Whew! It’s been quite a week. Returning to work after a two week break always comes with a readjustment period, but what happens when two days into that period, Jeanne-Marie de Champs from Domaines et Saveurs in Beaune comes to town? Burgundy. We open bottles of Burgundy. And other wines too. Each time Jeanne-Marie has visited us over the years, she fills us in on the goings on around Burgundy (and other French viticultural areas). We are always interested in her updates and introductions to the wines and the producers she represents. Then come the wines themselves. Usually, when David takes Jeanne-Marie out to visit wholesale accounts, he grabs 6 to 9 sample bottles to open and pour. Sometimes 6, sometimes 9. This year’s visit was different. There were over 20 sample bottles of Burgundy opened on Wednesday and Thursday, and they all made their way back to TWH for a staff tasting. I’ve never been to a La Paulée tasting, but I imagined that what we were doing was very much in line with the spirit of those fancy Burgundy tastings. You know, comparing the different Premier Cru Chassagne-Montrachets, or different vintages of Premier Cru Morey-Saint-Denis. This pretty much never happens, so we made the most of it, and tasted some mighty fine wines in the process!
Tasting flight #2 of 3 – Thursday, 6 October
We tasted several wines from producers such as Paul Pernot, Stéphane Magnien, Pernot-Belicard, Claudie Jobard, Sylvain Langoureau, and Château de la Maltroye. So if you have any questions about those producers and their new releases, please feel free to ask any of us! As we tasted through them, the wines went from strength to strength; at every price point. Yet before the exact prices were known to us, one red wine stood out for its aromatic expression, firm structure, and balance: The 2014 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Château de la Maltroye. It held its own while being tasted with a group of Premier Crus, and we had a ballpark idea of what price range it was in, but when we looked up the exact price, we knew 20 cases wasn’t going to be enough.
Jeanne-Marie at the trade tasting
It was during flight #3 that we finally got around to tasting the Maltroye Bourgogne, so my palate had already gone back and forth between reds and whites a couple of times, yet I still prefer to taste red wines first if there are whites to be tasted also. So I got to it before my colleagues, and it had me at first whiff. Dark, brambly, red and black berry fruit, a hint of cola spice, and forest floor waft from the glass. “My kind of wine,” I thought. Then I tasted it. Very nice. The entry is bright and lively, the fruit enters and expands on the palate, the structure is medium bodied with healthy acidity and fine tannins. The finish is all in harmony and long lasting. It’s a Bourgogne that is long on character, and it’s less than $30 per bottle. Actually, by the case, it’s less than $23! I grabbed the bottle and held it up for the others, “This one right here; Wow!” That’s all I had to say. A few minutes later, Anya, Chris, and Christian tasted it as well, and we were all in agreement; we had a sub $30 red Burgundy that is underpriced. 20 cases is not going to be enough. You may want to act sooner than later on this one.
What a week, indeed! I awoke Monday morning, predawn, in a hotel in Ljubljana. Three flights later, I was back in San Francisco at 5:30PM PDT. My goal was to stay up until at least 9:00PM to get my body clock back in synch with Pacific Time. Mission accomplished. My trip to Slovenia was fantastic in so many ways. The natural beauty of the country and the outdoorsy spirit of its natives proved to be infectious. The wine culture is strong, vibrant, historic, and thriving. Each producer whom I visited, in addition to their main wines, had some kind of experimental project going on. Whether through extended skin contact, under water fermentation, or making a sparkling version of each of their still wines, they all displayed a bit of playfulness which brings me back to a quote uttered by a California winemaker during my first week on the job, “Don’t take wine too seriously. It’s for joy!” There’s a lot of joy to be had with the 2014 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Château de la Maltroye. – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about this week’s Burgundy tastings, Slovenia, Bordeaux, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com