the labour-intensive one of putting a box under each vine, shaking it so the bugs fell down, and then squashing them. Some producers might want to do something similar to wine writers today.
- Page 72: Unlike the trivialization of the subject in the recent Norman/Taylor book, Jasper discusses in reasonable detail the woes of premature oxidation and the fact that is not yet demonstrably fixed – well done.
- Page 189 : Chambolle-Musigny Les Pas de Chat – the cat’s footfall – what a great villages lieu-dit I hadn’t heard of before.
- Page 208: The list of owners of Richebourg might be improved if it said Thibault Liger-Belair, rather than just Thibault.
- Page 254: Clos des Forêts St.Georges has a ‘fresher colour’
- Page 262: Probably just too late for the book, but discussing Maison Nicolas Potel Jasper notes as winemaker Fabrice Lesne, he is with the Chateau de Meursault since April this year.
- Page 275: Discussing Corton Chaumes Jasper notes that Maison Camille Giroud no longer have the contract for their production from ‘very old vines’. Technically true, but actually because there are no-longer any old vines – they were uprooted and replaced with chardonnay.
- Page 277 : Jasper offers Voarick as the only producer of Corton Languettes (red wine, if chardonnay is planted it’s not Languettes). Maurice Chapuis, the mayor of Aloxe thinks that he is actually the only producer today. Regarding Corton Maréchaudes, the Clos des Maréchaudes (Bichot monopoly) is part grand cru and part 1er cru – but that part over the border into Ladoix is still Aloxe 1er cru.
- Page 289: Discussing producers in the area of Corton, Jasper starts well, listing the producer and his village location in brackets after the name. It lasts only for Ladoix, for the rest you have to guess whether it’s Pernand or Aloxe for instance – only looking for consistency…
- There are various references to Domaine Potel, yet the profile is for Domaine de Bellene. Again consistency…
- Page 311:
(Talking of Joseph Drouhin’s barrels) The barrels are all bar-coded, to show the provenance of the wood and provide an audit trail of which wines they have been used for.
- For the next few hundred pages I just find myself reading and absorbing without need nor wish to make comment – can there be a better compliment?
- Page 542: Maps – Auxerrois (includes Chablis) – this is the worst map in the book as there is almost no colour difference between the vineyards of Chablis and ‘other vineyards’.
- Page 554:
You will never find your way into Bouzeron except deliberately and by studying the map hard. There is a small road out of the back of Chagny and another from Rully; otherwise the village is lost to the world.
- Page 624-625:
Vintage 2004. Where did the extraordinary herbaceousness which was not apparent in barrel spring from, once the wines were bottled? Happily it seems to be fading into the background again.
One theory trotted out… …crushed ladybirds in the destemmers having given off an aggressive type of acidity, the ladybird version of formic acid.
You knew I wouldn’t be able to resist, so two comments: 1. I don’t agree it is fading. 2. I’ve never heard of pyrazines being described as a ‘version of formic acid’. Some pyrazines can indeed be acidic, but structurally they are a world away from methanoic acid.
- Page 624: On vintage 2005 reds.
I would suggest a window of 2012-2018 for good village wines and 2017-2040 for top premier and grand cru reds.
- Page 628: On vintage 2001 reds.
I cannot see much gain in continuing to cellar them.
For 2005 in particular the villages wines I think the suggestion is a little on the early side – but let’s see if they really do blossom like that. For the grander wines, at last some measure of realism on drinking windows in print!
Vintage ‘appraisals’ in general. I very much appreciate the approach taken; there is a discussion of the vintage’s weather patterns, followed by first impressions, followed by wines in the bottle and finally ‘predictions’. I might not always agree with the final appraisal, but there is sufficient detail that I am usually aware why we differ. I’ve noticed that Jasper typically finds ‘maturity’ earlier than I do for instance.
- Last but not least is brilliant and useful list of books about Burgundy