Burgundy Balloon – La Cote Conundrum
Posted on February 06 2023
It has long been espoused by many that the great wines of Burgundy are inflating like a giant balloon. However, the heat of each passing 'en primeur' doesn’t go to feed bloated Burgundians as critics might dare to imagine. Instead, the rising prices are swallowed in a combination of hazardous climatic events, lower yields and increasing costs of barrels, glass bottles and equipment. For some of the most limited bottlings of the finest Cote d’Or, their accountants would say, on paper, it is almost not worth producing the wines at all!
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Where it is generally accepted that minuscule crops of Grand Cru and Premier Cru (1er Cru) wines command the highest prices of the Cote d’Or, I can assure you, pockets of value still exist in the folds of the great Burgundian balloon.
A heavy argument can be filed against Burgundy in favour of haunting doppelgangers from elsewhere. South Africa’s Elgin & the Hemel-en-Aarde regions spring to mind and, being a Europhile as I am, I simply must mention the excellent Pinot Noir from Baden and Franken in Germany. Structured, elegant and powerful Pinots with gusto and depth. But what alternative value can be found on the Golden Slopes?
Standard villages level and A.O.C. whites and reds such as Nuits-Saint-Georges and Cote d’Or Bourgogne are trending now at a higher demand. However, with more and more frequent freaky weather events happening over the past decade, producers have made provisions by dramatically increasing quality of their “entry-level” wines.
Value, as I often proclaim, is relative and based on personal perception. Here in Burgundy, “value” can often be a skewed concept.
The Cote Conundrum
With that buzzword firmly in mind, I have plundered the archives and the cellars here at The Good Wine Shop to highlight the over-performing standouts to ward off those winter blues or to simply start the year in style!
This excellent organic Chardonnay hails from just 1 hectare of 70-year-old vines in this under-the-radar appellation. Olivier Giroux vinifies 100% of the wine in 2 to 8-year-old 500-litre oak barrels for 12 months. This deft use of oak lends a refined toasted quality to the wine, supported by ripe citrus, blanched almonds and a clear streak of fresh saline minerality.
Hoffmann-Jayer are uniquely situated at the point where the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits becomes the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune in Magny-les-Villers. The domaine predominantly makes reds but also produces this fine blend of 70% Chardonnay & 30% Pinot Blanc from 1.01 hectares of 55-year-old average vine age. A combination of new oak and sandstone vats produces an opulent palate of roasted almonds, toast and cream with a generous ripe apricot profile supported by the clean lemony freshness from the Pinot Blanc. At just 4,000 bottles produced, this wine offers great value for the curious collector.
Located in the eastern part of the Cote de Nuits in the “blink-and-you-miss-it” idyllic vineyards of Marsannay. Since 1972, the Audoin family have been creating wines with a sense of place. In recent years, son Cyril has taken the domaine to new heights after the sterling efforts of Charles to drive the appellation into creation in 1987: firstly, certified organic as of the 2018 vintage; secondly, these wines offer complexity in youth and sublime joy in age. This is one wine to never overlook.
Ladoix is an appellation fast becoming a very fashionable location for high-quality wine. This is a wine of great depth and elegance, rather befitting its red neighbour on the grand hill of Corton. Except this wine behaves more like Chassagne-Montrachet in style. Subtle use of oak allows a greater integration with ripe stone and orchard fruits, all braced by that classic limestone minerality and a poised power. This is very much an “insider” wine.
The Mondelot is a classic concentrated southerly expression of Pinot Noir. Vineyards are situated in the lesser-known area of Cotes du Couchois between Beaune and the Chalonnaise. This wine offers exceptional value and is one which punches well above its humble generic appellation status: leading with juicy ripe redcurrants, plum and pomegranate slipping into a sensuous melee of wild mushroom and earthy characters toward its supple and long finish.
Amelie Berthaut filters seven generations of vine-growing knowledge to produce this rustic velvety Pinot from 0.45 hectares in northerly plots towards Fixin. Nuanced aromas of toasted oak from 12 months of ageing add complexity to an underlying crisp minerality, subtle spice, raspberry and redcurrant profile.
Maranges is another under-the-radar appellation fast gaining an excellent reputation. This Premier Cru is sourced from vines aged between 35-50 years old and is vinified in traditional Burgundian pieces (228-litre French oak barrels, as opposed to the classic and most popular French oak size of Bordelais 225 litres) for 10-12 months, with 20% new wood. It is a wine of finesse and integrated power. Ripe, rounded tannins supporting fresh red fruits and classic Cotes de Beaune weight.
Coillot cultivate the 20 to 65-year-old vines on the rolling hills of Gevrey-Chambertin as a fully sustainable organic operation. The hands-off approach continues into the winery with spontaneous fermentation leading to a gentle maturation over 18 months in new and old oak. This is a wonderfully complex example despite the coolness of the vintage. Refined and elegant style with herbaceous hints of wild thyme, green olive and notes of sweet spice complimenting grippy edges of earth, leather and charcuterie alongside well-integrated wild strawberry and mulberry.
Classic, rustic yet accessible style of Pommard which is known locally as the “diamond-in-the-rough” due to its approachability in youth and potential to age gracefully. This bold wine is now beginning to display some developed forest-floor/wild mushrooms and exotic spices, all sitting among wild hedgerow blackberries, damsons and tangible tannins.
Robert is new to our team and brings with him ten years of experience in the wine trade and nearly twenty years in the wider drinks business.
He has penned numerous articles in the public domain for the likes of The Wine Merchant Magazine, The Buyer, Meininger’s Wine Business International and Jancis Robinson.