Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wine of the Week - Pierre Morey Bourgogne

There were some thought-provoking comments on my post from earlier this week about, among other things, whether or not it is possible to predict a producer's overall level of quality based on the quality of their Bourgogne. A few people raised the issue of whether or not Bourgogne as a category of wine is worthwhile, based on quality to price ratio. I don't have a definitive stance on the subject - I can make a case for both points of view.

Bourgogne from top producers such as Ghislaine Barthod or Sylvain Cathiard costs upwards of $35. Dugat-Py Bourgogne goes for over $50. If you're talking about Leroy or Coche-Dury, you're closer to $100. Are those wines "worth it?" Are there great Bourgognes? That question must be answered on an individual basis. I can tell you that I do not purchase those wines, and the reason is simply because there are wines for $35, $50, and $100 that I would much rather have. There are great Burgundy wines that cost $35, $50, and $100, but I don't believe that they are Bourgognes.

Still, I wouldn't say that Bourgogne is a worthless category. What if you want to spend $25 or less, and drink red wine from Burgundy? You're drinking regional wine - Bourgogne or Hautes-Côtes de Beaune/Nuits. There are producers making very good Burgundy wine at this price point, but most do not, and I would rather buy great wines from other places for $25 than merely pleasant Bourgogne. I'd rather buy Coudert Fleurie Cuvée Tardive, anything by François Chidaine, Luneau Papin's Excelsior Clos des Noelles, Terrebrune's Bandol Rosé, Puffeney's Poulsard, Bernard Baudry's Les Grezéaux, and many, many, many other wines that, in my opinion, are amongst the finest wines of their type. Even though there are some great regional Burgundy wines, none of them are among the finest red wines of Burgundy.

So what are the best regional Burgundy wines at about $25? Everyone has their own opinions on this. My list includes Simon Bize's Perrieres, Sylvie Esmonin's Cuvée Sylvie, Maréchal's Cuvée Gravel, Rene Leclerc's Bourgogne, Lignier-Michelot's Bourgogne, and Michel Lafarge's Bourgogne (although that one is probably more expensive now). For a while my list was growing. Now it's actually shrinking, as I become more knowledgeable about what I like.

Although I am more picky now, I still like to try regional wines from great producers when I can, and this week, thanks to a sale, I was able to buy a bottle of 2006 Pierre Morey Bourgogne Pinot Noir for $22, Imported by Wilson Daniels. Pierre Morey, for many years the wine maker at the venerable Domaine Leflaive, is famous for making thrillingly precise and terroir expressive white wines. I wish that I could have done this little experiment with his Bourgogne Blanc, but we've been talking about red wine so far. And as I learned when I visited him in Meursault in December, Morey's reds are also quite good. What about this, his most basic of red wines in 2006? Would it be a worthy regional wine, or a missed opportunity to buy a bottle of great Cru Beaujolais?

Pierre Morey is a great master, and I say this will all due respect - this particular wine is not a good argument for spending money on Bourgogne. The nose has some nice floral aromas, some dried leaves, and some dark pinot fruit, but this wine is not easy on the palate. The tannins are drying and there is a prominent stems and underbrush sensation. The overall feeling is rustic, a rug of dried leaves. Four hours in the wine is a bit more tame, but it is what it is - decent Bourgogne from a great producer in a pretty good year. I'd rather have a bottle of Baudry Les Grezéaux.


Yule Kim said...

Speaking of red burgundies made by producers better known for their whites, have you tried the 2006 Mikulski Hautes-Cotes de Beaune? Very easy on the palate, like fresh cherry juice, that had a nice, clean tart finish. Of course, I don't drink that much red burgundy (usually out of my price range), but I thought it was pretty refreshing. And I got it for $15. I heard Mikulski's Volnays were pretty solid, and I believe it because his regional wine was so good.

Unknown said...

I agree with you that a $25 beujolais tends to be more satisfying... Maybe with the exceptions of some of the 2005 bourgognes, which definetely transcend their designation level... BTW speaking of around $25 wines - you should try the new 2007 Ganevat Poulsard at CSW... Killer.

sadams62 said...

i will agree that bourgogne is a difficult category in regards to price/quality ratio. However, Pierre Morey's 2005 bourgogne is fantastic and well worth the $22 entry fee.

however, i do love cru beaujolais as well as loire valley reds. I want them all!!

Alex Halberstadt said...

After reading your post, the question that bobbed up in my hangover-clouded mind was: if Bourgognes are unreliable, are the more pedigreed burgundies any less so?

A cautionary tale: last night some friends and I headed to Cru for our great annual splurge. My head is still throbbing. We began with a white—Ramonet's '01 Chassagne "Caillerets"—followed by Marquis d'Angerville's Volnay "Caillerets," also an '01. The Volnay was lovely if a little one-dimensional, though by the time we began to taste what it was capable of there was almost none left—a danger with three hungry men drinking in a loud restaurant. But the supposedly long-lived Ramonet showed almost no fruit, with some of the mushroomy oxidative notes of a white burgundy on the downslope of its life span wafting out of the glass. Not enough so to send it back, but enough certainly to inflame serious disappointment. Can't blame the vintage—the '01s I've tasted recently are drinking beautifully.

The long-winded point I'm trying to make is that when you open a bottle of Huet, Puffeney, or even, say, a good older Chablis, you generally get something consistently excellent. But in my experience burgundy is nearly always a crap shoot. The highs are higher and the lows are lower and more abundant—and pedigree and price are no guarantee of pleasure. Some days it makes me want to stick to Old Fashioneds and beer.

Clarke B. said...

Neal, you’ve really got me pondering Bourgogne Rouge quite a bit this past week, and I thank you for that…

Sometimes I like to think about the notion of Burgundian terroir in terms of musical composition and performance. The appellation or vineyard is the composition itself, and the winemaker is the performer. Just as a poor winemaker can make an awkward, charmless Amoureuses, a poor pianist can make Debussy into a formless, sloppy mess. (Arguments that Debussy’s works actually *are* formless, sloppy messes notwithstanding.)

But the question of Bourgogne Rouge inverts the analogy. Bourgogne Rouge from a master is like Glenn Gould playing a sonata written by a composition teacher at a community college. Carrying the analogy further, a ruthlessly precise interpreter like Gould has the potential to bring the shortcomings of a particular composition into glaring relief. Might this suggest that a great winemaker can reveal the relative lack of pedigree in a Bourgogne with the same rigor as he reveals the majesty of a Chambertin? I don’t know if I buy that, but I’m throwing it out there anyway…

Also, the category of Bourgogne reveals a notable shortcoming in the complex Burgundian appellation system, in that, despite Bourgogne being a single category, there are huge differences, as we know, in the vineyards from which wines labeled “Bourgogne” are produced. Mugneret-Gibourg’s parcel used to be classified as Vosne-Romanée—who knows where Pierre Morey’s is? (Well, someone surely does, but not me...) As it always is, the devil is in the details.

Brooklynguy said...

@Yule Kim - I've never had a Mikulski wine, not that I can remember.

@Pifcho - i have a bottle and am waiting for the right meal. any day now, i would expect.

@sadams62 - that's a wine i never tried. and by the way, Morey's Bourgogne Blanc is awesome, i think. no surprise there, i guess.

@Alex - sounds like a fun, and a really expensive night. i hope you get to write it off somehow! i agree that Burg is variable, but so are Huet and the others, in my limited experience. they all are, unless they're machine made.

@Clarke - "a great winemaker can reveal the relative lack of pedigree in a Bourgogne with the same rigor as he reveals the majesty of a Chambertin." Now THAT is something to think about. and good point about the various places where Bourgogne comes from. Morey's is in Volnay and Meursault, I believe. But it's true, some is made from grapes grown east of RN 74 in Fixin, whereas others are made from grapes from formerly classifies villages plots in near Chambolle. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Joe Manekin said...

Neil - What about your beloved Chandon de Briailles? Had their 06 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru 'Forneaux'today and it is quite good - transparent, a tad bit firm but giving enough, and very pure w/ their characteristic understated touch- $23.

Nice post.

Brooklynguy said...

hey old skool - i do love love CdB, but they make no Bourgogne that I am aware of. and i don't see any of their wines at all, including the villages savigny for the price you;re talking about. they cost more here, i think. is that 06 on closeout or something? it honestly is mid 30's here.

Joe Manekin said...

I don't think it's a closeout. I am buying some for myself, and when you get out to SF we'll drink a bottle.