Wine review: bargain buys

01 June 2018

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ALL of us love a bargain. Last month, I mentioned my interest in books about wine, and, since then, I have found it impossible to resist buying Nine Centuries in the Heart of Burgundy, at £40 off its list price. I console myself with the fact that I paid less than I would for a good bottle of Burgundy.

This is a lavish history of a wine estate that was donated, in the middle of the 12th century, to the Cistercian monks of La Ferté. It is difficult to underestimate the part played by the Cistercians in the spread of quality wine production in the Middle Ages. As the monks were not permitted to work in the vineyards, they delegated this to lay brothers, who had separate establishments, or granges.

The most important of these was Clos Vougeot, on the Côte d’Or in Burgundy. Their vineyard holdings here were enclosed by a wall; now, the ownership has become fragmented: there are approximately 80 parcels of vines in different hands. What used to be the winery and cellars now forms the headquarters of the Burgundian drinking brotherhood, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

While there is still a monastery at Cîteaux, it now has a Trappist foundation that, sadly, no longer produces wine, but the monks have a stall on the market every Saturday, where they sell their excellent cheese.

The Clos du Cellier aux Moines is at the heart of the vineyards of the Côte Chalonnaise, which are a con­tinuation to the south of those of the Côte d’Or, with similar soils. This is, however, a region not dominated by its vineyards: there are also cattle, woods, and quarries. When the prices of the best-known wines of Burgundy are rising fast, this can be a source of bargains. As well as the more generic Bourgogne-Côte Chalonnaise, there are five villages with their own appellations. From north to south, these are Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.

In terms of vineyard area and historical reputation, Mercurey is the most important. Here, the Nuits-Saint-Georges house of Faiveley produces both red and white wines, and I would recommend for a special occasion its 1er cru wine Clos du Roi 2013 (Waitrose, £32.99).

Rully is an important centre for the production of sparkling wines, as well as still reds and whites. Waitrose stocks the red Les Cailloux Rouges from the Domaine Rois Mages for £24.99; from the Wine Society is the white Saint Jacques 2014, for £14.50.

Givry produces only red wine, and it says that this was the favourite wine of King Henri IV, but it may just be a coincidence that an intimate friend, Gabrielle d’Estrées, lived close at hand. As I write this, Majestic has an Albert Bichot Givry on sale for £11.48 rather than £22.99.

Montagny is sold only as a white wine. The Domaine Chateau de Davenay 1er cru Clos Chaudron is on Fine Wines Direct UK’s list, at £20.24.

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