We spent ten glorious days drinking the famous wines of this region.  A few quick, easy facts on Burgundy wines: the main levels in their classifications, in descending order of quality, are: Grand crus, Premier crus, village appellations, and finally regional appellations.  Located in the east-central part of France, there are five wine growing a

  • Chablis
  • Cote de Nuits
  • Cote de Baaune
  • Cote Chalonnaise
  • Maconnais

wine glasses

The dry reds are made from Pinot noir grapes and the white wines are from made Chardonnay grapes.  We did a private Grand crus day tour and got quite an education.  

This region in France is home to some of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world.  But The Wall Street Journal’s recent article “Burgundy Wines That Won’t Break the Bank” is a worthwhile read (http://on.wsj.com/1Xykhcxthat will help you find affordable wines with the same great taste.  

If you live, or visit, NYC you must frequent the “Burgundy Wine Company” at 143 West 26th Street (btw 6th & 7th Ave). Or just order on-line.  Very experienced, friendly, and helpful.  As their website will tell you “Our wines are hand selected for quality, typicity and taste. We don’t buy or offer wines based on ratings or reviews. Ratings don’t reflect the personality of a wine, and reviews don’t tell the whole story. We prefer to do our own tasting and make our own decisions based on that experience, together with our knowledge of the vintage, the vineyards and the producers. Our selections reflect our taste, our expertise and our passion. We want to share that with you.”  https://www.burgundywinecompany.com/

White Burgundy

Wine Celler in Burgundy

Puligny Montrachet

This tiny commune, in the Cote de Beaune region of Burgundy, is home to the best white Burgundies (producing 17 Premiers Crus and 5 Grand Crus).  The wine is a bright gold color with greenish highlights, becoming more intense with age. The bouquet brings together ripe grapes, marzipan, hazelnut, lemon-grass and green apple. Milky (think butter, hot croissant) and mineral aromas (flint) are commonplace, as is honey. This wine combines grace with a well-defined character and a remarkable concentration.    Some of my favorite vineyards are:

  • Louis Jadot
  • Olivier Leflaive
  • Louis Latour
  • Bouchard Pere & Fils
  • Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet
  • Carillon

Corton Charlemague

Corton-Charlemagne is a Grand Cru vineyard for white wine in Côte de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy.  It is located in the communes of Aloxe-Corton, Pernand-Vergelesses and Ladoix-Serrigny with Chardonnay being the only permitted grape variety.   Around 300,000 bottles of white wine are produced each year in the appellation.

Corton-Charlemagne is named after the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, who once owned the hill of Corton on which the vineyards now rest. The first mention of a Clos de Charlemagne dates to 1375, in a lease of the ‘Clos le Charlemagne’ by the Chapitre de Saint-Androche-de- Saulieu.  According to legend, the vineyards are dedicated to white grape varieties because the emperor’s wife preferred white wines as they did not stain his beard.   The AOC was created in 1937.

The vines are located on the higher ground of a hilltop that stretches between the Burgundian villages of Ladoix-Serrigny and Pernand-Vergelesses. The slopes planted with the most valuable vineyards face south-east on the hilltop, with the land gradually sloping downwards towards the major French highway Route 74.  The red wine appellation of Corton covers the lower part of the hill with the areas for Corton and Corton-Charlemagne partially overlapping.

Corton-Charlemagne achieves a perfect balance in the mouth, between its remarkable acidity and its rounded opulence, and demands refined and delicate dishes which possess real aromatic power.
The natural candidates would include foie gras, whose bitterness would be supported by the wine’s forceful minerality, as well as more conventional classics such as crustaceans (lobster, crawfish, crab) whose strong but delicate flesh harmonizes with the wine in a spectacular fashion. Poultry or veal in white sauces would also do the wine justice, as would blue cheeses.

Some of my favorite vineyards are:

  • Ponsot Corton
  • Louis Latour
  • Bonneau Du Martray
  • Bouchard Pere
  • Vincent Girardin

Chablis, A.C. Vieilles Bignes, Jean-Claude Bessin

Chablis’ saline minerality makes them a perfect partner to seafood and fish dishes. Pair with a mix ‘n match plate of the world’s finest oysters, broiled trout with a lemon-cream sauce or sautéed scallops.

This particular Chablis is a straw yellow color, with medium intensity, and your first smell fills your nose with flint, green apple and lemon.    With your first sip you taste a medium bodied, dry, medium acidity, with a decent finish, full of citrus fruits, green apple, and mineral.

Sourcing from all four corners of the Chablis appellation, Jean-Claude Bessin employs hand-harvesting and wild yeast fermentation of the fruit from his (and his wife’s) 12 hectares of 40-50 year old vines, followed by a 15-18 month elevage. Working previously as an architect, Bessin took over his father-in-law’s vineyards, steering them away from the co-op to estate bottling.

Meursault, Meix Chavaux, Franck Grux

Meursault in general is a full, fat and “creamy” wine – with orchard fruits, hazelnut, while allowing for the minerally characteristics to show through.  Meursault evolves well and can be put down for 2-3 years to experience the real magic.

This wine is fragrant with fresh fruits and white flowers.  It is delicious, with ripe fruit – a combination of sweet white peaches and pears, with a splash of juicy lime, with hints of minerality.  Meix Chavaux is a village vineyard, but one that is considered exceptional and therefore worthy of the singular recognition awarded a premier cru vineyard.   Meix Chavaux delivers the rich generosity of classic Meursault. 

Red Burgundy

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Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

We won’t be running out to buy this wine anytime soon, but we did stop by the vines during our tour and were shocked to see a very small vineyard that produces this highly prized wine (with prices to match).  But right beside it were vines owned by others that produced wine for a fraction of the price.  Go figure!

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti routinely appears on lists of the world’s most expensive wines.  Its best vintages command insanely high prices.  It’s prized pinot noir wines are made with grapes grown in historic Grand Cru vineyards (eight in all), the oldest of which has been cultivated since 1241.  According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s website, the combination of terroir, best-quality vines that are perfectly suited to their climate, humble dedication and meticulous attention to every detail of the winemaking process make their wines unique.  Wine lovers emphatically agree.  Expect to pay from $13,000 to upwards of $16,000 for a single bottle of 2005 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti.

Jean-Luc Joillot Pommard 1st Cru “Les Epenots” 2007

We happened on this vineyard as it was next to the parking lot we chose in Pommard.   And what a wonderful find.  All of Jean-Luc Pommard’s wines were wonderful, but “Les Epenots” is Jean-Luc’s most highly classified wine.  The wine store in town whispered that another winemaker told them he would give his right arm for vines in the Petits Epenots vineyard.  Jean-Luc is privileged to have these rows of Pinot Noir, and he does an exceptional job with this sought-after wine.  We contacted him after we returned from our vacation and working with a shipper had a case of this elegant wine shipped to us (quite reasonable at 45 Euros a bottle.

Tasting Notes: huge Pinot Noir, with great depth to the blueberry, cassis and black cherry fruit. Powerful structure, creamy center, a wine with great potential for the cellar.  

Beaune, Les Greves, 1er Cru, Daniel Largeot

This wonderful wine is a Beaune 1er Cru, produced with only Pinot Noir grapes.  The production is small, with only 210 cases per year using traditional fermentation of 15-20 days, followed by aging of 12 months in 40% new oak.  Daniel Largeot supports sustainable farming.  

General tasting notes: Beautiful red ruby color; on your nose, cherry and blackcurrant with some mint notes; and the taste is of good red fruits with excellent length and really elegant tannins.

Dominique Laurent

Dominique Laurent began his professional career as a pastry chef.  Thankfully for the world of wine, he abandoned this field in favor of winemaking.  Laurent does not grow his own grapes; instead, he purchases grapes each year from Burgundian old vine growers.  Laurent’s innovations include use of new oak barrels during the aging process; he has been known to move wine from one set of new barrels to another before aging is finished.  He even opened a barrel factory in order to obtain wine barrels made to his particular specifications.  A bit higher priced than my other picks, as you’ll pay $145 to $555 for a bottle of 2005 Dominique Laurent Charmes Chambertin Vieilles Vignes.

Chandon De Briailles – Savigny Les Beaune Lavieres 1er Cru 2014

A flirty, forward Savigny that is rich with black cherries, raspberries and a swish of sweet blues – laced with spice, licorice and a hint of game. Lovely flavor intensity, depth and length. Delicious now and will evolve over the next couple of years ($54)

Daniel Rion – Vosne Romanee A. C. 2013

Vosne prettiness with a hint of “plump”, offering a lovely glide of black cherries and wild raspberries with red highlights, floral nuances and spice. Lovely now, with evolving nuance and enticing length, but has the balance to deliver more excitement with a little time ($72)

Just love these wines!

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Wine Tour

Authentica – went on a private full-day Grand Crus Burgundy tour, and what a fun day it turned out to be. We had three tastings, two at vineyards, a third in a private vaulted wine cellar, and lunch at a family-run estate with wine pairing.  Our guide, Leonie (below with Chuck), was  superb, friendly and knowledgeable.  And Authentica helped us out when we wanted to ship home wine from a small vineyard (not part of their tour) where no one speak any English, and they didn’t have the facility or connections to ship wine. Nicolas, the founder of Authentica, was my translator, go between, and shipper.  The best service ever, would highly recommend them.

Authentica / Dijon-Beaune , 00 33 (0)6 87 01 43 78, www.authentica-tours.com

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