Leading wine supplier in Philippines discusses wine related topics About Burgundy Wine in Philippines Names: Burgundy Wine Guide

Date: December 07, 2010

Although we were in fact enduring the last few days of winter it already felt like spring, and indeed it had done so for several weeks. Everywhere I looked there was new life; lambs bounded through the fields, and spring bulbs were erupting into sometimes dramatic explosions of colour. Driving out of Chablis towards the small stretch of grand cru vineyards that runs to the north of the village, I could see workers in the fields preparing for the vines to join in this annual festival of birth and rebirth. Anticipating that the vines would soon be throwing out new buds and then tender young leaves, and very aware of the continued risk of nocturnal frost, they were occupied placing out the oil burners that would, if required, be lit to protect the tender leaves from freezing over the coming weeks.
Despite this emergence of new life, of anticipation, of looking forward to the vintage and year ahead, I was for a moment in a reflective mood. The month was March, the year 2009, and I quickly calculated that meant more than a decade had passed since I had last visited Chablis, and even then I had only paused here for a few days. And yet it all looked so perfectly familiar; the long drive through the wide, open countryside between the Côte d’Or and this most northerly outpost of Burgundy seemed like a route I might have driven just yesterday. The town with its restaurants where I once dined, washing down my meals with premier cru Chablis from a variety of domaines, looked unchanged. And there, off to the right, was the campsite where I stayed, with the little canals alongside which I used to walk, and the locks in which I once swam, always with that irrational and yet very human fear of “what lies beneath”. To let more than ten years pass without returning to this, what is surely the world’s best known wine-town and some would argue the world’s greatest white wine appellation, was remiss of me.
Chablis has without doubt been the one piece of the Burgundy jigsaw that I have examined most closely over the years, right back to those restaurant bottles in Chablis itself, and to the copious quantities of Premier Cru Côte de Léchet (I have to confess I forget the producer) and Grand Cru Les Grenouilles (from La Chablisienne, the town’s leading co-operative) I drank as I was exploring wine for the very first time as a student. Over the years my understanding has deepened, and has extended to the Côte d’Or, the “golden slope” of vineyards some way to the southeast of Chablis, running from Santenay up to Marsannay, taking in all the famous names of Burgundy – Pommard, Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny and so on – along the way. There is also the Côte Chalonnaise, further south again, another stop-off on my first ever journey through the region, the Mâconnais, an increasingly valuable source of good-value white wines, and of course Beaujolais, which I once explored from a base just outside the tiny cru village of Fleurie. But Chablis was my first, and is for me perhaps the most endearing of all Burgundy’s regions. So although I deal with each in turn in this new Burgundy guide, it seems only right that I should open with a detailed look at this region before moving onto the others.
Why Burgundy?
Before doing so, however, perhaps we should first consider why Burgundy deserves such a detailed guide in the first place. What is it about Burgundy and her wines that makes them so popular? For many it is perhaps solely what lies in their glass, and there is nothing wrong at all in this approach. The region is home to a number of grape varieties, although (if we may overlook Gamay for a moment) there are only two principal players, and Burgundy provides the little world of wine with the ultimate expression of both. For white wine we have Chardonnay, and for red Pinot Noir, and each is vinified pure and unsullied, absent of any blending with other varieties, as we might find with the great wines of Bordeaux or Champagne. Indeed, for Chardonnay, the region provides us with two benchmark styles, the steel and minerals that soften into the honeycomb of a great Chablis (from vines like the one below, right), and the balanced power and elegance of a Côte d’Or white from any number of vineyards, but perhaps Montrachet above all others. It is these wines, combined with the temperate nature and disease resistance of the Chardonnay vine, and the harmonious duet that is Chardonnay and the oak barrel, that has led to this variety being planted far and wide across every continent.
With Pinot Noir the story is similar, even if the nature of the vine is somewhat different. It is perhaps a jewel that bears more facets than its white companion, with many great vineyards scattered along the Côte d’Or yielding a multiplicity of nuanced styles, and the wines of great grand cru vineyards such as La Romanée, Chambertin and Musigny have inspired thousands of winemakers and drinkers alike. Unlike Chardonnay, however, Pinot Noir has not achieved world dominance; there are no shortage of hopefuls planting the variety but few seem to have enjoyed the success that can be found even in minor Burgundian appellations. It has always been said that Pinot Noir is a fickle grape, thin-skinned (literally as well as perhaps metaphorically!) and difficult to grow; nevertheless, there are a handful of regions that have accomplished the feat. For my palate, I find great pleasure in the wines of New Zealand, especially Central Otago, which seem to have the rich fruit of the New World but backed up by delicious cool climate acidity, the wines possessing vivacity and charm as a result. But in many other regions, which are perhaps simply too warm, the wines are flabby, dull, vegetal or unexciting. California has had some success, as have some small regions of Australia such as the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, but it is Burgundy, presenting a myriad of sometimes beguiling wines as evidence, that wears the Pinot crown most convincingly – and I suspect it will remain this way for a very long time.
What about those, though, who wish to look beyond the glass? Is there something, in addition to the quality of the wine, that also draws them to this region? I believe the answer is yes, and although it may be a questionable approach I will illustrate my response to this perhaps rhetorical question by drawing some comparisons with Burgundy’s Atlantic cousin (maybe ‘second-cousin’, or just ‘distant relative’ would be more appropriate), Bordeaux.
Looking Beyond the Glass
It is often said that all wine lovers come to Burgundy in the end, the implication being that they have eventually tired of Bordeaux, a region that for them becomes nothing more than a phase in their wine education, rather than the lifelong obsession into which Burgundy might evolve. And although I am quite sure this statement is not true for all, why might it be the case, for some at least? After all, both regions produce excellent red wines which are capable of maturing and improving, in some cases for many decades; why not have both? There are a number of thoughts or hypotheses I can suggest. Firstly, of course, there is the style of wine itself; from Bordeaux, which can sometimes be as much about texture and power as anything else, we move to Burgundy where there might be more elegance, more perfume, more intrigue. Bordeaux might please the palate and the mind, but some wine drinkers will maintain that only Burgundy provides the most haunting bottles, memories of which may last a lifetime. This difference can be traced like a thin vein from the wine through into the vines and vineyards, the people and the domaines. Bordeaux increasingly gives the impression of big business, with its grand chateaux and expansive vineyards, whereas Burgundy is more about the soil, and the men and women that work it. The hand that you shake in Bordeaux will be clean, whereas the nails are less manicured in Burgundy, the hands more concerned with pruning and picking, or driving the tractor (as below) – tasks the Bordeaux proprietor will leave to his staff. Are Burgundy people just a little more connected with the land?

And perhaps their outlook is also different; in Bordeaux I have never, other than at tastings where a consultant (such as Michel Rolland) may be involved with overseas wineries, been offered a wine from outside the region. During my last visit to Burgundy, however, although the local wines naturally dominated, I also drank wines from Bordeaux and Madeira. And sitting in a restaurant in Beaune I was surrounded not only a bottle upon bottle upon case upon case of Burgundy, but I also espied wines from Alsace, the Loire, Rioja and Tuscany. These people are perhaps less superior, more willing to acknowledge that other wines exist outside Burgundy, whereas perhaps the Bordeaux marketing machine would like to suggest otherwise. I stress “perhaps” – I am of course generalising wildly, and I am sure there are many outward and forward-thinking souls in Bordeaux, just as there are insular types in Burgundy. But it remains a valid thought.
I also suspect that the patchwork of vineyards that is Burgundy, a stark contrast to the typical 50-hectare Médoc estate, appeals to the investigative enthusiast. These vineyards carry a rich history with which the glass connects us – the prime reason I can never concur with those who state categorically “it’s what’s in the glass that counts”. That position is not as irrefutable as some might think; there is more pleasure to be gained, I feel, if the wine is savoured accompanied by knowledge of its origins. And in Burgundy that knowledge is complex, with so many tiny vineyards, the majority with multiple owners. To the academically enquiring mind the region and the wines may stimulate detailed analysis; which village? Which producer? Which vineyard? At the top of the slope, or the bottom? Which rows of vines? Which soils? From the end of the vineyard next to the neighbouring grand cru, or from the vines down by the road? The process of pleasure and understanding combined, far from being a laborious one, is I am sure what draws some, if not many, to this region.
It is this complexity that means this simple guide could never be enough to truly understand Burgundy. There is detail in all parts of this guide, and I hope it will provide something of interest to all readers, whether their knowledge of Burgundy is expert or amateur. Nevertheless, it is not intended to fully quench the thirst of those already rich in Burgundy knowledge. This is a guide intended to explore and demystify across the region, but does not get down to microscopic analysis that the region receives (and certainly deserves) from true Côte d’Or savants. It will explain quite nicely, I hope, the difference between Volnay and Vougeot, Chablis and Chambolle and their respective grands crus, but it does not intend to look at the next level and why, for instance, Malconsorts has such a better reputation than other Vosne-Romanée vineyards. For that level of explanation you require a specialist Burgundy text. For many years the obvious choice was Clive Coates, and although he has now retired from publishing his periodical The Vine his other works, such as Côte d’Or (University of California Press, 1997). remain valuable. Indeed, the updated text The Wines of Burgundy (University of California Press, 2008), now expanded to include Chablis and the Côte Chalonnaise, is perhaps even more worthwhile. For more current writing there are few that compare in terms of quality of information. Online or by newsletter, only the writings of Allen Meadows provide a similar, topically delivered service.

Source: http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/burgundypartone.shtml

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