Burgundy’s Village wines can provide an affordable alternative to the often high-priced premier crus – if you only know which names to look for. STEPHEN BROOK assesses the 2001 and 2002 vintages, and recommends his top wines from each.
Burgundy village wines bear only the name of the village from which the wine comes, making instant recognition and appraisal difficult to casual observers. The category stands midway between premier cru and generic Burgundy in hierarchical terms. The wines can be good value, even if the vineyards themselves are far from the best in the village. After all, a simple Volnay still has to come from the vineyards of Volnay.
Some producers may bottle individual village sites separately if they consider a vineyard exceptional, such as Denis Mortet’s Au Velle and other Gevrey-Chambertin village bottlings. With rare exceptions, these are wines to be drunk relatively young, about five years after the vintage, although some sturdy Côte de Nuits can keep far longer.
This was a far more patchy vintage than 2002 after unwelcome rain in September. The best red wines tend to come from the Côte de Nuits, although there are good whites from all regions. Because of the unsettled weather and rot in some vineyards, careful grape selection was essential. The most conscientious producers therefore delivered the best results. Hail greatly reduced the crop in the Côte Chalonnaise and southern Côte de Beaune but overall, conditions were significantly worse in the former than the latter. As a general rule, the further north a village lies in the Côte d’Or, the more successful its wines in 2001. The wines can be drunk with pleasure from now until 2012, and the most structured wines will keep considerably longer.
Of all the white wine villages of the Côte de Beaune, Meursault probably fared best. The wines are showing an enviable purity and minerality, with little of the rich flabbiness that can affect Meursault in a super-ripe year.
Clos du Cromin 2001
Made from 65-year-old vines, this has a zesty lemony nose; it’s tight and concentrated with very fine acidity and length. Drink 2005–2012. £24.50; May
Flinty, peachy nose, lean on the palate, racy, concentrated and elegant with a fine edge. Exceptional for Villages wine. 2005–2012. £21.20; DDi
Les Grands Charrons 2001
Fresh citric nose, discreetly oaked. Fresh and very youthful, this has elegance and persistence rather than breadth and power. A lovely wine. £25; HHC, Mer
A big upfront Meursault with ample, rich, ripe buttery fruit, yet without heaviness. Forward and hedonistic. £18.99; HaM
Buttery nose with a dash of oak; rounded, plump, and almost sweet but has ample acidity behind it. DrA For details
Nuits is a large village, with the inevitable variations in style and quality. Some wines are a touch lean, but most have typical Nuits robustness and density. Should keep well.
Vieilles Vignes 2001
Fragrant raspberry aromas; fine purity and intensity on the palate. Delicate, refined, and charming. Not for long ageing. £25; M&V
This rich Nuits is typical of the Bertrand Ambroise style; big and bold with ample rich fruit, although it comes at the expense of finesse. Drink 2005–2012. £16; Mnt
A fairly rich, cherry-scented wine, medium-bodied with quite good acidity giving good length and a lean finish. MMD For details
Chambolle triumphed in 2001, with very consistent wines that show its hallmark elegance and seductiveness. But they don’t lack backbone and should age well.
With so much fruit, a seductive texture, and impeccable balance, it’s hard to imagine this is a mere Villages wine. Delicious and a star in 2001. 2006–2014. £22.37; DDi
Very ripe, concentrated, and spicy, with lively acidity on the finish. 2006–2014. £21.79; DDi
Behind the oak, ample rich, black cherry fruit; rich and supple yet with fine acidity and elegance. 2005–2012. £23.55; DDi
Drouhin excels with Chambolle, always finding the purity and perfume in its wine; not especially complex, but lean, piquant, delicate, and very elegant. DrA For details
A modern-style Chambolle, sleek in texture, concentrated, spicy, and almost exotic in its sweetness of fruit. 2005–2012. £22.45; BBR
Gevrey benefited from its northerly location, and produced exceptional wines in this vintage – from fleshy and opulent to more dense and structured. Wines from old-vine sites are hard to distinguish in quality from premiers crus.
Coeur du Roy 2001
Wonderfully complex old-vine wine, oozing black fruits and liquorice. Ripe, firm tannins on the finish. 2006–2016. £46.43; ABt
En Champs 2001
Remarkably dense wine from centenarian vines: rich, supple, powerful, spicy, persistent. 2007–2015. £26.25; HoR
En Derée 2001
Spicy, chocolatey nose, dried fruit aromas; fresh and bright on the palate, invigorating on the attack. 2006–2015. £32; J&B
Clos Tamisot 2001
Old-vine Gevrey that is oaky, vibrant and concentrated; serious wine that needs time to open up. 2006–2012. £26.95; Loe
Sturdy, very typical of Gevrey, with black fruits on the nose; robust and concentrated. 2005–2012. £20.95; L&S
2002 was a uniformly good, even outstanding, vintage throughout the Burgundy region, with quality at roughly the same level as 1999. Such consistency means very good wines can be found in villages away from the heartland of the Côte d’Or. Bargains can be found in the Côte Chalonnaise and Chablis, while stupendous, classic wines can be found in the Côte d’Or’s more prestigious villages. These wines are beautifully balanced and attractive from the outset. To be enjoyed young, or kept for 10 years.
In cool years, these Côte Chalonnaise wines can be rather tough and rustic. In 2002, grapes ripened perfectly, so even a modest village such as Rully produced some delicious wines at bargain prices.
Chateau de Rully
Chateau de Rully red 2002
Stern nose, cherries; lush with solid fruit and ripe tannins, will benefit from brief cellaring. Drink 2005–2008. RBa For details
Rully white 2002
Lean, spicy aromas; on the palate rich, firm, juicy, plump, with modest acidity and reasonable length. £10.49; ChR
Rully Meix Guillaume red 2002
Strawberry-scented, medium-bodied, light tannin; fair acidity and length. £10.49; EnW
The 2002 Meursaults are lush, hedonistic and consistent in quality; they’ll give much pleasure over the next five years.
From one of Burgundy’s white wine masters: nutty, oaky, full-bodied, it has the grip to carry into the next decade. 2005–2012. £33; J&B
Vigorous and oaky on the nose, with a distinct citric minerality on the palate; rich and full-bodied. £19.50; Mnt
Refreshing lime aromas and flavours, this is a taut, forceful wine; good concentration and length. 2005–2012. £25.85; M&V
Tête de Murger 2002
A blend of two Villages sites: rich, supple, and a touch broad, with mineral tones and a spicy finish. 2005–2010. £38.68; Loe
Grands Charrons 2002
There’s white pepper and spice on the nose; on the palate it’s plump and rounded, already drinking well. £16.83; Mnt, M&V
ChAteau de Meursault
Meursault du Château 2002
A blend from three vineyards, this is elegant and spicy on the nose, rich and plump on the palate, with fair acidity. £19.99; Sai, Maj
Vosne can be the epitome of great red Burgundy, and the 2002s are splendid. Styles vary considerably, and most of the wines have a firm, tannic backbone. These Villages wines are mostly worth cellaring for a few years. But they are expensive.
Discreet and elegant, yet finely concentrated. Very long finish. 2007–2020. £23.50; HoR
A fine Vosne: violets on the nose, lush fruit on the palate, with concentration and a long spicy finish. 2007–2020. £22; HoR
Intense raspberry aromas; unites fleshiness and charm with good tannic underpinning and length. 2006–2014. £20.50; Loe
Combe Brulée 2002
Medium-bodied, ripe, sleek; elegance and length more than power. 2005–2012. £20; HoR
Fruit pastilles on the nose, and a pert charm on the palate. Should fill out with time. 2005–2012. £20.50; M&V
Vicomte Ligier Belair
Clos du Château 2002
A minty nose, with a hint of glacé cherries; lean and minty on the palate; has elegance and length. 2006–2012. £32; J&B
The ripe, voluptuous character of the 2002 vintage suits Chambolle perfectly. The wines are spicy and opulent, enjoyable young but certainly structured for a long life.
J C Boisset
Chambolle-Musigny 2002 HHHH
Sweet raspberry aromas, with ample oak and plenty of fruit; fine acidity, bright and stylish. 2006–2012. £25.95; Lib
Sweet, elegant nose, with much charm; lush and vigorous on the palate, a robust core of acidity. 2005–2012. £26; DDi
Nose of good cherry fruit, rich, concentrated, spicy palate. Vigour and delicacy too. £18; Mnt
Light floral nose; delicate, a touch candied, but sleek and enjoyable. DrA For details
Gevrey was the star village in 2001, and the 2002s are as good, if not even better. These are rich, powerful wines built for long ageing, though their ripeness and succulence will make most enjoyable when fairly young.
n Gevrey-Chambertin 2002
Muted raspberry aromas; plump, supple, packed with zesty fruit and an oaky bite on the finish. £19.99; HaM
Aux Echezeaux 2002
Sweet, oaky nose; stylish, pure, not extracted though quite tannic, peppery finish. 2006–2012. £18; ABt, HoR
Deceptively light in its youth, gentle raspberry aromas, medium-bodied, gentle and plump on the palate. £300; HoR, J&B, L&W, Loe (case of 12)
Bouchard Pere et Fils
Intense, charming nose of raspberry and violets; fresh and delicious, enjoy young for its primary fruit. Fel For details
Le Carougeot 2002
Delicate, spicy, oaky nose; quite lush, lacks some stuffing and flesh but balanced and long. £22.95; CTW, L&W
Stephen Brook is a contributing editor to Decanter. For UK stockist codes and contact details, see page 200.
Written by Stephen Brook, November 2004