April is a time when you can easily see the chemical warfare that hides within many expensive bottles with a Puligny-Montrachet label – there is no excuse…
I tasted a lot of Beaujolais Blanc last week, and I must say that I feel fortunate to have been tasting this wine from the 2017 vintage – as, all-over Burgundy, the wines are more approachable in this vintage – and for both colours – because of that I found some good ones! But a large proportion of the wines were sealed with Nomacorc and my experience of these has been truly awful – dead wines in less than 1 year kind-of awful. I understand that there may have been some improvements to the ‘current model’ but I still remain quite shocked by the level of use.
They will have to go to some extreme lengths to prove to me that wines sealed this way are something I should buy! I also note, in what seems like a stroke of marketing genius, they are changing the name of their Nomacorc website – www.nomacorc.com – to something that you could never, ever, guess:
My petite whinge du jour is now over…
It can be complicated – there are three interested parties here – not including the ones actually doing the work!
As you can see from the sunny pictures, taken last June, this beautiful corner of Auxey-Duresses, sitting on a corner that looks towards both the Moulin des Moines and Monthèlie, was more than a little run-down. You see this, or much worse, across most of the vineyards of Burgundy, but since achieving UNESCO World Heritage status, there are certain grants available to those people who (correctly) want to shore-up the basis of their livelihoods – the vineyards. It’s important for the tourists too!
This one is more complicated because the owner is not the exploiter – it’s one of the Meursault Bouzereau’s who works the vines in this particular plot, but on a fermage basis. So you have the winemakers, the owners and the UNESCO foundation who are all contributing to this work.
Here there’s a house that stands alone, a house that I’ve always admired but has always seemed to be empty – probably due to the 80 km/h (++!) road that’s directly in front – there’s no sign, but the locals call it Maison des Duresses – but it has seen much updating in the last 12 months. Likewise for the last few months a fine piece of renovation can be seen to the wall that extends from the house in the direction of Monthèlie, and includes these beautiful pillars with a stairway. The guy doing the work told me that he’s not usually alone doing this – but he was yesterday afternoon – but that he’d also worked a little on the stones so that the name of the old owners would be more legible.
A lovely piece of work!
I dismissed the BIVB‘s press release about this time last year, probably because I had better things to do around the time of the harvest – actually it was the 12th September, so I’m sure I’d probably finished by then – but I digress!
In essence, they want to change the way that others speak:
“To re-affirm its identity as one of the most iconic vineyard of France, the region and its producers are reverting back to the original French iteration of its name: Bourgogne.”
They say that if we all revert to ‘Bourgogne’ then it will aid them in “maintaining one true identity.” It’s not just a swipe at Anglo-Saxons like me, but also Germans and any number of other ‘non-French translations’ of Bourgogne. It sounds like the first step on the road to ‘Frexit’ to me!
To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about this, until last week, when a stalwart of the BIVB asked me why I don’t ‘change to using the word Bourgogne instead?’ Whilst not fully prepared for an in-depth rebuttal, I did manage to muster that when the French officially stop referring to Angleterre or États-Unis d’Amérique or Londres, and adopt local usage, I would begin to think about it!
It seems to me a silly thing to spend time on, particularly in a region where many of its rules and classifications derive from what are described as traditions that are ‘loyaux et constants‘ i.e. they are trustworthy, established practice.
I know that I’m going through a site update – online, hopefully, by the first week in April – but I’m still not planning to rename the site to Bourgogne Reportage! Not yet, anyway 😉
My advice, is that advice, like exercise, is not absolute – it’s about what works for you.
I’ve more than once read articles from (let’s call them) opinion-formers, who state quite categorically that cork sniffing has absolutely no use, and is, charitably(!) nothing more than an affectation – I beg to differ.
It’s not 100% certain, but my reckoning it’s 95% certain that when I open a bottle and sniff the wet-end of the cork, if it smells of TCA, then my wine will be corked. Simple!
Yesterday’s Lafon probably increased these odds to 95.01%. The cork came out whole and in good shape – but it didn’t smell ‘correct’ – I was sure there was TCA. The wine in my glass, straight from the fridge – as it’s still summer – had some beautiful red fruit on the nose, but also an accent of something – something unwanted – in the background. As the wine in the glass slowly came to room temperature, the fruit became ever-better, but that background note, comparatively, grew more. The wine was corked – moderately – but corked. I could drink half a glass, cold, but still whilst wrinkling my nose – unsure. But there was a threshold where the cork-taint became clear – then it was over. Sometimes what’s in glass is unclear, but usually the cork doesn’t lie.
So, don’t do what others would have you do, do what works for you…
As an aside; rightfully I should be even more annoyed with a corked wine that I’ve had in my cellar for 20 years than a recent purchase – right? But it doesn’t seem to work that way – each one is a similar loss. Okay, I’ve never (yet!) opened a corked Romanée-Conti…
There are many ‘Bourgogne’ labels, but the new one – Bourgogne Côte d’Or – is much more specific in two respects; 1) Geography and 2) what’s in the bottle – it can only be pinot noir or chardonnay.
Harpers were the first (that I’m aware of) to break the news that the long discussed label of Bourgogne Côte d’Or is finally approved. You can read most of the details of what will be allowed, in that link.
But what does that mean for you and me? Well, it should be a very good thing; it won’t make a bit of difference to the Bourgogne Pinot Noirs that you have been buying, nor will it change things much at well-known domaines – though they may, if they feel the need, take this new label – see the comment from Philippe Charlopin in the linked article.
Now it is instinctive to think that a Bourgogne Rouge comes from ‘Burgundy’ and that it is made from pinot noir. You would be forgiven for also assuming that ‘Burgundy’ means that the grapes come from the Côte d’Or – and for growers in the Côte d’Or this is overwhelmingly so – but for the bulk of Bourgognes this is overwhelmingly not so – this is where it will make a big difference – it will bring extra clarity.
What the hell am I talking about?
The Maisons, typically of the Côte d’Or have, for a long time, been playing a tough game with their neighbours in Beaujolais, trying to restrict their southern cousins’ use of the Bourgogne label. Those cousins would, after all, be competition. But at the same time, behind the scenes, those same maisons have been some of the largest buyers of Beaujolais wine – gamay wine – for their vast quantities of Bourgogne Rouge. It’s no secret but it’s also, for obvious reasons, not something that they publicise, i.e. that Bourgogne Rouge can contain up to 15% gamay from Beaujolais – so it shouldn’t ever be a surprise when your cheap Bourgogne smells like Beaujolais! Actually, this gamay can come from anywhere in Yonne/Côte d’Or/Chalonnais/Mâconnais/Beaujolais – some 50,000 hectares of vines are eligible – but Beaujolais is usually the king of cheap. By comparison, the ~1,000 hectares that are ‘allowed’ for this new Bourgogne Côte d’Or label sound much less generous!
It’s exactly the same for the whites, of-course; Bourgogne Blanc often contains wine from the Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais – without restriction.
So what you might have instinctively expected to find in your Bourgogne Rouge or Bouregogne Blanc, you will actually find in the Bourgogne Côte d’Or – though it’s fair to say that this ‘progress’ for the consumer has taken a very long time to come!
The take-home message is to keep buying the great stuff that you always have, but don’t be surprised if the label changes in the next vintages. But if you want an extra saftey-belt for your Bourgogne buying habit, then the Bourgogne Côte d’Or label will be the one for you – but it will of-course be more expensive than wines ‘cut’ with grapes from cheaper ‘sources…’
“Hong Kong is now Burgundy’s fifth biggest market in terms of revenue and the 13th largest in terms of volume”
i.e. its not really the cheap stuff that they are buying!
Hong Kong is, it seems, doing a great job of mopping up top production from the Côte d’Or. It’s a relatively new market that has been less sensitive to price (probably because they largely never bought at 25% of the current pricing!) than more traditional markets. The open question, is whether they will still buy in less star-studded vintages(?) But for now, the producers and merchants make hay while the sun shines…
I would say that here it is the ‘revitalising the region‘ comment that is up for interpretation – at least if we look at at past actions. Louis Latour, and I have to say Drouhin too, seem to approach the Beaujolais region purely as a source of ‘entry level wines.‘ Which (perhaps simplistically) could be viewed as trying to enforce the current status quo of the market. I would contrast that with the work of Bouchard Père at Château Poncié, or rather more successful, the work of Louis Jadot at Château des Jacques.
Beaujolais is only going to reap some reward for its action (where deserved) if those people who are deserving can monetise their efforts. Like Jadot, Lafarge-Vial and Thibault Liger-Belair are ‘externals’ who are successfully monetising good work, but for as long as major producers label a region only as the ‘entry level’ then that makes life difficult for all producers of a region, regardless of the quality that they can deliver.
Note: I was the very first writer to taste Louis Latour’s Pierre Dorée wine when bottled – last summer when visiting and profiling their Henry Fessy domaine/négoce/wines – and very good it is too. Here I only comment on my perception of the actual positioning of wine from Beaujolais by certain Burgundian ‘majors.’
I guess I’m going to have to see this one*. I guess I’m still not the only one trying to workout how the auctioneers; Acker, Bagheera, Spectrum and previous Christies management – and they are probably not alone – could make so much money from this – without sanction…
*By the way, Ponsot said that 80% of all pre-1980 wines from a handful of Burgundy producers, at auction, was fake – not 80% of ALL Burgundy wines at auction!