Sunday, October 14, 2007

WBW # 39 Announced - Silver Burgundy

What do you think of when you hear "Burgundy?"

I think of endlessly beguiling and beautiful Pinot Noir, and also of Chardonnay - crystalline, tense, and rich. I think of Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romaneé, Gevrey-Chambertin, and the storied villages of the Côte de Nuits, and also of Puligny, Meursault, Volnay, and the other superstars of the Côte de Beaune.

Then I come back to planet Earth, where I cannot often afford to indulge in the wines of the Côte d'Or, the Gold Coast. There are a few in my cellar, and I agonize over opening them because they are so special and so dear in price. For many of us, these are not everyday wines.

What if you want beautiful Burgundian wine, but you're not in the mood to agonize? What if you're spending about $12-25 per bottle? Is this even possible?

That was just a rhetorical question, as the answer is most emphatically YES. There is great Burgundy wine to be had at those prices, and a great place to start is outside of the Gold Coast, a bit further south in what I like to think of as Silver Burgundy. The Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais are two regions where excellent wines and reasonable, sometimes downright cheap prices can be found. And this is the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday #39 - taste a bottle(s) of Silver Burgundy, wine from either the Côte Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais.

Some of you are wondering "well why did Brooklynguy exclude Chablis and Beaujolais from his Silver Burgundy thing?" Here's why: Chablis is unique, and probably deserves its own WBW event. Whereas whites from the Côte Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais tend to be similar in style to the Côte d'Or, Chablis is really doing its own thing with Chardonnay. And Beaujolais...well Beaujolais definitely deserves its own WBW, and it's been getting some blogging attention lately already. If Chablis and Beaujolais are open game then there's just too much to choose from. This way, we're going to develop an extensive set of tasting notes and experiences with a specific set of interesting and affordable wines. So I'm sticking with the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais. Don't worry, you're gonna love it. And if you don't, talk to Lenn - he's the one who allowed me to host.

Okay, so here's some info about
the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais. The grapes are the same as they are in the Côte d'Or - overwhelmingly but not always Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And as in the Côte d'Or, there are several levels of wine based on the status of the vineyard, from basic Bourgogne (grapes from anywhere in the region), to village level (grapes from vineyards that are entitled to "village status" in that village), to 1er Cru (grapes from 1er Cru status vineyards that supposedly make wines that are consistently superior to their village and regional comrades). There are no vineyards with Grand Cru status in either the Côte Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais, and there are no vineyards with 1er Cru status in the Mâconnais.

Many people feel that the Côte Chalonnaise is better for red wines, and the Mâconnais is better for whites. That is only a general rule though, and there are certainly exceptions.

In the Côte Chalonnaise "entry level," or regional wines carry the name Bourgogne or sometimes Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise on the label. Regional wines in the Mâconnais are called Bourgogne, but can also be called Mâcon, Mâcon-Villages, or Mâcon-Supérieur. These wines should be quite inexpensive and depending on the producer and to a lesser degree the vintage, can be of surprisingly high quality.

There are five village appellations in the
Côte Chalonnaise - Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny, and village level wines will carry one of those names on the label. Bouzeron, created in 1979 and the youngest of the appellations, is only for Aligoté. This is the grape traditionally used to make a Kir, the delicious aperitif in which a little bit of cassis liquor is put in a wine glass and then filled with Aligoté. But some of the whites of Bouzeron are far too good to "waste" on a Kir. Montagny is the other all-white-wine appellation of the Côte Chalonnaise, and its Chardonnay can be every bit as complex and exciting as those from its more famous northern neighbors in the Gold Coast.

Rully is just south of Bouzeron and produces reds and whites made of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mercurey is probably the rock star of the Côte Chalonnaise. Its reds are indeed powerful and complex, and if you're not careful they might trash your hotel room. There are also excellent reds to be found in Gevrey. These three appellations, Rully, Mercurey, and Givry have 1er Cru status vineyards.

Village level wines In the Mâconnais are usually called Mâcon-something or other - the something or other is the name of the specific village. Like Mâcon-Charnay or Mâcon-Lugny. A few village wines are called Pouilly-something or other, like Pouilly-Fuissé. There are also village wines from St. Veran and Viré-Clessé, in the far north of the region. As you may have guessed, there are way more than five village appellations in the Mâconnais. In fact, there are 43 villages with their own appellation. There are great white wines hiding in these villages that might set you back, maybe $15.

Here are two more places to read more about the Côte Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais:

Eric Asimov's tasting panel recently tasted a load of 2005 Mâconnais whites

The Wine Doctor, as usual, offers a great guide to the region, and some suggestions on producers to look for. He sadly calls his guide "Chablis and the Lesser Regions," but that's all relative - lesser than the Grand Crus of Musigny, yes. But excellent wines nonetheless.

Okay, so you have more than four weeks from today - go out and taste some wine(s) from either the Côte Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais, write up your post, and then email me at the address in my profile on or not much later than Wednesday November 14th with the link to your blog and to your post. Not a blogger but want to play WBW #39 anyway? Well email me your notes and I will post them too. Big shot wine writer, but want to get in your two cents? Well c'mon in - the water's warm and no one will think any less of you - quite the contrary.


Dr. Debs said...

Great theme, Neil. Question: if a wine just has "bourgogne" on it (red or white), is this ok? I have 2 that say that, and neither tells me where the grapes are from. Both are Girardin entry levels, and I know he makes a Rully, so maybe the white "bourgogne" is from the Cote Chalonaise? Just wondering...

Brooklynguy said...

Hiya Debs - a good question, and I will do some investigating and let you know what I learn. In this particular case, I'm pretty sure that Girardin Bourgogne is not made from Silver Burgundy fruit, as the Domaine Girardin is located in the Gold Coast. That is probably the way to tell, but as I said, I will check it out.

David McDuff said...

Hey Neil and hello Dr. Debs,
I'm not sure if I can definitively answer your call for help, Neil, but here goes.

It's unlikely that Girardin's Bourgogne Rouge and/or Blanc come solely from the Macon or Cote Chalonnaise. Here's my logic:

- Is the wine labeled as estate bottled? If so, it's most likely that it is made from fruit culled from Girardin's main holdings in the Cote de Beaune (for the white) or the Cote de Nuits (for the red). In fact, it could easily combine fruit from Rully, where, Debs is right, he does make some wines, all the way up to and through the Cote de Nuits.
- If the wine is non-estate bottled, the chance that it is made up of a multi-regional blend increases. Regrettably, Girardin's website is not definitive on the matter in either scenario.

The difficulty here is the same as that presented with any Burg labeled with the basic regional AOC of Bourgogne. Without knowing the producer and exactly what he/she does, there's really no way to know from where the fruit is sourced.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, guys. I was afraid you would say that. I have all this inexpensive Cote d'Or stuff, but not a single bottle from the "Silver Coast." Off to buy Girardin's Rully if there is any left!

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks so much David!

And Debs - why not try another producer, instead of the negociant Girardin (not that there's anything wrong with Girardin). Le Bourcier has a wine that should be easy to find, and it showed well in Asimov's tasting. Or an under $20 red Mercurey or something...

RougeAndBlanc said...

Are you setting a 'sort of' $25 cap for this WBW?

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Andrew - not at all. Spend as much or as little as you like.

Sonadora said...

Nice theme Neil! Looking forward to getting out of my element again!

Dr. Debs said...

Le Bourcier cannot be found on west coast at least not by me, and the only Mercurey's around that are under $20 are half bottles. I'll keep looking--no worries. I'll find something but it will probably be Girardin since that's what's in town!

Brooklynguy said...

Have fun with it Sonadora -these are really good wines, in general. You too Debs.

Joe said...

Coulda sworn I left a comment here - you delete that? Anyway, we have a good selection of these up here - I can't wait (I will have to bring it across the border...) - I may have to get out that Bouzeron again.

Brooklynguy said...

i did not delete it, and i remember you said that you had lots of wines that would qualify. where is that comment - did you leave it in another post? i'll look now

Joe said...

Sure you didn't - I must be going crazy. No need to go searching - sometimes I start a comment and get lured away by the kids. Next thing you know has replaced brooklynguy. No taste, those young 'uns.