Book review: The Great Domaines of Burgundy

Great Domaines of Burgundy

It's a sad reflection on British wine writing that almost all of the best books on Burgundy, except Clive Coates MW's magnum opus, have been written not by wine writers but by members of the trade.

In the US, dispassionate writers such as Matt Kramer and Allen Meadows have for years been unravelling the mysteries of Burgundy. That said, British merchants who are Burgundy devotees know their subject very well, and Charles Taylor MW, who has substantially revised this book, is no exception. The choice of domaines profiled is judicious, and very few major properties have been omitted. The book also contains useful sections on soils, the use of oak, vintages, and buying Burgundy.

This is a reference book, and follows a format. Read cover to cover, it could become monotonous. Indeed, the writing does lack some light and shade, and is a bit formulaic, with each section ending on a paean of praise for the domaine profiled; perhaps inevitable in a book of this nature.

Taylor is well informed and mentions some controversial issues, but rarely takes a stand; he refers to Louis Latour's routine use of flash pasteurisation for its reds, but only implies that it may not be a good idea. Referring to the widespread problem of premature oxidation in many whites of the late 1990s, he writes: ‘Much discussed, the technical reasons are becoming clear', - but doesn't explain. He goes on: ‘Be aware of the problem and make up your own mind on cellaring!' This won't do. Taylor knows more than he is letting on.

The profiles are essentially uncritical, as only domaines rated highly by Norman and Taylor are featured. But my quibbles are minor. The book is authoritative, handsomely produced and makes an indispensable addition to any Burgundy lover's bookshelf.

The Great Domaines of Burgundy is published by Kyle Cathie Publishing

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