Maker Arnaud Mortet, of Denis Mortet. Photographed by Christophe Goussard.
LONDON - Emerging, never the worse for wear of course, from two weeks of tasting young Burgundy, I feel as if I picked the grapes myself. In January, many of the region’s best wine producers descend on London to show the vintage that, for the most part, they are about to put into bottle. They seem to enjoy themselves, and are certainly riding a wave at the moment, although one had a complaint about London – he loves the restaurants but bemoans the relative absence of French sommeliers as they used to guide him round the menu! I refrained from telling him that he should polish up his Polish and Latvian as now some of the most talented sommeliers working in Britain have never even been to France.
The 2012 vintage was not easy in Burgundy, with mildew, hail and sunburn but, happily, no rot. The grapes looked pretty good at harvest time, but there were too few of them. As 2013, 2011 and 2010 were also short crops, we have a situation where many domains have produced the equivalent of two ‘normal’ vintages over four years. As they say, ‘do the math’ and put aside the savings.
The sale of Finest and Rarest Wines on March 8 in New York features over 1,900 bottles of rare Burgundy direct from the cellars of Joseph Drouhin.
For those hunting for relative bargains, look to the Mâconnais for delicious whites and the Côte Chalonnaise for both red and white. Take out a mortgage for the Côte d’Or and choose carefully. There were some very nice reds, while others might ‘dry out’ over time through lack of flesh. Arnaud Mortet of one of the most successful domains, Denis Mortet, told me that he had used less new wood and less extraction in 2012 and the result was an incredibly beautiful range of wines. Bruno Clair, based in Marsannay but with great vineyards on both Côtes, was as successful as ever, with wonderful, true wines, and a fellow vigneron from Marsannay, Sylvain Pataille, did very well indeed. Rousseau was scented bliss, while Fourrier and Faiveley were both fine. You will be on the right track with Mugneret-Gibourg, Frédéric Mugnier and Domaine des Lambrays.
View of the Burgundy countryside.
Both red and whites from Drouhin were excellent, which set the juices running for the historic direct-from-the-cellars sale on 8 March in New York. And Nicolas Rossignol of Domaine Rossignol-Trapet made delicious biodynamic wines, so pure and engaging. There is just so little of Sylvain Cathiard’s tempting wines, but you might have a touch more luck with those from Robert Chevillon and Follin-Arbelet. On the white front, you can’t go wrong with Jean-Noël Gagnard and Patrick Javillier, while Chablis from Billaud-Simon and Montagny from Stéphane Aladame pay dividends in both quality and value.
So, exercise discretion and telephone your bank manager. Oh, and pray for a prolific harvest in 2014.