No need to splash out on grand or premier cru Burgundy – 2005 Burgundy value wine is fantastic right down to village level. Great news for those of more modest means, say Joanna Simon (reds) & Anthony Rose (whites).
Red village Burgundy Value Wines
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the extraordinary 2005 vintage for red Burgundy value wines is how comprehensively successful it was. From basic Bourgogne through village wines to premiers and grands crus throughout the region, the grapes were unusually healthy, ripe, concentrated in flavour and beautifully balanced by acidity. They also expressed their origins – their terroir – clearly, making the village wines a particularly attractive proposition. Particularly when you look at the price of Burgundy value wines from some of the more rarefied domaines.
This is not to say that there were no disappointments, but they were relatively few and mostly man-made – for example, heavy-handed oak or excess tannin extraction (which doubtless the producers would say was a stylistic, not a qualitative, criticism). As always, then, knowing your producer is essential, but it is easier than usual to buy well.
What there isn’t, happily, in 2005 is the usual roll call of nature’s victims. There is not much between the regions, but overall the Côte de Nuits has the edge over the Côte de Beaune Burgundy value reds, perhaps because it rained in the Nuits at the right moment in early September. The rains were then succeeded by a long, dry, sunny spell up to and including the harvest. Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin have done well at village level, but that may be more a reflection of the quality of their growers. The Côte de Beaune missed out on some of the refreshing September rains, leaving some wines just a little less juicy, generous and silky than the best of the vintage.
In terms of ageing, with such a combination of ripeness, flavour, acid and tannin structure, this is a year for the cellar. But many Burgundy value wines also promise to be enjoyable soon after shipping and you shouldn’t leave any to the end of their drinking bracket without trying them if your cellar conditions are less than perfect.
Best Burgundy value red buys:
Domaine Bruno Clair, Vosne-Romanée Les Champs Perdrix HHHH
Alluringly fresh, bright nose with cherry notes, overlaying a good tannic structure and balancing acidity. 2011–17. £24.58; J&B
Domaine Bruno Clavelier, Vosne-Romanée La Combe Brulée HHHH
Fruit slightly subdued by oak on the nose, but the palate is concentrated, savoury and long, with the evident fruit underpinned by a balance of acid and tannin. 2010–17. £21.67; HoR
Domaine de la Vougeraie, Gevrey-Chambertin Les Evocelles HHHH
Deep colour; perfumed violety nose with a fair amount of oak still showing. Chunky, but fresh fruit on the palate. Impressive rather than seductive at this stage, but the elements are all there for a useful long life. 2010–17. £17.50; BBR
Domaine des Lambrays, Morey-St-Denis HHHH
Aromatic cherry nose with coffee-oak notes. The cherry fruit carries through to the palate and sinks into a creamy rich texture. 2009–16. £21; BBR, Gdh, HHC, L&W
Domaine Follin-Arbelet, Aloxe-Corton HHHH
Scented cherry nose. Cherries on the palate and a savoury mineral quality. Convincingly structured, but not a muscular style. 2009–15. £15.83; J&B
Domaine Fourrier, Gevrey-Chambertin HHHH
Concentrated and lively with cherry and raspberry fruit which follows through from nose to palate. Clean, structured, fine-boned. 2009–17. £16; HoR
Domaine Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny HHHH
Deep colour. Beautifully scented on the nose with cherry-like fruit. Silky textured with a firm and convincing structure. Good length. 2009–16. £22.92; BBR, Bib, Gdh, J&B, L&W
Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée HHHH
Deep, powerful nose with cherry-like fruit; savoury, concentrated palate with ripe tannins and good length. 2010–17.
£20; BBR, Bib, Gdh, HoR, L&W
Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg, Vosne-Romanée HHHH
Very perfumed – almost floral with a hint of eastern spice. Lovely fruit clarity in the mouth; elegant and long with fine acidity. 2010–16. £19; HHC, HoR, L&S, L&W
Domaine Robert Arnoux, Nuits St-Georges HHHH
Perfumed, violety, floral nose – very enticing. Exuberant, yet very pure, fine fruit on the palate and a satin-smooth texture. 2009–15. £20.83; HoR, L&W
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanée HHHH
Seductive, vibrant, sweet fruit aromas. Dense and mouthfilling with a silky, oak-smoothed texture, fine tannins and acidity. Long. 2009–16. £27.50; BBR, J&B, L&W, Loe
Dujac Fils et Père, Gevrey-Chambertin HHHH
A nose of exotic spices and sandalwood and seductive fruit purity. Supple, round medium-bodied palate, with focused fruit and good balance. One to savour relatively young. 2008–12. £17.50; BBR, Loe
Dujac Fils et Père, Morey-St-Denis HHHH
Bright, full, sweet red fruits on the nose. Pure, sweet fruit on the palate, together with appetising savoury notes; fuller and more structured than Dujac Fils et Père’s Gevrey (above). 2008–13. £18.50; BBR, Loe
Domaine de Courcel, Pommard, Vaumuriens HHH
Sweet, vibrant black cherry fruit on the nose and palate, together with oak. Big and mouthfilling, but with a promising, stylish finish. 2009–16.
£20.83; Gns, HoR, L&S, Loe
Domaine François & Pierre Labet, Beaune, Clos du Dessus des Marconnets HHH
Sweet fruit on the nose with a suggestion of wild herbs/garrigue. Both delicacy and a richness to the fruit on the palate. 2008–14. £14.58; C&B
Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat, Chambolle-Musigny HHH
Muted nose, but lively, compact raspberry fruit on the palate, good balance and a smooth, clean finish. 2009–15. £20; Bib, Gdh, HoR
Domaine Matrot, Meursault Rouge HHH
Gentle rose and red fruit aromas. Fresh, lively, pristine fruit on the palate, with soft, sandy tannins. 2008–12. £13.33; C&B
Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits St-Georges, Vieilles Vignes HHH
Chunky, ripe nose, although (in the case of this sample) lacking a bit of definition. Solid and quite muscular, but with everything in balance. If the sample had been in better condition, I have no doubt that this would have been a four-star wine. 2011–17. £18.75; Gns, J&B
Domaine Vincent Dancer, Pommard Perrières HHH
Vivid, intense red fruit aromas. Crunchy, young, red plum fruit on the palate. Plenty of substance, but elegance and polish, too. 2008–12. £14.58; J&B
Géantet-Pansiot, Vieilles Vignes, Gevrey-Chambertin HHH
Lifted wild-strawberry nose. Seductive ripe fruit and a savoury element on the palate. Quite firm and weighty. 2009–16. (This domaine’s Gevrey-Chambertin En Champs is a step up – an easy four stars – but a step up in price too at £25.) £18.33; DDi, HoR
White village Burgundy
That 2005 was perceived to have been an extraordinary vintage for red Burgundy should not obscure the fact that there were some excellent whites made too. In almost all regions, from Mâcon in southernmost Burgundy to Chablis at its northern tip, reduced yields were the key to good concentration and acidity levels.
After a cool winter, variable flowering and poor fruit set led to a potential crop reduction, which was no bad thing from a quality point of view. July was warm, August cooler, with drought threatening, but healthy grapes were harvested under good conditions after a drying north wind followed light, early September rains.
The overall result was a good number of opulent Burgundy value whites with fresh acidity, though a question mark hangs over parts of the Côte de Beaune that, in some cases, lack a degree of definition, in particular Chassagne-Montrachet, where hail also caused considerable damage.
Overall, in Haynes Hanson & Clark’s view, ‘2005 was a very good vintage for Burgundy value whites, with fruit intensity, richness of natural alcohol and acidity in fine balance’. Since it’s so much harder to find good whites with ageing potential than reds, 2005 village-level white Burgundy should be taken seriously by anyone looking for a stylish house dry white for drinking over the next two to five years.
A caveat emptor though. According to Burgundy buyer extraordinaire Roy Richards, as white Burgundy has not done the soul-searching that its red counterparts have, it hasn’t maintained the same rate of progress. Question marks have been raised about white Burgundy’s ability to age, with doubts over the 1996, 1997 and 1998 vintages and even some questions as to whether the much-vaunted 2002s will stay the course. In Richards’ view, it’s in part down to a refusal to recognise that cork shrinkage appears to be causing problems of random oxidation. The view was reiterated in Decanter (April 2007) by Clive Coates MW.
Best Burgundy value white buys:
Domaine Cordier, Pouilly Fuissé Les Vignes Blanches HHHH
Aroma, fresh stone fruit flavours with excellent concentration and intensity sum up why this Côte Chalonnaise white is worth buying for the short to medium term. £9.08 (in bond); Loe
Paul Pernot, Puligny-Montrachet HHHH
Aroma, character, and intensity of flavour combine in a seamless dry white that will drink early but should develop extra leesy complexity over five years. £14.83 (ib); HoR
Domaine Marc Morey, Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc HHHH
A Chassagne success in this vintage, with juicy, opulent expression of Chardonnay with lees-stirred richness adding to the intensity of flavour. £186.50 (ib); HHC
Billaud-Simon, Chablis HHH
A fine-tuned Chablis, whose creamy Chardonnay flavours are underscored by the minerally quality of the terroir and firm, fresh acidity. £7 (duty paid); CTW
Franck Grux, Bourgogne Blanc Les Grandes Coutures HHH
This (almost certainly) declassified Meursault is unsurprisingly full of leesy intensity, character and freshness, a poor man’s Meursault that’s something of a steal at the price. £9.44 (dp); HHC
Jean-Michel Gaunoux, Meursault HHHH
This is classic Meursault with the buttery richness of Chardonnay tempered by oatmealy batonnage characters and underscored by fresh, savoury minerality and subtly crafted oak. £13.67 (ib); HoR
Joseph Drouhin, Rully Premier Cru HHH
A polished touch of oak adds class to the richness and flavour of this classic Chardonnay in a well-made white Burgundy from the Rully appellation in the Côte Chalonnaise. £9.99; Wai
Saumaize-Michelin, Pouilly Fuissé Les Courtelongs HHH
A seductively opulent, concentrated southern Burgundian Chardonnay whose rich, full flavour and fresh acidity make for a stylish, balanced white. £11.58 (dp); CTW
Saumaize-Michelin, Pouilly Fuissé Les Ronchevats HHH
Enticingly seductive aromas lead to a peachy fruit richness whose flavours are neatly cut by good balancing fresh acidity. £11.25 (dp); CTW
Vincent Dureuil-Janthial, Rully Maizières HHH
Classy, complex and full flavoured, this is a winning white Burgundy at around the £10 mark to satisfy the need for some delicious drinking in anticipation of the premiers crus. £9.08 (ib); Loe
William Fèvre, Chablis HHH
This may look expensive for a straight village Chablis, but it’s worth every penny for its intense, concentrated fruit richness and lively pineappley, balancing acidity.
£10.99; Hnt, Par, Tsc, WSh
For UK stockists, see p146.
Written by Joanna Simon and Anthony Rose