A Few Notable Bottles of Boutique and Cult White Burgundy

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The British Columbia market is quite limited in its burgundy selections, particularly white burgundy. We mostly have access to the large negocients and large producers. We are lucky to see a few top cult producers such as Roulot, Sauzet and Ramonet, but we have almost no access to the exciting variety of boutique Burgundy producers that have arisen over the last few years. For that, personal imports from France and the U.S. become necessary. A recent dinner saw a few great discoveries and confirmed the profundity of unoxidized aged white Burgundy.

The Boutique Producers

One boutique producer we are lucky to see in B.C. is Domaine Bachelet, courtesy of Marquis Wine Cellars. Though known for his red Gevrey-Chambertin, Bachelet also makes an excellent Aligote that is both a great value and ages well. The Domaine Bachelet Bourgogne Aligote 2011 at the dinner showed well – saline and bright with a medium bodied quality. Not an opulent version like Armand, but not as precise and laser-focused as Roulot’s Aligote – instead sitting comfortably in the middle of those two styles. Very Good+.

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Dupont-Fahn caused some ruckus in Burgundy when, after purchasing a parcel in the Perrieres climat of Meursault in 1975, got permission from the regulator to add another 20cm of topsoil to the land. The reason? The extant top soil was too thin to properly plant. Other Meursault producers were incensed and lobbied successfully to have the vineyard declassified from Meursault. As such, unlike other so-called ‘declassified’ village Burgundy, the “chaumes des perrieres” vineyard is actually part of Meursault and was only declassified for political reasons. The bottle contents are consistent with the higher standard and are a superb example of village Meursault made in a transparent style (less battonage than may be typical), early harvesting and no chaptalization. The 2015 “chaumes des perrieres” was Very Good+ to Excellent.

As I’ve written about many times before, Chablis should be the greatest source of Chardonnay in the world but the majority of producers are growing vines in unhealthy soils and producing wine from too high yields. Those producers that do not (Dauvissat, Raveneau, Pico, de Moor), make stunning wines but not enough of them. Patrick Piuze is a boutique producer in the right camp that is well worth watching. Though Piuze works with purchased fruit, he has a particular mantra. First, he works only with the fruit from old vines and even then, only old vines that are planted exclusively within the original boundaries of Chablis. He harvests by hand and uses a vertical press. The 2012 Blanchots Grand Cru we had was classically elegant as you would expect but had greater fruit complexity and density than typical. Excellent.

The Cult Producers

Whereas boutique producers offer great value for quality, the cult producers do not. In order to meet expectations, these wines have to be stunning. Luckily, the trio we had at dinner all fell in that echelon.

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Ramonet, often considered the greatest white burgundy producer next to Coche-Dury, can in youth seem unimpressive, often being tightly wound. The issue with that is age often brings premox – which is why these days everyone drinks white Burgundy much younger than before. With Ramonet, that can often lead to disappointment – so a purchase of his wines inherently brings with it risk you will never taste it at peak. Both the 2005 and 2009 showed perfectly at our dinner. The 2009 was richer and more opulent as you would expect from the vintage. The added ‘morgeot’ factor gifted greater complexity than the village Chassagne. However, the 2005 was more developed and, a near perfect example of a perfectly made village Chassagne developed into its ideal balance of primary and secondary flavours. Complexity and elegance exceed other producers. These wines are both Excellent+.

The Leroy negocient bottling of Les Embazees (one of the top premier cru vineyards in Chassagne), however, was the wine of the night. 2007 has consistently produced superb white cote d’or and Leroy’s bottling was absolutely crystaline, elegant, deep and layered and perfectly balance. One of the best white Burgundies I have ever had – comparable to a 2007 Leflaive Batard-Montrachet I was lucky to drink in Lyon a couple years ago. Excellent+.

An Outlier

I generally hate comparing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the new world to Burgundy. ‘Burgundian’ in style is a meaningless phrase as Burgundy has tremendous variety and no one style. Usually it is a lame shorthand for some semblance of ‘elegance’ in new world bottlings. It is also in 98% of cases not difficult to distinguish new world Pinot and Chardonnay from Burgundy in a blind tasting – so what’s the point with the comparison.

However, what I do enjoy is throwing in outliers to Burgundy tastings for context. Those outliers should be superb examples in their own right. In this dinner, the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2014 provided that perfect context. It is an outstanding and very fairly priced new world Chardonnay that I think is distinctly New Zealand and, distinctly of Kumeu’s terroir. It’s a great wine deserving of its many accolades. Very Good+.

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