Sommelier Wine Awards 2009: France
White Burgundy is historically one of the strongest categories in the competition, and so it proved again, while the reds had their best showing ever
Relatively small it might be, but Burgundy certainly underlined its restaurant-friendly credentials this year. Not only was it the single biggest French appellation in terms of entries, the tasters found it a real effort to whittle the entries down. It would have been desperately easy to put twice the number of final wines on the Gold List.
The majority of Burgundies entered were white, and competition was pretty fierce, particularly at the top end where there were some very, very high-quality wines. Indeed, such criticism as there was from the tasters tended to centre on the category’s general failure to deliver at the more affordable end of the list.
‘There were some good wines, but they generally didn’t start to really perform until about £11 for the most part,’ said Ivan Dixon of Harvey Nichols.
This is almost exactly right. The panel had no problems at all in picking out Boutinot’s excellent Cuvée Philippe at a frankly extraordinary £5.72 price point – but it had the white Burgundy section all to itself until around twice that price.
Our tasters limited themselves to three whites on the Gold List, covering all price options. The pricier ones that stayed on the Shortlist did so not because they were in any way lesser wines, but because they were often deemed a bit young and tight.
‘At the moment, I’d want the Ropiteau Meursault in my cellar rather than on my list,’ said Winelife’s Gearoid Devaney of a wine that was clearly good, but some way short of its full
Generally, the judges favoured the more mineral-driven end of the style spectrum, but there were champions for the richer, more fruit-driven styles, too, such as the Vallet Freres Auxey Duresses.
So far so good for the whites; how about the reds? In previous Sommelier Wine Awards, the latter have tended to be a major, major disappointment, but this was happily not the case this year. Where last year the Gold count was 4:1 in favour of whites, this year it was evenly split. Moreover, our tasters managed (as with the whites) to find high-quality stuff at ‘affordable’, ‘super-premium’ and ‘luxury’ levels.
With most of the wines submitted only a few years old (usually 2004, 2005 or 2006) there was clearly a bit of ageing potential, though in fact part of the attraction of these wines was that there were very few hard edges. Nothing particularly voluptuous, but there was plenty of good fruit, with the wines tending to show a really attractive purity and freshness that simply screamed ‘restaurant friendly’.
It could be seen as something of an indulgence to include a wine at over £30 ex-VAT. But frankly, if you’re going to do it anywhere, it’s going to be in Burgundy, and there was no debate at all among the tasters. ‘It was definitely worth it,’ said one.
There was a lot of discussion in the red flight. But I was particularly impressed with the lower end. It shows you don’t necessarily need to go very expensive in Burgundy to get good stuff. Andrea Bricarello, Corrigan’s Mayfair
Cuvee Philippe 2005, Boutinot
£5.72 @ Boutinot Ltd
With attractive pears and stone fruit and a good smoky, buttery tang on the finish, this wine was about approachability – and astonishing value for money. ‘Brilliant entry-level Burgundy,’ said Roger Jones.
Pernand Vergelesses 2006, Vallet Freres
£12.57 @ Boutinot Ltd
‘This has a great Burgundian nose,’ said Caspar Auchterlonie. Toasty oak, soft, sweet fruit, honeysuckle, and perfectly balanced acidity. ‘Creamy, long and complex,’ approved Gearoid Devaney.
Meursault Premier Cru Les Perriers 2005, Vallet Freres
£28.92 @ Boutinot Ltd
‘A rich, creamy nose, with good mouthfeel and balance,’ said Will Buckland. Smoky toast, with vibrant peachstone and a terrific citrus backbone with a poetically expressive finish. Beautifully made, and clearly superlative quality.
La Reine De L’Arenite, Fleurie, La Madone 2007, Boutinot
£6.37 @ Boutinot Ltd
Rich, creamy, plummy and uncomplicated. Youthful, but singled out for its fresh juiciness and great value for money. Plenty of chilled food-matching options, too. Every list needs a wine like this. Excellent stuff.
Bouchard Beaune Du Chateau 2006, Bouchard Pere & Fils
£15.20 @ John E Fells
Scented and delicate, this is an attractive, more feminine style of Burgundy with delicacy, but also a real intensity of red-cherry flavour, great structure, good fruit and excellent length. ‘Complex and slatey, with good weight and a long finish,’ said Roberto della Pietra.
Beaune Premier Cru Clos Des Ursules Domaine Louis Jadot 2001
£36.39 @ Hatch Mansfield
A farmyardy, savoury nose with sweet, ripe fruit, lots of minerality, juicy acidity and grippy tannin. Smoky and sturdy, this is a really good example of quality mature Burgundy. ‘Very classic farmyard and berry fruit, with liquorice and minerals,’ said Mark Deamer.
Domaine Grand Roche Sauvignon De St Bris 2007
£7.46 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Citrus fruit, green melon and good zippy minerality. ‘This is really refreshing,’ said Will Buckland.
Bouchard Macon Lugny St Pierre 2007, Bouchard Pere & Fils
£7.80 @ John E Fells
Direct and ripe, but fresh, with a savoury core; some warmth with a soft finish. ‘Excellent value for money – this is really adaptable,’ said Stephen Nisbet.
Louis Jadot Clos De Loyse 2007, Chateau Des Jacques
£9.75 @ Hatch Mansfield
A nose of some complexity with butter, brioche and grapefruit. Decent length and good acidity.
Auxey Duresses 2006, Vallet Freres
£12.02 @ Boutinot Ltd
Plenty of toasty oak, with apricots and peaches. Perhaps needs to settle down a little, but the panel enjoyed its soft butteriness and the lush fruit behind.
Meursault ‘Les Rougeots’ 2005, Ropiteau
£18.00 @ Waverley TBS
Understated, with grilled hazelnuts and fresh minerality – tar and earth. Elegant and distinctive.
Meursault Le Limozin 2006, Rene Monnier
£21.94 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Impressive toast and oak nose, with a savoury Frazzles palate. Still quite tight, but generally felt to be delicious – and with further potential. The fact it needed more time meant it missed out on the Gold List.
Mercurey Rouge 2005, Domaine Du Meix-Foulot
£9.90 @ McKinley Vintners
Fresh cherry fruit with good acidity, a bit of bite on the palate and a dry finish. Well balanced. A fair bit of oak, but well integrated.
Meursault 2004, Ropiteau
£11.50 @ Waverley TBS
Quite a mature colour, and a more earthily developed Burgundian style than many in this flight. The cherries, leather and black pepper make this a great example of red Burgundy for the money.
Vosne-Romanee 2005, Domaine Du Clos Frantin, Albert Bichot
£26.00 @ Harrison Vintners
Sweet, mature, oaked and elegant, with good, pure fruit on the palate, making for a refreshing wine that builds in the mouth to a long finish. Still youthful, this is a classy wine that will go for many years yet.
We found a great white at entry level that really worked. But the improvement after that was limited until we got towards the top end. Will Buckland, Planet of the Grapes
Key to colours: Green = white wine ; Red = red wine