Whilst drinking a wonderful glass of Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru "les Amoureuses" the other day, it struck me that Burgundy isn't just for wine lovers but for lovers in general.
Almost anyone can grab a bottle and say I love this wine. This wild imbiber most probably says that about the supermarket new world cabernet-sauvignon en-trollied with the tea and bread at the weekend. The passionate-hearted amongst us have to pick and choose very carefully and price might put them off Burgundy. This wonderful wine region also has a reputation for irritating inconsistent quality and mind-boggling regulations about the vineyard production. I have spent the last quarter century persuading friends that Burgundy is really quite simple to understand and is affordable. I don't think they believe me but I am confident that now they'll appreciate that if one is a lover, money is no object and passion will conquer knowledge.
Actually, Burgundy is quite a simple matter. If it is white, it is made from Chardonnay and if it is red, it is from Pinot Noir. Much easier than Bordeaux where they use up to six varietals to make their Claret. Good red Burgundy will be at least 13 degrees of Alcohol by volume and the whites- 12.5, but serious arousal starts at 13% with such great names as Meursault and Montrachet.
Lovers of the wines of Burgundy can now look at the great production coming from the Côte Chalonnais. I took a party of lovers to Michel Sarrazin in Givry and then on to Michel Juillot in Mercurey. Whilst the famous Côte d'Or holds the noble appellations, this area to the south is achieving very high standards. My students adored the Givry, both red and white and the price is for everyday.
We continued on to Juillot whose Mercurey is rather more expensive but excellent After a lunch near Santenay, we visited Monsieur Bachelet where the Chassagne -Montrachet Rouge and Maranges 1er Cru are very sound and well-priced considering that we were back in the Côte d'Or. All this proved to them that there is affordable Burgundy without
thrashing the bank to buy Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée.
Being new disciples of my Burgundy is for Lovers, we boarded a small train which drives through the most wonderful vineyards of the Côte de Nuits. Our keen photographers eagerly snapshot the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and the Clos de Vougeot before I gave them a pre-lunch tasting of Morey-St Denis, Nuits-Saint Georges, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée. Lunch in the village of Chambolle with yet more stunning premier and grands crus elevated them from disciple to Apostles of the First degree.
Despite the need for post-prandial passion I managed to drag them southwards a few miles back towards Beaune and we stopped off in Pernand-Vergelesses to be with Rapet Père et fils, a domaine tucked behind Aloxe-Corton, with a few hectares of the illustrious Corton-Charlemagne and the red wines of Corton Grand Cru too. The Rapet family gave us all a good thorough thrashing with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay before struggling off to bed to have a lie down before Champagne at 6.30pm!
Dinner in Beaune with 3 wines for each course made my apostles prime scholars for "l'Academie pour l'Amour de Bourgogne"! They decided not to be daunted by a wine list in future that fails to have good Burgundy. With a flourish, they'll walk out with a passing remark such as " Get some in!".
Good News is that Michel Sarrazin and his two sons, Guy and Jean-Yves have bought land in the Côte de Beaune as well, so that soon we shall have a range of affordable wines. Meanwhile, The Givry "Champs Lalot"(red) and Givry "les Grognots" (white) are showing well and stocked by The Oxford Wine Company, along with other great Chalonnais wines - Mercurey and Rully.
No trip to Pommard would be complete without a tasting with Jérome Sordet at le Fief de Montjeu, finishing with 1er Cru Le Clos des Boucherottes. My lovers really enjoyed that one too.
A last thought for Burgundy lovers is on Chablis. This most northern of the regions viticulture has a different flavour of Chardonnay. Its minerally dry, austere and steely aspect is much loved by us but I tend to think that there is more to the chardonnays further south in the Côtes Chalonnais and d'Or. As Chablis prices increase, these other areas are more attractive.