Friday, January 05, 2007

How to Explore Burgundy?

I am starting to feel more comfortable as a consumer of Burgundy wine. I have much more of a sense of what I am looking for in a wine and I have a bit more confidence now when evaluating the selection at a store. There are so many producers though, some with famous names, others unknown to me. And they each make a Bourgogne wine, sometimes a Cote-de-Beaune or Cote-de-Nuits Villages, a Village level wine, and then usually one or more 1er Crus, maybe even a Grand Cru or two. We're normal guys and gals, we don't have a load of cash to throw around experimenting on $50 bottles of unknown wine. How do we decide which new wine to try?

Buying bottles randomly just isn't for me. I'm more of a list maker, an strategizer. I have to have some sort of system in place when I do things or I start biting my cuticles, I get way too annoyed by people who take up more than one seat on the subway, I lose my cool in general. Not good.

So I thought I could explore by trying the Bourgogne level offering from various producers in order to determine which ones are making wine in a style that I like. But what if a producer's entry level wines are not representative of their better and more expensive wines? I tried a 1999 Meo-Camuzet Bourgogne at dinner one night at Ma Cuisine, a restaurant in Beaune, and it was insipid and uninspiring stuff. But Meo-Camuzet is a storied producer with many a treasured Grand Cru under its belt. Based on my experience with that wine, I will not be ordering or buying their more expensive wines anytime soon, and for all I know, I could be missing out.

I tried a 1998 Domaine Robert Groffier Bourgogne a few weeks ago and I really liked it, then the 2002 Bourgogne too. Those experiences prompted me to look to Groffier for a holiday dinner splurge, and I needed to trust some one to drop a 'C' note on one bottle of wine.

Lately though, I've been shifting my strategy, reading up a bit, picking a producer, usually one who is not a famous name, and buying a couple of their wines at various levels. Yes - this strategy costs more initially. I might get lucky and discover that I love that producer's wines. I might not like them at all, and that would cost about $100 instead of $20-30 using the above strategy.

But this second strategy recognizes the fact that unless a piano falls on my boss' head, and she emerges from a brief coma with new outlook on life and a heart of gold (or until I can make a new and better job happen), I will not be someone who can afford to regularly drink 1er Cru or Grand Cru wines anyway. I need to find good producers whose village wines are delicious and reasonably priced. I will learn more this way too - I always learn a lot from tasting village wines next to 1er Crus and/or Bourgogne wines, for example.

Most recently I tasted some whites made by Domaine Henri Prudhon et Fils. I know, the website is only in French, but check it out - very easy to see the different wines they make, see the family and the Domaine, and even work your way through some of the tasting notes they offer. The Domaine is located in the village of Saint Aubin and has produced wine since 1921. Just over half of the wine is white, most of it 1er Cru, which is unusual, I think.

I started with two wines from the 2001 vintage, not a great year, but certainly not bad, and I figured that many 2001 whites should be mature and ready for drinking around now. These wines also happened to be imported by Rosenthal, an importer I trust, and are reasonably priced at Chambers Street (this link goes right to the White Burgundy price page), especially after the 10% mixed case discount. Here are some notes:

2001 Domaine Henri Prudhon et Fils Saint-Aubin 1er Cru La Chatenière, $26.

Nice yellowish gold color, clean smells of banana and vanilla. Fresh tasting, with herbal flavors rounding out the fruit, and a medium to think mouthfeel. Not a delicate wine, and not overly compelling, but certainly tasty. I could imagine serving this with some sort of white fish in a creamy sauce.

2001 Domaine Henri Prudhon et Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru les Enseignieres, $41. Lighter yellow than the Saint Aubin. Subdued nose of citrus, but after 30 minutes of air time, much more impressive aromas of tropical fruits, lemon, and wet rocks. Floral flavors, some vanilla, and nice cirtusy acidity. The wine has a pronounced mineral character, particularly after swallowing on the finish. It continued to improve over two hours or so. BrooklynLady said that it reminded her of red wine in a way, a good Beaujolais. I think I know what she meant in that the wine had such lively fruit and acidity, such vibrancy (but on the flavor profile, I didn't get it). I think it is probably not fined, based on the amount of "stuff" floating around in the glass when you hold it to the light. No problem here, just mentioning it.
We enjoyed this wine tremendously with tofu in black bean sauce and leftover mushroom lasagna. So now I know that although I might not prioritize Prudhon's Saint Aubin wines, I might poke around some more among their Pulignys and Chassagnes. And I didn't even do any cuticle biting (over this, anyway).


Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for this great post, which I immediately tagged on for future reference. Never would be getting myself into Burgundy if it weren't for your inspired and inspiring posts. Isn't it wild to taste a white wine and detect red flavors? Sometimes that happens with German rieslings, where you get blackberry. The reverse happened to me once too with a Corbieres--it tasted like grapefruit even though it was deep, dark red. Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

Ahem. Look what I bought last winter:

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Doc! Thanks for your kind words, and for your comments. I'm glad that you are digging the Burgundy stuff. What is By the way, I no longer get notified when you make a comment here - I wonder if that has something to do with when you got bounced back a while ago. Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

Great post - don't stop researching!

BTW Ma Cuisine is a great place to start isn't it?

Cheers, Bill

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Bill - such an honor that you would stop by! We did enjoy Ma Cuisine, yes. I wrote about our experiences at various restaurants in and around Beaune, but I lost my notes on Ma Cuisine and couldn't post about it. Next time you have 10 minutes to kill, click on the "Burgundy and Paris 2006" link - I would be curious to know what you think of places we visited.

I have only begun to spend time on your site, and I think it's fantastic. So well informed and informative.

Thanks again for your comment, and see you around.