A look at some reasonably-priced 2003 Burgundies.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers September 30, 2007
France’s Burgundy region — comprised of the Chablis, Cote ’Or, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Beaujolais districts — has 400 types of soil and hundreds of small vineyards, and is subject to unpredictable weather. Only a small amount of land along the slopes is used to grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Pinot Blanc and Aligote.
The vineyards are classified in a hierarchy with the finest ‘‘Grand Cru,” accounting for only one percent of the total Burgundy production. The next best sites produce the ‘‘Premier Cru,” followed by ‘‘Village” wines that are made from vineyards in lower quality locations, while the ‘‘Borgougne” are blends of grapes from anywhere within Burgundy. The Grand Crus are aged a minimum of five to seven years, while the Premier Crus are aged three to five years.
The most venerated wines come from the small and narrow Cote d’Or, which is further divided into the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune. The former produces almost entirely red wine from Pinot Noir and contains all but one of the red wine Grand Cru vineyards. Excluding Chablis, which has its own stylistically different Grand Cru vineyards, the latter is the location of all but one of the white wine Grand Crus. The vineyard yields are low, which contributes to their quality as well as their often exorbitant prices.
Some wine growers produce their own wines, frequently less than 100 cases each year. More commonly, the small vineyard owners sell their grapes to one of the more than 100 Burgundy ‘‘negociants” who produce the wines, frequently from multiple appellations, which adds to the confusion. Combined with the French inheritance laws that can break up an estate’s holdings among heirs with similar names (who may produce wines of dissimilar quality), and their high price, it is no wonder that Burgundy is intimidating.
A trusted wine merchant can help navigate this territory. Another option is to look for quality producers of Premier Cru and Village wines from throughout Burgundy in selected vintages. Because the 2005 Burgundies have received enthusiastic praise, merchants are making room by discounting the 2003 and 2004 bottles on their shelves. Many 2003 Burgundies are currently drinking beautifully. The following wines were released at about $60 or lower, but should cost less now.
Domaine Joseph Drouhin is one of Burgundy’s most consistent producers. Two very good examples are the lush Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres 2003 along with the lovely Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 2003.
The Vincent Girardin Pommard Les Vignots 2003 is a model of a ‘‘big burgundy,” with deep red fruit flavors and a nice finish, while the Vincent Girardin Santenay Les Gravieres 2003 is a bit softer with cherry and red berry notes. The Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Callerets 2003 is different in style from the Drouhin with sleek mineral and citrus flavors.
The Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands 2003 is another burly wine with deep black cherry and cassis flavors. The Faiveley Nuits-St.-George 2003 has more noticeable minerality along with anise and black fruit notes. The Premier Cru Faiveley Beaune Clos de l’Ecu 2003 has perfume aromas and well-structured red fruit flavors.
Among the large portfolio of Burgundies produced by Louis Jadot are a number of very good wines priced less than $30 upon release. These include the Premier Cru Louis Jadot Beaune 2003, the Louis Jadot Cote de Beaune-Village 2003 and the Louis Jadot Fixin 2003. Worth the additional cost is the full-bodied blueberry, black cherry and chocolate flavored Louis Jadot Chambolle-Musigny 2003.
Other producers to seek out include Mommessin, Boisset, Champy, Bertrand Ambroise, Patrice Rion, Olivier Leflaive and Louis Latour.