Shopping for Burgundies is like bobbing for apples in a tub full of piranhas. You pick your shots carefully and aim for the biggest fish your wallet can afford. And every now and then you buy a wine to drink now rather later.
The rule of thumb is supposedly to buy generic and village wines from growers dedicated to quality across the line. Rather than bargain basement premier and grand crus from less illustrious origins. Here then is a short look at the lower rungs of the Burgundy food chain.
I bought the Chateau du Meursault, Clos du Chateau, Bourgogne Blanc, 2004 in Toulouse based on a recommendation in Tom Stevenson's Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia. The idea is the wine is sourced from a vineyard in the Chateau's garden deep in the Meursault country that was woodland until some 40 years ago hence it was simply not in existence as a vineyard when the village AOC was delimited. Otherwise it would be sold as a village wine and, according to Stevenson, a damned good wine that should be drunk 4 to 12 years post-harvest. Curiousity got the best of me and I opened it somewhat earlier. I thought it had a a wonderful nose, citrus fruit propped up by toasted bread and roasted nuts. The comes the palate, however, a bit foursquare and simple, solid fruit that shows well until the bitter sweet finish. So, some oak that needs to be assimilated with a further year in bottle but an enjoyable Bourgogne nonetheless. I sound a bit less ecstatic than Stevenson and I am. It cost me some 20 euros which I'd pay again if it were available in Israel and then wait for the oak to integrate further. But as it's not available, I'd use up my luggage space on other wines.
This wine's parallel in Puligny-Montrachet is Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet, Clos du Chateau, 2004. I think the situation vis a vis the vineyards is similar but I'm not sure. Costs roughly the same at any rate. The winemaker here is somewhat illustrious, being Etienne de Montille, of the famous Volnay estate, Domaine de Montille. Neither domaine has a site, but here's a nice article about Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet in the Burgundy Report.
Anyway, to get back to the wine, it's really nothing at all like its Meursault counterpart. You can blame it equally on terroir as on different winemaking philosophies. The Meursault is like a jazz musician cramming in a couple extra notes at the end of the bar while Etienne's work is much more reserved, a study in the art of simplicity. Minerals, granny apples and citrus fruits, with a happy acidity that leaves no possible room for any oak. Not very complex or one to cellar, as it loses its mineral cut after an hour of being opened and it's disappointing in that respect. Just drink it now while you wait for the more expensive crus to come around.
The Puligny is imported to Israel by Tomer Gal, as is the Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2004. Which is a giant step for mankind in the context of this discussion (and more expensive as well, 140 NIS, about 33 USD). Better balanced and much more hip than the Chateau du Meursault; more complex, vibrant and longer- lasting than the Chatau du Puligny Montrachet.
Pale gold. A nutty, oily nose, with ripe fruit, that starts out with a slight disonance, almost tropical on one hand and pear-y on the other. Then it it tightens up and all the elements meld and it shows smoke and honey notes as well. Fat, with an almost meaty texture, yet light and crispy, surprisingly long. As good as a village, with the palate not quite as complex as the nose but with excelllent grip nonetheless. Tomer told me he considers the Chateau du Puligny Montrachet a star of the 2004 vintage, in which case Jobard must have been a super-star.
And finally, the cheapest red produced by Domaine de la Vougeraie. I've enjoyed the previous two vintages of the Terres de Famille, a Bourgogne Rouge, one third of which is sourced from a village cru in Beaune and two thirds from the wrong side of the road across Vougeot. Even in a hot vintage like 2003 - or perhaps because of it - it showed high quality for its origins and both Pinot and Bourgogne typicity. The 2004 proves how consistent this wine is in quality, style and character. It posseses a delicate, elegant Bourgogne nose, with sweet red fruit, forest floor and cocoa. I wish the palate was as good , though it is finer and more stylish than a generic Bourgogne, and opens faster on the palate than previous vintages. It’s also somewhat softer (but more elegant on the other hand) than previous vintages but fleshes out after opening in much the same way. Also imported by Tomer Gal, it costs about 100 NIS, meaning it's good value for Burgundy and expensive elsewhere.