*Rolls Up Sleeves*
Orrright punters, this is where it gets serious.
Those who know me personally (and really, anyone who’s read more than about 3 blog posts) would know that whilst my passion for wine knows no bounds, there’s one part of the world that really sets me alight – the hallowed region of Bourgogne (Burgundy). With the 2011 vintage currently hitting the shelves and on the water (more reason why we shouldn’t be stopping the boats!) I felt it pertinent to do a brief wrap-up of experiences so far and the wines that I’m stocking via LTLT.
I’m not going to do too much scene setting here – as I could start writing and never stop – but will provide a quick overview for the partially initiated (and Burgundy nerds, please excuse any generalisations I make here for the sake of a cohesive explanation).
Burgundy is made up of a series of small communes (villages) that produce either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. There are 4 classification levels to the wines. The lowest, which must simply come from somewhere in the region is called ‘Bourgogne Blanc or Rouge’. The next ‘Village’ level classification is given to wine made from within certain borders of each commune, is named after the village, and generally shows a set of characters that is typical of the wines from the same village. The next level – Premier (1er) Cru – is given to wines made exclusively from specific vineyards in the village that have been deemed of superior quality as they consistently express themselves through the wines grown there. The top classification, the ‘Grand Cru’ wines are deemed entities in their own right, so esteemed to simply be named after the vineyard with no need to reference the lowly village. Easy! (Caveat Emptor: just remember that this classification is unique to Burgundy – Grand Cru in Bordeaux means different things)
So now, on to the vintage.
It’s widely accepted that we’re living in the golden age of Burgundy. Modern winemaking techniques, better vineyard practices and a run of great vintages (combined with a strong $AU) means that the wines are never better, and never better value. 2011 comes off the back and in the shadow of two super-hyped vintages (the rich and ripe 2009s, and the intensely structured 2010s) as as such, it presents a fantastic opportunity for people to discover some of what this fabulous region is about.
Since I’ve been seriously tasting Burgundy, I haven’t seen a vintage that is drinking so well straight out of the bottle as 2011 is right now. These wines are made to last, you see, and can be a little tough to love on release if you aren’t familiar with the style or ‘softening’ process. Whereas at similar stages of their lives the hard angles and searing intensity of the 2010s were more to be admired than loved, the 2011s have divine soft features, loads of sweet fruit and gentle tannins.
For inspiration while writing this post I popped the top off the 2011 Benjamin Leroux Bourgogne Rouge ($50 from LTLT) and it has slowed the writing somewhat as I admire the plump red fruit that hits the palate with a burst of controlled sweetness before the acid wipes the palate clean. It’s a stunning wine, and one that you don’t have to think about too much to enjoy but every now and then I take a sip and just think… wow.
This continues as you work your way up the tree of classifications. The range of wines by Morey St Denis producer Gerard Raphet are usually delicate and intensely structured on release, whilst the current batch are rich, luscious and utterly irresistable. His 2011 Gevrey Chambertin ($100 from LTLT) is an utterly entrancing mouthful of spice, texture and herbs, while the 2011 Gevery Chambertin 1er Lavaux St Jacques ($150 from LTLT) is intensely concentrated with and explosion of spicy-smoky-minerally flavours and a silky, gulpable texture. Irresistibly delicious.
The shadow of 2010 is much longer over the whites, but that isn’t to say that there aren’t some exceptional wines to be had. The 2011 Pierre Yves Colin Morey St Aubin Le Banc ($55, available on request) marries a serious acid backbone with some very approachable citric fruit whilst the always excellent wines from Domaine Jean Marc Pillot show his trademark ‘wet-rock’ minerality but with a little more softness in the flavour profile. The Chassagne Montrachet ($75 from LTLT) is as usual an exceptional value chardonnay. Special mention goes to the recently-discovered (for me, at least) wines by Bachelet-Monnot, in particular the 2011 Bourgogne Blanc ($42, available on request) which is electrifying in its rich, pulpy fruit and as with the rest of the vintage – is utterly slurpable.
If there is one downside? It’s not as consistent across the board as 2009 and 2010; some producers faired better than others – but with the help of a trusted independent retailer (Ahem: One in particular comes to mind) to guide your selection that won’t be a problem.
I have most of the above wines currently in stock (amongst others, many of which are exceedingly rare) so if you’ve ever wanted to take a guided step into the region now is the time: bottles start from $35 so it doesn’t need to blow the bank either.
N.B. While finishing off this post the day after I started writing it I had the last glass of the 2011 Ben Leroux Bourg rouge and it’s even better than the day before. Staggeringly good. Good enough to make me consider moving my remaining stock to my cellar. Move quickly people….!