Books, Maps, Magazines, Films even Podcasts!

The Red Wines of Burgundy, Mark Savage (1988)

By billn on December 21, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!

red-wines-of-burgundy-mark-savagePublished by Octopus Books

Following on from Christopher Fielden’s White Burgundy, 1988 seems a good vintage for books. This is, of-course, the sister book to Jasper’s The White Wines of Burgundy also of that year.

Yet again I seem to have picked up, quite unintentionally, a signed copy – at least this time I don’t need to change my name to Ian!


  • This is a hardback book of indeterminate size – almost, but not quite, A4 – with less than 80 pages of content.
  • A couple of minimalist maps are provided to give you a basic idea of geography.
  • The forward is by Simon Loftus – how I wish there were more books by him. The content of the book is split into three sections;
    1. Burgundy and its Red Wines
    2. A Buyer’s Guide
    3. Through the Vineyards

  • Included in the content is a description of not just the Côte d’Or, but also the reds of the Yonne, the Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais and Beaujolais.
  • Mark writes well and has the insight of somebody with a long history in the trade. Particularly in this book I found his snapshot of Beaujolais to be highly informative. Likewise, much of the early chapters like to compare and contrast what is done in Beaujolais with the same in Burgundy. Beaujolais may not be (officially) part of Burgundy anymore, but this is certainly material worth having.
  • This is clearly a book of its (1988) time, still asking the question ‘should burgundy be a big powerful wine(?)’

In more detail
Just a selection of quotes that I found interesting.

p10: But few can hope to drink really great Burgundy even once a year: in a lifetime, such wines may be counted in single figures. It is rare stuff indeed.

Personally I hope it’s not that rare – maybe we have much better quality now…

p22: In recent years there has been a good deal of justified grumbling about the quality of red burgundy. Are production methods at fault, or is it simply that a misconception exists as to the true character of the wine?

p25: Merchants’ wines receive more treatment at every stages of their elevage than do growers’ wines, and it is this extra handling which is so dangerous when dealing with naturally fragile wines from the Pinot Noir grape. If there is a single reason why consumers should think twice before buying négociant’s wines, it is that they may simply have less character.

Here there is also a good description of the role of the courtiers.

p29: Rule #2: Beware Bargains: There is never enough good red burgundy to go round, so no quality producer will ever have to discount his wines.

p34: As for basic Beaujolais, most of the best wine is now sold as Beaujolais Nouveau, and because this market is so competitive, it is usually easy to find drinkable wines at a relatively low price, especially in a good vintage.

p46 (discussing Vosne): In practice, the winemaking style of the grower is of more importance than the difference in the soils.

p60: I used to think that like was too small to drink Santenay! Fortunately, I was able to revise my opinions after tasting some splendid wines…

p66: Too often, Mâcon Rouge tastes like an indifferent vin ordinaire and its right to Appellation Contrôlée seems based more on historic reasons than on any inherent quality in the wine itself.

White Burgundy, Christopher Fielden (1988)

By billn on December 09, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!

Jointly Published by Christopher Helm (UK) and The Wine Appreciation Guild (US)

A head-cold had determined that, for much of the last week, there was no value in opening bottles, so I thought I’d finish reading this book instead. And what a lucky boy, I even (somehow) managed to buy a copy through Abebooks that was dedicated by the author – although I’d need to change my name to Ian…


  • This is a handy A5-size, hardback book of about 180 pages if you include appendices that cover vintages (1987-1968), appellations, suggested sources (producers) and the bibliography.
  • Just a few black and white photos adorn what is essentially just text and an occasional map.
  • After a foreward by John Arlott, there are few pages of introduction by Fielden followed by some history and a chapter titled The Burgundy Factors which is essentially about the rules of AOC, the allowed grapes, how to make white wine and things like that. There is one more chapter headed The Generic Burgundies before moving into a description of Chablis, Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne. Other White Wines of the Côte d’Or are shoe-horned into the chapter of that name; the wines of The Côte Chalonnaise and The Mâconnais and Beaujolais get their own chapters. Last is a chapter The Future of White Burgundy.
  • Despite having seen such content re-hashed over and over again, the description of the main villages is on a much better level than ‘workmanlike’ and offers the odd snippet of ‘fact’ that may have eluded other writers. Fielden, unlike many commentators, is quite happy underlining how he likes oak and plenty of it in his chardonnays.
  • Despite such a large area of vines being lumped together in the chapter Other White Wines of the Côte d’Or, I find this and the chapter on the Côte Chalonnaise that follows to be the high-point of the book: Slightly irreverent, grounded, clearly insightful and with so many remarks and references of historical note that the book is worth buying only for these two chapters – great stuff indeed.
  • I liked it, it’s easy to carry around and it’s a good book for dipping in and out of.

In more detail
Just a selection of quotes that I found interesting, funny or downright prescient!

p3: It must also be borne in mind that improved methods of viticulture and vinification are leading not only to the production of better wines, but also higher yields… …The authorities, and they are generally controlled by the growers,… …Permitted crops are now, in most years, considerably higher than they were under the old legislation.

p5: Whilst the better wines of Burgundy have never been cheap, they are not expensive, as long as they remained the preferred wine of the connoisseur…

p24: As the Burgundian writer Vergnette-Lamotte said, at about the same time, in withering fashion, ‘Chaptal, who was born in the Midi, and, as such, only valued wine by its alcoholic degree, has considered alcohol to be the principal preserving element in wine and upon this basis that the sad elements of vinification that govern us today, have been based.’

p25 (of Phylloxera): The area under vines in the Beaune region fell from 28,000 hectares in 1875 to 13,000 in 1897.

p27: Commercial demand has meant that white Burgundy is drunk, and made to be drunk, much younger than it was in the past. Long ageing in cask, followed by storage in bottle, is expensive and seems to be unnecessary as far as the consumer is concerned.

p39: The pressing of grapes is now done almost totally in horizontal presses. The Vaslin horizontal screw-press is now the most common in Burgundy, but there are many white wine producers who now prefer the Willmes pneumatic press, as they feel the flavour of the fruit is better preserved, as there is less chance of unattractive traces being crushed out of the pips.

p40: White Burgundies are often criticised by New World winemakers as being oxidised. This might be partly as a result of being kept in cask too long before bottling, or more seriously, because of unhygenic cellar techniques.

p42: It is the individuality of its wines which gives Burgundy its eminent position in the world vinous hierarchy. This individuality stems from two sources. The first is the obstinacy of the Burgundian grower in preferring to make smaller quantities of a large number of wines – and it must be accepted that whilst there might be more work in pursuing this poilcy, there is also much more money to be made…

wine-map of france…

By billn on November 24, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!

Mine was just delivered – brilliant. I have not yet managed to convince domestic management that it would fit in our living-room. Still, there’s plenty of space in the office 😉

Wine, Millefeuille Press, (2011)

By billn on October 18, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!

tong-wine-bookSubtitled: The basics of wine.

When this book arrived, I have to say that I was surprised; from the picture you have the impression that this book is constructed very much along the lines of the recent book by Jasper Morris, only after it is delivered you realise that it is actually half the size – A5.

The presentation if this book is actually first-class: The format is of a heading and a descriptive text and a nice photo. No subject gets more than two pages of text, usually just one, and as you will see below, the text pages are really half-pages. The text has been supplied by Romana Echensperger, Fiona Morrison and Filip Verheyden, a mix of MW and MW candidates; an insert to the book suggests that:

”It is meant for both the beginner who just bought his first bottle of wine [do women not buy wine…?] and the connoisseur looking for in-depth information”

You might say ‘how can it offer ‘in-depth’ information with only half a page of text per headline? A fair question, but I would say it is reasonably successful for two reasons:
First, because there are so many sections, and…
Second, because the narrative often sounds like a run-away train, presumably so that it fits into the space allowed.
One comment worth making is that there’s no glossary – the book is itself, an out-size glossary, so some of the language (polymerisation, colloids, mouth-feel) might remain a mystery to the man (or woman!) who just bought their first bottle.

wine-book-by-tong The 120 stanzas are grouped into four sections;

  • How to drink wine
  • Wine and food
  • The vineyard
  • How wine is made

Particularly the middle two sections are excellent and are highly recommended. I have but one bee in my bonnet; there is a constant error across the pages and one that MWs and MW candidates should not be making – at least, assuming they passed any of their chemistry modules – potassium, sulfur, nitrogen etcetera, are not compounds and neither are they minerals as is asserted several times in the text, they are elements – pure and undiluted. This is a bad mistake and is no different to describing a cherry as a fruit-cake; a cherry is a part (an element) of a fruit cake, but it is not a fruit-cake!

This book is delivered by the publisher of the wine magazine Tong, a magazine whose outlook and style I like very much, so I guess it should come as little surprise that I like this book too. Overall, this is perfectly proportioned for what it is; it delivers punchy, though sometimes frenetic, text; each subject is perfectly delineated and well presented. Given the format, and despite its 270 pages, you can easily read the whole book in 2-3 hours, but it is also a mini-coffee-table book that you can dip into. I would say this is a winner and just in time for the Christmas buying rush 😉 Bravo!

book: the finest wines of burgundy…

By billn on September 15, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!

It seems that I am ‘outed’.

With the title already listed on amazon (amongst other places) it’s time to come clean. Now you can see why my Spring Burgundy Report was a bit late and also why I was forced to taste so many wines in the last few months – pesky research eh…(!)

Actually, and naturally enough, I loved the research, but committing everything to paper (okay, okay – typing!) now that’s something else; but alone, Jon Wyand’s photos are to die for.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully express my gratitude to the publishers for showing faith in such a non-establishment (perhaps not quite anti-establishment) author; or more correctly at the time, ‘potential author’; but it was paramount for me to bring entirely my own face and understanding to this work – I pretty-much interviewed them (they were desperate – Jasper was busy!). With this handy format book (it can always be in your travel bag) I’m aiming to explode a few myths, generally improve everybody’s drinking experiences and showcase some new talent – but without being facile – clearly modest targets!

Despite the title of ‘finest’ you may interchangeably use the word ‘interesting’. The readers of this site will have met many of these producers already – but people who buy books have a habit of being a quite different audience.

Having been paid a generous sum to write the book, it makes no (financial) difference to me if the publishers sell twenty or twenty million copies, but it’s now on pre-order at amazon, and frankly for peanuts. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain 😉

2008 jc boisset côte de nuits villages le creux de sobron…

By billn on September 07, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!#degustation


2008 JC Boisset, Côte de Nuits Villages Le Creux de Sobron
The name is clearly a mouthful – fortunately the wine is very good mouthful. Ripe but fresh fruit on the nose – quite forward. In the mouth this has plenty of energy and fine acidity which could turn a little mouth puckering in a couple of years, but today it is just joyous. There is a little mid-palate muscle and good intensity too. A line of mouth-watering flavour lingers in the finish. Yum – and an absolute bargain…
Rebuy – Yes

And for those with an interest in books, I just pre-ordered this one – can’t wait.

côte d’or photography for unesco…

By billn on August 09, 2011 #books, maps, magazines, films even podcasts!

les climats du vignoble de bourgogne bookI picked this book up in Athenaeum in Beaune last month – a mere €10 for a little over 80 pages of photos from Armelle, Jean-Louis Bernuy and Michel Joly – and lovely photos they are.

Production quality is very good; the book is being sold in aid of the ‘Climats du Vignoble du Bourgogne‘ a push to achieve world heritage status for the Côte d’Or from UNESCO. What little text there is to support the images is all in French, but no big deal.

Cheap as it is, and despite the very good quality (softcover) presentation, there seams a flaw if it is designed to raise funds. Not the fact that it is too (or at at least remarkably) cheap, rather that the Athenaeum website seems to be the only place in the world you can buy it. Google, Amazon et-al are all a let-down. Oh-well, I’m sure the organisers have a plan…

Burgundy Report

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