Monday, November 03, 2008

Burgundy Confusion: Episode 74

They say it's all about the producer in Burgundy. A village wine by a great producer should be better than a lesser producer's Grand Cru. Vintage might not be as important as the producer. I absolutely believe this to be true, yet it's not always that simple.

The other night I drank a Chambolle-Musigny that was fine, nothing special. The fruit was bright and pleasant, the texture was right, and the wine tasted good, but there was nothing particularly interesting about the wine. Not something I would buy again, as there are so many better wines out there, and this one wasn't cheap at about $55.

Later in the evening at a friend's house we drank a humble Bourgogne that was just excellent, and less than half the price. There was a lot of barnyard up front, maybe carbon dioxide that needed to blow off or something. And when it did blow off, the wine was a delicate thing of beauty. Clean and pure red fruit with subtle earthy notes underneath. Graceful and elegant, well balanced, just delicious. I wanted a plate of duck breast with wild mushrooms, and I'd already eaten dinner.

In my mind there was no real comparison between these two wines - I'd take Bourgogne every time. In fact, I scoured the web until I found a retail shop in Manhattan that still carries it and reserved a few bottles.

The confusing thing is this: the Chambolle-Musigny was a 2004 by none other than Georges/Christophe Roumier, the legendary producer whose wines are collected by the most fancy-pants of wine folk. And the Bourgogne was a 2005 by Réne LeClerc, a good producer, but not as highly thought of. I've heard his wines described as "rustic," or even worse, as "tax and spend" or "soft on national security."

How anyone of modest means buys anything from Burgundy with confidence is really beyond me. I want my $55 back. I'll settle for a couple of bottles of the LeClerc Bourgogne and a medium rare duck breast with wild mushrooms.


Anonymous said...

Great blog brooklynguy...keep it up!

Perhaps some of the variation can be explained by the vintage? I've had the '05 Leclerc several times... great wine (I think it will be even better in several years).
04' was a weaker vintage.. I would take the 05' bourgogne over almost all of the village wines that I have had from '04.

Rene Leclerc is also a very good and very under rated producer. (You should try some of his '05 1er crus.)

Aaron said...

Great post. Burgundy's tagline should be something like "One step beyond madness..."

Haven't had Roumier in a few years, but obviously some producers had much better luck in 2004 than others. Many lovely wines from this vintage, but there's no doubt that it doesn't rank among the decade's finest.

As for the 05 Rene Leclerc Bourgogne Rouge, at something like $27 retail it's a no-brainer; an aberration, really, considering how good it is. One caveat: Leclerc's 05 1er Crus have "plenty of material," as Allen Meadows might say, and are decidedly not ready to drink yet. Pretty unyielding and very tightly wound. Drink the Bourgogne Rouge now - it's all Gevrey fruit anyway - and give his 1er Cru bottlings at least a few more years before pulling their corks.

Joe said...

Like Chris, my first inkling was vintage. I just think the pricing of Burgundies is so detached from other business realities - a guy may have a crappy year in a good vintage and be panned by good and bad critics, but production was so low for that vintage that prices stay sky high. I am with you on the village wines - had some great barnyard stank and good, crisp fruit with those. But $27 or $55 you just never know sometimes...for Burgundy I have given up on simply buying producers I just ask the guy at the shop "what have you had lately that was any good...". Will look for that Leclerc - keep these ideas coming.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to take two things into account here: Vintage, and what these wines would be like in 20 years. Are you not demanding a lot for the 2004 to be expressive now?

- He who tries to drink Burgundies in their prime, not in their youth.

Deetrane said...

Burgundy is in the eye of the glassholder?

peter said...

Jack makes a good point, but he forgot to mention that LeClerc pals around with terrorists.

We had Krug for dessert, huddled around the computer, grinning.

Vinogirl said...

Could it just have been a bad bottle? Not even corked, high VA or something?
I agree with Jack, seems a little young to be drinking it now anyway.

Brooklynguy said...

i've had some disappointing 04's and some surprisingly good 04s, surprising since the vintage was supposed to be so-so. i wouldn't have thought to drink this young either, but after i bought it i read two reviews, one from allen meadows, saying that it can (should?) drink young - and it definitely was giving up the goods. the goods just weren't that good.

Anonymous said...

Buying Burgundy with confidence is something I've aspired to but--aside from Chablis--never quite achieved. Because of its consistently high prices, it's just about the biggest gamble in the wine world as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

I think I've moved on to drinking other people's Burgs with confidence.

With Burgs I still buy a bunch, but not without tasting them first.

Anonymous said...

2004 was a so-so vintage too young
to drink the Chambolle-Musigny.
That reminds me of Robert Parker saying how ready the 1978 Beaucastel was in 90's. Still not ready last Thanksgiving. Beginning to show it
stuff however not there. Drinking young is fine if you have more than one bottle that way you can see where
it is on the time line to maturity.

haonusa said...

I would chalk it up to vintage as well. I've had most of the Roumier Chambolle's since 1999 and I can confirm that 04 is easily the weakest thus far, but also perhaps in a dumb stage. I had a completely lack luster bottle about two months ago. 05 was such a great vintage from top to bottom that many of the lesser wines are actually drinking quite well now (early).

Another thing to consider is that Roumier's wines need time. I would give nearly all of them 5 years if not closer to 10.

cellar rat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cellar rat said...

Like others have mentioned, 2005 was an excellent vintage. Lower priced wines can easily compete with more expensive wines from lesser years.

That said, in many years you can pick up steals because someone rated the wines poorly, inaccurately. Most of these bargain wines weren't meant to be consumed so early anyhow, so they show poorly.

Thanks for posting all these notes.