It seems that I am eternally in search of affordable burgundies. Good affordable burgundies, that is.
There are days when I have to work hard at it, others when the wine is staring at me in the face. I experienced both such the other day at a good, small retailer in the wilds of suburban New York, for there was a bottle of the familiar Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne “La Forêt” Pinot Noir nestled next to a bottle from a grower unfamiliar to me, Michel Sarrazin, whose domaine and, I would assume, small négoce business, is located in the Côte Chalonnaise hinterland near Givry. The Drouhin was from the 2018 vintage, the Sarrazin from the 2019.
Now, I’ve tasted many, many vintages of the Drouhin “La Forêt” wines, red and white, going back at least to my days teaching English at Penn in the early 1980s. Both the red and white often rose far above the regional and lowly appellation controllée bestowed on them; and in the late 1980s, I well remember the ’78, when it almost could have passed for village Chablis. I haven’t tasted a white La Forêt quite like that since, but the ’18 red is equally memorable, perhaps the best red “La Forêt” I can recall. The ripeness—even overripeness—of the vintage has brought an extra something to the blend; and at $18 or so a bottle, it’s hard to beat. The Sarrazin has all the balance of fruit and acid that has made the 2019 vintage notable from the get-go. (As with so many Burgundy labels, it’s not clear from the label whether this is domaine or négoce—I’m guessing that, like the Drouhin "La Forêt,” it’s a négoce.) The price—about $22—is competitive to say the least.
Marcel Lapierre is one of the great names in Beaujolais, and his wines command a premium. That said, his son makes a very quaffable, rather grapey wine under the label, “Raisins Gaulois Vin de France” that is, if not exactly a bargain at $22, a perfect summer quencher. A “VDF” wine could come from anywhere in France, but what’s in the bottle is, in fact, young vine, deliberately overproduced Morgon which results in a light, bright, cheerful kind of low alcohol wine (12.5% stated alcohol). I’d rather drink this than many a rosé with a famous South of France A.C. on the label. Do remember to serve it slightly chilled.
More serious—a lot more serious—are a trio of very fine Beaujolais crus I recently tasted together over 3-4 nights. The two Morgons, both from the great 2019 vintage, from the highly esteemed Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud, were impeccable. Morgon “Grands Cras” ($24) has not often come my way, but I would be happy to see and taste it more often based on this bottle; and the “Côte du Py,” from the most famous lieu dit in Morgon, indeed one of the most famous lieu dit in all of Beaujolais, is, if anything, even better. It’s the product of old vines and shows it: minerally, long, rich and fine. The third contender was a bottle of the “basic” 2017 Château des Jacques in Moulin-à-Vent ($26). Well, some basic! Elegant is not a word I often think to use in connection with this commune, but it fits the bill entirely in this case. That’s a wow! This minerally Moulin-à-Vent makes for a good contrast with the fruity Lapierre, showing the bookends of Beaujolais.
Two very nice young white burgundies also came my way recently. I tasted them against one another, again over 3-4 nights. The 2018 Bourgogne “Côte d’Or” Blanc ($25) came from the newish Domaine Pernot-Belicard, the product of a Burgundian marriage. Well, I don’t know the husband or the wife, but I definitely approve of the wine. Young M. Pernot is the grandson of the great Paul Pernot of Puligny and learned his métier at the hands of the master. Really excellent, very polished, near-Puligny kind of Chardonnay. Olivier Leflaive’s 2019 Bourgogne “Les Sétilles” Blanc ($28) is, to my mind, the best “Les Sétilles” in a long time. The vintage shows, as does the expertise of Leflaive and his longtime winemaker Franck Grux.
Now, for those of you who like your white burgundies with a bit of age on them, I thought I’d report on a tasting I did of three 2012 village whites from Maison Louis Latour. All three were opened on the same night and tasted over four nights. The only disappointment was the Beaune Blanc, which was outclassed in this company, or simply out of shape. Strange because all the wines came from the same source and had been similarly stored. Oh, well. The bright yellowish Meursault was by village (and Latour) standards absolutely rich, round and peachy, but still very lively. The taut and refined Puligny was less advanced, quite a light lemon in color, and much better than I have come to expect in village Puligny from the négoce, which so often, sadly, is an expensive disappointment. This one from Latour, however, was a treat. As was, incidentally, a 2012 village Gevrey from Latour which I tasted alongside the whites. Nice, bright, well defined black fruit flavor driven by the usual Latour enlivening acidity. All of these wines are still available at the retail level and at prices far lower than current releases, so it pays to look for them.