At Teddington and Richmond Wine Societies we set ourselves the challenge of pitting Burgundy against the rest of the world.
Rather than some kind of grudge match, this was a celebration of the two iconic grape varieties of this fabled region, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and how lesser known appellations in Burgundy itself, and other regions around the world, are becoming sources of some truly outstanding wines that do not have a stellar price tag: pricing per bottle ranged from £21 to £42.
We kicked off the evening with paired tastings of Chardonnays from Burgundy and another region.
We compared the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune ‘Sous Eguisons’, made by Jean-Noel Gagnard with the Giant Steps Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley. Both showed fabulous acidity, rich fruit flavours, and subtle oak, and were a great start to the evening – both priced around £30, they were clearly ‘special’ but not stupidly unaffordable, and I think both gained a lot of fans.
Our next pairing was the Saint Veran Vielles Vignes form Domaine Corsin, and a wine from Italy – the Vie de Romans Chardonnay from Friuli. I have taken groups to both these estates (and indeed Giant Steps), so I have some very happy memories, and again, the quality was outstanding, though the Vie de Romans would definitely not be confused with a Burgundy. No oak was involved in its making, and the ripeness achieved from this balmy area north of Trieste showed through in distinctive tropical fruits and honeyed, creamy texture – a perfect match for Asian food, or seafood (or both – scallops with ginger anyone?). By comparison, the Saint Veran, which was almost half the price was more classically Burgundian, with a completely different flavour profile – herbaceous, mineral, smoky caramel.
Our third pairing was a Maranges Premier Cru ‘La Fuissière’ from Domaine Chevrot and a Pinot Noir from the Rua estate in Central Otago in New Zealand. Maranges is just about the most southerly appellation in the Côtes de Beaune, which is generally considered to be the home of the best white wines of Burgundy. The concentration and depth of flavour was striking, and a complete contrast with the paler, more floral Kiwi wine. Again, both lovely, and with the Rua coming in at precisely half the price of the Maranges, it was probably the winner, though with the hake on beans with chorizo that the Britannia served us, I felt the French wine was the winner on the night.
Our penultimate wine was a Mercurey Premier Cru – ‘Les Puillets’ from Château Phillippe le Hardi, an estate we visited last year on my Southern Burgundy wine tour. Based in the village of Santenay, and indeed occupying the stunningly beautiful Château de Santenay, this is a top class estate, and the Mercurey (from the Côte Chalonnaise, to the south of the Côtes de Beaune) was a fabulous example of great quality Burgundy – elegant and aromatic on the nose, bright, complex and rich on the palate.
We compared it with a Sonoma County wine – the De Loach Pinot Noir from Russian River. This estate is owned by the Boisset négociants, who are of course Burgundy experts and have identified the relatively cool climate of Russian River as perfect for their grape varieties. It presented a very different style – very ripe fruit, full bodied and forward, a great finish to the evening and perfect conclusion to our evening of exploration and discovery.
Details of vintages and pricing are on the Wines we have tasted page.