For the longest time, I saw Burgundy as forbidden fruit. I would delve into a premier cru here or an upper-level village wine there. From time to time, a good friend would share something truly special, and I would swoon. As a lover of all things wine, its history, and with the inclination to learn about how each individual terroir creates such unique expressions, Burgundy was always a source of study. However, to study such a vast topic without the practical experience of tasting broadly only makes such a thing more trivial. And so, like many others out there, Burgundy was somewhat untouchable—until the summer of 2016.
Working as a wine director has its ups and downs. One of the ups is, without a doubt, the ability to travel to a region such as Burgundy, taste with over thirty of its top producers, and do so in the company of some of the most knowledgeable Burgundy lovers I’ve ever met. It didn’t hurt that these lovers of Burgundy were also foodies like myself, but that is a story for another time. For now, I’m here to talk about my journey further down the rabbit hole with some of the best Burgundy I’m sure I’ll ever taste.
The organizer of our trip placed us in the perfect location to access both the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. We made our home for this trip at the L’Hôtel de Beaune, located within the walled portion of the city and surrounded by an extensive mix of restaurants, wine shops and culture. This provided the perfect launching point for each day and the ideal location to unwind at night.
Having arrived only days after a horrible frost and weeks following a mass hail storm, the thing first and foremost on everyone’s minds was how the 2016 vintage would pan out. With each visit, you could see it on their faces as producers would try to make light of these events, but only so they could alleviate their own fears. We tend to think of the prices of Burgundy and assume that producers are well-compensated for their efforts, but the reality is that the majority of them are small houses that wax and wane with each vintage. Often times, the price of land or the rules of inheritance make their livelihoods very difficult. One bad vintage, one short vintage, or one lost vintage can be enough to sink even the most highly regarded Domaines.
2014: The Insiders Vintage
Tasting barrel after barrel, one thing that becomes immediately apparent is that the 2014 vintage created wines that speak to our hearts and minds. With a slight preference for the whites over reds, there’s no denying that 2014 has produced some of the most brilliantly sculpted and refined examples that we are sure to ever see. The reds will impress early with medium-term cellaring, and may even not make old bones, as they absolutely thrilled us with their purity and chiseled personalities. As for the whites, they are off the charts and are sure to please a broad audience. The 2014 White Burgundies are all about balance, with a noticeable density of fruit contrasted by stunning minerality and backbone. I for one will be stocking up, as this is one of the most exciting young vintages that I’ve ever tasted.
Looking Forward to 2015
What’s sure to be a critic’s vintage, the 2015s seem to explode from the glass. Their unbridled power and broad-shouldered fruit is sure to settle more as they continue to age in barrel, but clearly 2015 will be a bigger and more fruit-focused vintage. This is a not a bad thing, as the wines possess the focus necessary to impress both upon release and with medium-term cellaring. In fact, we will probably find 2015 to have a long drinking window and to be a vintage that will provide a lot of pleasure for a lot people.
Top Visits, Top Wines
With over thirty visits in seven days, it would be impossible to list them all, yet I’ve done my best to recount the visits that resonated with me the most, without waxing poetic about DRC for the next 2000 words. (And, yes, DRC was the experience of a lifetime.)
Tasting with Pierre Duroche was something of a revelation. Pierre is the 5th generation to run the estate, and with a soft-spoken manner and wine thief in hand, he showed us some of the trip’s best 2015 red Burgundies that we had the pleasure to taste. Each of Pierre’s micro-cuvees from throughout the Gevrey village were stunning, and as we moved up through the Premier and Grand Crus, my opinion was assured that this is one of the next great Burgundy producers in the making.
Wines of note: 2015’s Gevrey Chambertin Village, 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques, and 1er Cru Estournelles St. Jacques. – Domaine Duroche at Morrell
Based in Chassagne-Montrachet, today’s Bernard Moreau is run by Alexandre and Benoit. Alexandre took us from barrel to barrel, touring through their 200 yearold cellar, and tasting all of the current vintages. If there was one thing that I took from this visit, it’s that Bernard Moreau is making some of the best white Burgundy in the market today. What’s more, the 2014s at this address are off the charts. Picking favorites was like splitting hairs.
Wines of note: ‘14 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot, ‘14 1er Cru Les Champs-Gain, and ‘14 1er Cru Grandes Ruchottes. – Bernard Moreau at Morrell
Georges Mugneret Gibourg
Arriving at Mugneret Gibourg in Vosne-Romanée, and peeking out the back door at the sprawling vineyards of the village heading down to the D974, is a moment that I will never forget. I could practically feel the energy of this location welling up through the ground. We were greeted by Marie-Christine, who took us down into the cellars and began to pour glass after glass, both ‘14s from tank and ‘15s prepared earlier in bottle. These were some of the greatest young Burgundies I’ve ever tasted. Each wine was pure elegance in a glass, yet infused by the earth. They are simply gorgeous.
Wines of note: ‘14 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots,‘14 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselottes, ‘14 Ruchottes-Chambertin and ‘15 Ruchottes-Chambertin – Georges Mugneret Gibourg at Morrell
Now the third generation winemaker of Marquis D’Angerville, Guillaume d’Angerville greeted us like an old friend as he walked us through the gardens surrounding the estate. D’Angerville is all about Volnay, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Guillaume led us through a selection of his ‘14s, which were spectacular. The elegance, matched by power and structure of these wines, creates a perfect balance and sense of raw potential.
Wines of note: ‘14 Volnay 1er Cru Les Fremiets, ‘14 Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds, and ‘14 Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs – Marquis D’Angerville at Morrell
Where do you go before your visit at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti? To taste at Jean Grivot, of course. Our early morning meeting with Etienne at their cellar in Vosne-Romanée was a fantastic way to start the day. The wines of Jean Grivot may have crossed into the realm of price prohibitive, but I firmly believe they are still a good value compared to the company they keep. The ‘14s at this house are in perfect form, and the ‘15s (in mid-malo at the time) were coming along in an exciting trajectory.
Wines of note: ‘14 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts, ‘14 Clos Vougeot, ‘14 Echezeaux, and ‘14 Richebourg – Jean Grivot at Morrell
And so there it is. My trip further down the rabbit hole has left me feeling both anxious to taste these wines again and hoping to add many of them to my cellar. In the end, we all know that the best of Burgundy comes at a premium, but what other wines on earth can incite such emotion and such passion, and what for some becomes a lifelong obsession?
Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by Eric Guido