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Wine: Agreeable Burgundies

02 February 2011

by Christopher Fielden

MOST of us have our moments of folly, and I am no exception. Two days after Christmas, I found myself driving to Burgundy, despite the fact that snow lay deep on the ground and I was suffering from severe internal problems. There can be no place like Burgundy for hearty eating and drinking, but, on this occasion, I did it no justice. On the other hand, I did have the opportunity to taste a number of wines of the 2010 and 2009 vintages.

There has been a great deal written about the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux. The speculators have been buy­ing the wine en primeur and sending the prices skywards.

In Burgundy, there is not the same tradition of buying wines while they are still in the cask, but a number of merchants now bring out offers for the 2009 vintage. The prices tend to be more reasonable than those for clarets, largely because the wines are bought for drinking rather than as an item in an investment portfolio.

What of the vintage? The Bur­gundy expert Jasper Morris intro­duces the Berry Bros. & Rudd offer thus: “After the frenzy of the Bor­deaux 2009 campaign last spring, the world has been waiting for the launch of the Burgundian wines from the same glorious summer. The good news is that the wines are fabulous and very few producers have caught the Bordeaux pricing fever.”

He goes on to compare the red wines to the exceptional 1959 vin­tage, saying: “Time and again I find myself using the word ‘graceful’ in my tasting notes.”

One of the great advantages of this vintage is that the lesser wines al­ready make very agreeable drinking, but have enough body to last for some time. Indeed, I was drinking an ordinary Bourgogne rouge 2009, which I had bought from a grower in Nuits-Saint-Georges before it was a year old, and I have now progressed to a Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, which my New Year guests con­sumed avidly.

For this latter wine, which I bought direct from the grower, I paid the equivalent of £7.40 a bottle. I imagine that this would rise to about £11 on a wine-merchant’s shelf.

I also bought a few bottles of Savigny-Dominode (£11.30), and Beaune Centvignes (£14) to lay down. Certainly, if you are returning from the Alps, it might be worth breaking your journey at Beaune or Nuits-Saint-Georges and buying a few bottles. Or ask your local wine-merchant what he can offer you. The red wines from Berry Bros. & Rudd start at about £10 a bottle, but duty and VAT have to be added when the wine is shipped.

But what about the 2010 vintage? As the Domaine de la Vougeraie reports: “Whereas the 2009 vintage was dazzling, 2010 is turning out to be quite a challenge.” The weather meant that there was uneven ripeness in the grapes, which led the better growers to reject up to a third of the grapes on the sorting-table. Overall, quantities are well down, and the quality is uneven.

I would not advise any specula­tion in Burgundies of the 2009 vintage, but, if you can afford a few bottles, they should make for very pleasurable future drinking.

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