France: Red Burgundy
With a general lack of great available vintages to call on, this was a category that polarised the opinions of the tasters
Red Burgundies rarely do as well as the whites in the SWAs, with their contribution to the list usually consisting of a well-priced Beaujolais and one (or in exceptional years, two) trade-up bottle of something fancy.
With Beaujolais now separated off into a category of its own (and wowing everyone who tried it), there was a danger that the region’s red contribution might turn into nothing more than a search for a couple of bottles of something posh and expensive.
In the early rounds, though, there were more fundamental problems. Specifically, with the majority of the wines from the 2007 vintage, this was not a flight for those who liked big, ripe fruit.
Some (predominantly French) sommeliers rhapsodised about what they were seeing; others looked like they’d spent half an hour having root canal surgery and complained about stalkiness. Is one man’s minerality another man’s greenness, I wonder? Either way, there was a massive spread of opinions: a bit like playing ‘snog, marry, avoid’ with wine samples.
Firmly in the ‘marry’ camp was Mikaël Hannequin, who looked as though he’d found vinous El Dorado. ‘They were like a line-up of beautiful women,’ he swooned. ‘Elegance, finesse, delicacy, sweetness, so pure… fantastic.’
Garry Clark of the Chester Grosvenor, meanwhile, was more of an ‘avoid’ kind of man. ‘They weren’t awful as such, they just weren’t exciting. There was no sexiness. Maybe it’s the 2007 vintage.’
Vintage or not, the reaction of the sommeliers to the reds largely depended on how
they felt about having to shift highly expensive bottles of wine. Though there was one ‘entry-level’ wine under a tenner (the impressive Boisset), for the most part this was a tasting that didn’t really get going until close to the £20 mark.
‘For that price point you need something to catch your imagination,’ said Vivat Bacchus’s Laura Ward, in a tone of voice that suggested she wasn’t sure she’d found it. Certainly, there were few wines where the quality of the wine matched the price on the bottle.
Happily, there was sufficient positivity for the tasting teams to find a reasonable number of wines across the price spectrum, with the Boisset seen as something of a bargain. ‘For the price it’s definitely a real find,’ said Roberto Loppi.
Since it was a 2009, it also had fruit and was drinking well now, which was not always the case further up the price scale, the premier cru Faiveley proving to be a happy exception.
“We are a lot more sensitive about price than some restaurants. Even Burgundy won’t sell over a certain price point. ” Robin Felstead, Ignite Group
Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursulines Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009, Burgundy, France
£10.08 @ Liberty Wines
A combination of rustic terroir and elegant structure at a great price proved highly seductive for our judges. Earthy aromas mix with floral and fruit notes, before jammy cherries, plums and liquorice take over on the fresh, well-balanced palate. ‘Great body,’ said Mikaël Hannequin. ‘Pinot below £10 means a winner.’
Domaine Faiveley Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Damodes 2007, Burgundy, France
£26.50 @ Maisons Marques et Domaines
Earthy and rusty on the nose, the palate is full of raspberries and loganberries, with a fine texture of minerality. ‘Very beguiling,’ said impressed Team Leader Angela Reddin. ‘Delicious. Is there a Gevrey in the house?’ asked Mikaël Hannequin. ‘Very moreish.’
Domaine Faiveley Mercurey La Framboisiere 2007, Burgundy, France
£13 @ Maisons Marques et Domaines
With light aromas of red fruits, violets and the merest hint of toasted sawdust, this is a modern, elegant wine. There are soft red fruits on the palate, with some sweetness upfront, medium tannins and a bright finish. ‘Seductive and sexy,’ said Mikaël Hannequin.
Jean-Claude Boisset Santenay 2009, Burgundy, France
£14.47 @ Liberty Wines
Medium garnet in colour, there’s black cherry fruit and silky tannins alongside floral aromas
and black violets in this savoury style of Burgundy. ‘Fruity, austere, full-bodied and persistent,’ said Roberto Loppi. May need time.
Louis Jadot Beaune Premier Cru 2004, Burgundy, France
£17.23 @ Hatch Mansfield
A bit of age gives extra complexity and character, with tobacco coming though with earthy, eucalyptus notes. ‘Great balance of tannins and acidity,’ said Irina Atanasova, Les Deux Salons. ‘Long finish.’
Domaine Louis Latour Aloxe Corton 2007, Burgundy, France
£17.78 @ Louis Latour Agencies
Beginning quite shy on the nose, with savoury, reserved fruit, the textured palate is dominated by red fruit and has a long finish.
Domaine Dufouleur Nuits-St-Georges aux St-Juliens 2007, Burgundy, France
£21.64 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Vibrant and fruit-driven, check out the smoky, tarry cherries and raspberries. ‘There are mushroom notes, nice tannins, peppery hints, clear acidity and a medium finish,’ said Laura Ward.
Albert Morot Beaune Premier Cru Bressandes 2007, Burgundy, France
£23.23 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Long-lasting red cherries mingle with savoury notes in this rich red, with undertones of Christmas cake, cherries, chocolate and mint on the nose, plus florality and violets on the finish.
Roux Pere et Fils Chambolle-Musigny 2007, Burgundy, France
£23.97 @ Bibendum
Ripe, high-toned cherry notes on the nose lead through to more of the same on the palate,
with oak spice and medium-soft tannins, plus a pleasing seam of raspberry acidity. Still
young, the length is good.
“Below £10 it’s just so hard to find red Burgundy that’s any good – it’s all about finesse and seduction. ” Mikaël Hannequin, Searcys