by Everett Hutt
February 5, 2009
I am a fan of many wines from all over the world, but from time to time, I need to return “home” to the wines I love most. My true love in wine, both white and red, remains Burgundy. Truth be told, I could drink it and no other wines for the rest of my life and be very content.
A trip to Burgundy last fall reaffirmed that love. I was traveling with a diverse group of friends from Canada, the UK and Estonia and our goal was to do a lot of tasting, drinking and eating. We succeeded in all categories, finding some real gems of restaurants and wine producers.
The highlight of the trip, however, was the wonderful wine we had at two restaurants. In both cases, the wine steward guided us to perfectly delicious Burgundies that matched seamlessly with the food and held up equally well on their own.
At Moulin de Martorey [in St. Rémy, +184.108.40.206.12.98], we drank three wines that showed the classic beauty of Burgundy. We started off with a 2005 St. Aubin 1er Cru “Les Frionnes” from Hubert Lamy. Tasting a tad over oaked at the start, this lovely white quickly softened into a fresh and light vanilla-flavored Chardonnay (and I mean this in the best sense of fresh vanilla). As an aperitif, it was excellent. Its price was a modest $38.
For our first course, we were recommended a 2003 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Demoiselles” from Michel Colin-Deléger et Fils. Pulignys are normally the most feminine of the Montrachet white Burgundies, but the heat wave in 2003 made this Puligny much more masculine. The first clue was the golden yellow color that one typically associates with Sauternes. Upon tasting, waves of honey and apricots washed over my palate and lingered for at least 30 seconds after swallowing. It is a gorgeous wine but one that will not age. Enjoy it — at a steep $203 — during what remains of its short glorious life.
After such a wonderful white, we were afraid that the red would be a letdown. But our sommelier dug deep into her cellar and came up with a wonderful contrast to the young Puligny. She opened a bottle of 1989 Vosne Romanée 1er Cru “Les Suchots” from Domaine Jean Grivot. At $240, it was not cheap, but there are few places other than top restaurants — or collectors’ homes – where you can drink old Burgundy. This gem tasted like crushed, slightly rotting red berries mixed with molding mushrooms and wet late-autumn leaves. There was even a hint of burnt leather. Not all my friends loved the wine, which I chalk up to old Burgundy being an acquired taste. Once you have it and can afford it though, it is a hard habit to break.
As good as the wine experience was at Moulin de Martorey, the wines we tasted at the simple L’Ouillette in Santenay [Place du Jet d’eau 21590 Santenay, +220.127.116.11.62.34] were more intriguing. We decided to have only red Santenay from the 2002 vintage. With its reputation for light, fruity Pinot Noirs that are easy-drinking and easy on the pocketbook, Santenay is not the most famous Burgundy appellation. All three bottles we had were between $40 and $50. 2002 was an excellent vintage that generally shows off the elegant subtle side of red Burgundies.
In order, we drank 2002 Santenay 1er Cru “Beauregard” from Roger Belland; 2002 Santenay 1er Cru “Les Gravières” 1er Cru from Domaine des Hautes Cornières; and 2002 Santenay 1er Cru “Maladière” from Domaine Prieur-Brunet.
All together, they neatly showed both the differences in terroirs within Santenay and the stylistic differences in wineries. The Beauregard was my favorite with its lovely and perfectly balanced odors of burnt cherries with pepper. The Maladière, more typical of Santenay, was a light and refreshing wine, lively and tasting of fresh raspberries and strawberries. The Gravières show how a good winemaker can work magic with Pinot Noir from just about any region of Burgundy. This was a rich and concentrated Pinot Noir that reminded me more of wines made of Cabernet Sauvignon. It needs to age for a long time still.
So I returned to Paris with a renewed love for Burgundy. Unfortunately, the depressingly lacking Burgundy selection in most Parisian restaurants, along with the steep markup, has driven me back to my passion for finding good value wines from other regions. But I know that in my heart, I will always be a Burgundy lover.
Credits: Hand drawn map of Côtes de Beaune by Mark Middlebrook from A Conversation about White Burgundy: White Wines of the Côte de Beaune.