Article

Classical education

With the 2009s likely to be stupidly expensive, it could pay to know your way around 2008 white Burgundy a bit better. Chris Losh watches as a team of tasters get to grips with premier cru and villages wines from a ‘traditional’ vintage


The 2009 Burgundies will be appearing early next year. And while they are (if the hype is to be believed) likely to be exceptional, one thing they aren’t going to be is cheap, meaning that a fair proportion of the on-trade will be trying to work with the 2008s for as long as they can.

So, we thought, why not take a good look at this somewhat passed-over vintage in a bit more detail and
find out what it has to offer for restaurant lists?

We ignored the reds, which by all accounts are stick-insect thin, and concentrated instead on the white wines, which the trade like to tell us are in a ‘fresh, classical style’. While this might be a bit of a euphemism for ‘unripe’, it’s probably also true that the wines are likely to be more food-friendly as a result, and with less pressure from collectors, prices are more reasonable, too. Well, less unreasonable, anyway.

As well as a snapshot of the 2008 white vintage, we took this opportunity to compare village wines with their pricier premier cru counterparts. Value for money is always relative in Burgundy, but do you, we asked, get more for your money once you move up the quality ladder?

RESULTS

Burgundy Villages

88 Olivier Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet, Les Meix
An intense nose, with integrated oak, creamy mineral notes and sweet, ripe fruit. ‘This is the velvety, feminine style I’m looking for,’ said JB. ‘Very long and elegant, with lots of potential for food. Typical Puligny,’ CP; ‘Precise, delicious, complex and mineral. A delightful wine,’ OG
£24.67, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2530

82 Thomas Morey, Chassagne-Montrachet
Although a little subdued at first, this opens up nicely in the glass into a rather exotically flavoured beast. ‘Sweet and sour, spice and saffron, but balanced and with great minerality,’ OG; ‘A lot of depth, well-balanced and great texture,’ MHan; ‘Fresh apples and lots of minerality. Top!’ JB
£25.50, Domaines Direct, 020 7837 1142

81 Denis Boussey, Meursault, Vieilles Vignes
With its honeyed, chalky and delicate nose, the depth of this wine’s palate is a surprise. Either way, it has come together nicely, and our tasters uniformly enjoyed it. ‘Plenty of ripeness, but also a floral lift and the acidity is well integrated,’ CL; ‘Ripe and nutty, with great depth and complexity,’ OG.
£20.40, Great Western Wine, 01225 322820

80 Perraud, St-Véran
Fresh, clean and very Burgundian in style, this wine wasn’t the most complex one sent in, but it was of its place, and decent value. ‘A delicious palate, with just the right amount of acidity,’ OG; ‘Mineral notes and smoke, with sweet ripe fruit.
£11.59, Liberty, 020 7720 5350

80 Jean Pascal, Auxey-Duresses
Lightly nutty nose – still slightly closed – with a smoky/mineral palate and decent freshness. ‘Frangipane and delicate toast – great ripeness, depth and minerality,’ OG; ‘Well made and good value,’ MHar.
£15.85, Ellis of Richmond, 020 8744 5550

80 Patriarche Père et Fils, Puligny-Montrachet
Exuberantly complex rather than seamlessly elegant, there’s a lot going on here. Exotic stone-fruit nose with toast, fresh almonds, petrol and Tupperware mentioned in dispatches. ‘Earthy and smoky. An entertaining mouthful!’ CP.
£27.37, Patriarche, 020 7381 4016

79 Roux Père et Fils, St-Aubin, La Pucelle
A really attractive, feminine nose of pineapples and lemon blossom, our tasters enjoyed the vibrancy of this wine – particularly for its price. ‘Tangy, creamy and smoky,’ CP; ‘Fresh and delicate. Not exuberant but lots of poise and length,’ OG.
£16.13, Bibendum, 020 7449 4120

79 Robert Denogent, Mâcon-Solutré, Clos des Bertillonnes
Toasty, creamy, Brazil nuts and mandarin orange, this wine mixed overt ripeness with an attractive delicacy. ‘Nice texture – should be a premier cru!’ MHan; ‘Not overly complex, but delicious and well made,’ OG.
£13.63, Bibendum, 020 7449 4120

78 Coffinet-Duvernay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Blanchots Dessous
Dense citrus-orange and smoky oak characters with a little creamy lees-stirring evident, too. A bit on the young side, but popular with the tasters, nonetheless. ‘Lots of citrus fruit, long and fine,’ OG; ‘Subtle oak and well balanced, though a work in progress,’ MHar.
£23.50, Les Caves de Pyrène, 01483 538820

77 Perraud, Bourgogne Aligoté
Since it was neither a villages nor premier cru wine, this shouldn’t have been here, but since it came in we gave our tasters the option of tasting it, and it did pretty well. ‘Lovely spritzy, mineral nose and soft acidity for an Aligoté. Very good!’ MHar; ‘Fresh, flinty, crisp and delicious,’ OG.
£7.60, Liberty, 020 7720 5350

77 Jean-Claude Boisset, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
Inviting, surprisingly opulent fruit, backed up with a nice freshness and good acidity. Decent for the price. ‘Flinty, stony, incisive,’ OG; ‘Good weight and vibrant fruit,’ LC; ‘Could be good with fatty food,’ CP.
£11.54, Liberty, 020 7720 5350

76 Bernard Moreau et Fils, Chassagne-Montrachet
With its bright, tight nose and almond flavours, this was seen as a good expression, but one that needed a bit more time. ‘A lot of freshness, but perhaps needs to deliver more for this price,’ CL.
£21, Great Western Wine,
01225 322820

76 Vallet Frères, Meursault
Smoky nose with some mineral hints and a honeyed apricot character. ‘What a bouquet!’ swooned MHan; ‘Classical flavours – it will be good in six months’ time,’ LC.
£20.59, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300

76 Bohrmann, St-Romain, Clos sous le Château, Monopole
There were a few grumbles about a St-Romain at this price, but most tasters enjoyed its juicy, citrus and vanilla character. ‘Good weight and brightness, with nice fruit and refreshing acidity,’ LC; ‘This outguns some of the bigger names,’ CP.
£17.77, Bibendum, 020 7449 4120

75 Denis Boussey, Monthélie
Pretty floral and honeyed blossom wine, with an attractive sour cream edge. ‘Simple but interesting, and good value,’ CP; ‘Classically Burgundian finish,’ JB.
£15.65, Great Western Wine 01225 322820

74 Jobard-Morey, Meursault
The panel were split on this wine. Some enjoyed its ‘intensity, minerality and nuttiness,’ while others felt it closed and neutral. ‘Rich and fresh, the acidity is beautifully hidden behind the texture,’ MHan; ‘Oak gives a boost to rather lean stone fruit,’ CP.
£19.40, Great Western Wine, 01225 322820

73 Hubert Lamy, St-Aubin, La Princée
‘This smells like Baby Meursault!’ enthused JB, and most of the panel definitely enjoyed its ripe peach flavours, hint of oak and overall freshness – though the acidity needs to integrate more. ‘So young, it hurts!’ said CP.
£18.55, Bancroft Wines, 020 7232 5470

73 René Monnier, Meursault, Le Limozin
There was a split here. Some of the tasters praised this wine for its elegance, while others thought it was just too uptight and needed to get out more. ‘Light, elegant nose,’ JB; ‘Very floral,
quite mineral. Good,’ LC.
£21.54, Hallgarten Druitt, 01582 722538

72 Henri Darnat, Meursault
Ripe orange fruit, with hints of smoke and an attractive juiciness, although some felt
it was short on the palate. ‘Well made, but a little thin for the appellation,’ OG.
£23.82, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2530

71 Patriarche Père et Fils, Chassagne-Montrachet
Buttery, with ripe citrus and pineapple – perhaps needed to open out and deliver more on the palate. ‘Honey and hazelnuts; this should improve with time,’ CL.
£31.31, Patriarche, 020 7381 4016

Also Tasted: Laroche, Chablis, St Martin

PREMIER CRU

>87 Olivier Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet, Les Referts
Bold, minerally and savoury, with toasted nuts, straw and a smoky, citrus lick, this complex wine was the star of the tasting. ‘Beautiful smoky oak – a really classy nose, and follows through on the palate,’ MHar; ‘Definitely terroir speaking,’  MHan; ‘Powerful but feminine,’ JB.
£33.18, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2530

86 Thomas Morey, Chassagne-Montrachet, Morgeot
Ripe fruit wrapped in oak, and surprisingly subtle, with cocoa, apple, nuts and lemon. ‘Crisp rather than lean,’ CP; ‘It’ll be lovely in two years, too,’ LC; ‘Complexity delivered with delicacy; impressive,’ MHan.
£33.50, Domaines Direct, 020 7837 1142

85 Vallet Frères, Meursault, Les Perrières
The most impressive of the Meursaults submitted, this wine was big, rich and seductively fruited, wrapped up in some high-quality oak. ‘Outstanding palate, with flowers, minerals and hints of sage and eucalyptus,’ MHan; ‘Lots of character. Drink now for a decent, expressive Meursault,’ CP.
£36.74, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300

84 Coffinet-Duvernay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Dent de Chien
Citrussy, floral and elegant, with a steeliness that was generally liked. ‘Very vibrant. A zesty style of Chassagne,’ MHan; ‘Good acid balance and long finish,’ MHar.
£35.60, Les Caves de Pyrène, 01483 538820

81 Jean-Claude Boisset, St-Aubin, Sur Gamay
‘A creamy, old-school style,’ as Mike H put it, the panel universally enjoyed its zesty elegance and balance. ‘Very elegant – and even though it’s youthful, it’s already starting to integrate nicely,’ CP.
£20.04, Liberty, 020 7720 5350

81 Hubert Lamy, St-Aubin, Clos de la Chatenière
Pricey for a St-Aubin, perhaps, but there was a good deal going on here. Quite intense and sizably flavoured, though evidently very young still. ‘A long mineral finish. It’s one for the future,’ OG.
£28.40, Bancroft Wines, 020 7232 5470

81 Jean Defaix, Chablis, Côte de Lechet
Tangy and restrained, with a classic mineral Chablis nose, described by one taster as ‘almonds, chlorophyll and liquorice.’ ‘Attractive, lean and fresh – a nice example of Chablis,’ MHan.
£15.52, Bibendum, 020 7449 4120

79 79 Gilles Bouton & Fils, St-Aubin, En Remilly
Stonefruit and citrus, with an attractive earthy hint of minerality and a discreet use of oak. ‘There’s a lot going on here, though it’s still a little on the lean side,’ CP.
£15.05, Great Western Wine, 01225 322820

79 Olivier Leflaive, Montagny, Bonneveaux
Intense floral and white peach flavours, this wine delivers an awful lot of quality for not a lot of money. ‘Everything you want from Burgundy delivered at that price point – it can only be a hit!’ MHan; ‘Good length, good value,’ MHar.
£12.76, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2530

78 René Monnier, Meursault, Les Charmes
The vintage had a big impact on this Meursault, which a few of the panel
found to be more Chablis-like than they would expect from this village. ‘Toasty citrus with a buttery finish,’ CP; ‘Great complexity and good balance,’ JB.
£32.44, Hallgarten Druitt, 01582 722538

78 Patrick Piuze, Chablis, Vaillons, Les Minots Vieilles Vignes
A ripe, fruit-driven, slightly spicy apricot nose with plenty of minerality and texture. ‘Broad, rich and extracted.’ OG; ‘Great weight and texture,’ MHan.
£23.07, Bibendum, 020 7449 4120

66 Gilles Bouton & Fils, Puligny-Montrachet, La Garenne
There’s probably some potential in this wine, but the judges, without exception, found it to be so closed that it was all but impossible to taste. ‘This really needs time to find its feet.’ OG
£24.30, Great Western Wine, 01225 322820

Also Tasted: Laroche, Chablis, Les Vaudevey

Many thanks to Joris and the team at Andaz for hosting the tasting in such a fantastic environment. Nuff respec’...


THE PANEL

1. Joris Beijn, Andaz; 2. Laurent Chaniac, The Cinnamon Club; 3. Olivier Gasselin, Morton’s; 4. Mickael Hannequin, 40/30. 5. Mike Harrison, Sommelier’s Friend. 6. Chris Losh, Imbibe; 7. Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan

HOW IT WORKS

We asked a selection of UK importers to submit 2008 white Burgundies at villages and premier cru level. These wines were then split into two flights. Our tasters were aware of the price and the particular appellation from which each wine came, but otherwise, the tasting was blind. We asked our tasters to score every wine out of 20, then transformed each overall total into a score out of 100 using
the wonder of MATHEMATICS.


VILLAGES V PREMIER CRU

So, if you’re going truffling for bargains in white 2008 Burgundy, which tree should you be digging under?

‘It was quite inconsistent. The St-Aubin premier crus delivered a lot more than the village wines. In Puligny, it was the other way around. I was rather underwhelmed by the Meursault. Generally, the southerly bits of the appellation did rather better than I was expecting.’ Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan

‘I thought the village St-Aubins were very good in general, and that followed through into the premier crus – they really were like baby Meursault – quite big wines for a modest price.’ Joris Beijn, Andaz

‘I was especially impressed with the St-Aubin premier crus. They had good fruit definition, but the minerality and acidity were there, too. The price jump from village to premier cru can be an issue, but the wines do usually deliver.’ Laurent Chaniac, The Cinnamon Club

‘I was repeatedly as impressed with the cheaper wines in a region as with the more expensive ones, so they represented better value for money. I thought the lower-end village wines – the St-Vérans and so on – achieved what they were trying to. The Chablis was a disappointment across the board.’
Mike Harrison, Sommelier’s Friend

‘The southern wines delivered a lot for the money, and the top village wines were consistent, but if you are willing to pay, once you get to premier cru, you are in another level. I thought the Chassagnes were great at both village and premier cru level.’ Mickael Hannequin, 40/30

‘I was more impressed with the village flight of Chassagne wines; they had that perfect balance of acidity and minerality and weren’t overoaked. They could also be drunk now. I was disappointed with the Meursault premier crus – they’re still too young.’ Olivier Gasselin, Morton’s


WINNERS: St-Aubin (both village and premier cru); Puligny villages, Chassagne villages, St-Véran in general.

LOSERS: Meursault (premier cru); Chablis in general


2008 IN THE DOCK

Our tasters put on their wigs and judges’ robes and deliver their verdict on the vintage

‘In general, it’s a lean, crisp, in some cases positively acidic vintage. There’s not a lot of ripe fruit or complexity, although there are a few exceptions, and to give the producers credit, they haven’t mostly used oak to fill the gap; they have been well made. They are probably best with food, but you need to find something that has enough fruit. I’d worry about how they will age; by the time the acidity has dropped, a lot will have nothing left.’ Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan

‘The whole tasting was of a very high quality. It’s very clean, with a lot of that fresh, zesty apple character, rather than sweet and creamy. The only thing that worries me is that they are getting more and more expensive, so we will have to lower our margins again.’ Joris Beijn, Andaz

‘Generally I liked the vintage. The premier cru flight has some real potential. Though I wouldn’t expect them to be showing well just yet. I gave a lot of high scores across the board.’ Laurent Chaniac, The Cinnamon Club

‘It was a fairly lean vintage with lots of acidity, but it’s not one for the long haul. Normally with this level of acidity, you’d think they can age, but I don’t see a lot of them opening up. As always, value is an issue...’ Mike Harrison, Sommelier’s Friend

‘This is probably one of the best tastings I’ve been to. With this acidity, it’s a vintage for ageing. There’s great structure, but also plenty of body too. That said, there weren’t any fat wines; it was a more incisive, feminine style. The winemakers in Burgundy are great technicians.’ Mickael Hannequin, 40/30

‘This is a vintage with potential. The level of acidity means it could keep for a long time. The wines seemed consistently good, and the overall quality was pretty high. Those that didn’t taste well were usually too young rather than inherently bad. Stylistically, a few were rich, but always balanced with acidity. A few had too much oak, and I didn’t like them. This vintage can be drunk young, but I’m sure it will age, too.’
Olivier Gasselin, Morton’s

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – November/December 2010

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