Some New World Wines Showing Favourably Alongside Burgundy
Wine competition is more intense now than any time in the history of the commercial wine industry. This has pushed quality in every region higher and faster – even a region as storied as Burgundy. Globalization has also allowed winemakers and farmers to fly around the world and experience the complexities of other regions and bring those learnings back. France has benefited tremendously from this, with many winemakers travelling to Australia or the United States to learn. The educational and cultural exchange has added significant expertise to those wineries and regions that foster such exchange.
Burgundy, Australia, California, and Oregon have a good exchange program. Ted Lemon of Littorai spent a considerable amount of time in Burgundy. Drouhin has an estate in Oregon at which they have hosted not just their own people, but several winemakers from Burgundy, such as Benjamin Leroux, wanting to learn stateside. The quality improvements in Oregon have been exponential and this exchange is part of that.
Competition has also allowed palates to evolve. Expecting Burgundian flavours in California is now a non-starter from any educated consumer. But that has also permitted a broader understanding of what can make great wine in different regions and what unique features of quality each region can provide.
This new world is inspiring when you experience it. I provide some of my favourite selections below.
Drouhin’s Domaine bottlings should never be overlooked as they can be among the best in Burgundy. The Marquis de Laguiche Morgeot is one of the best versions of that premier cru and 2016 is a beautiful bottling despite the low yields. Excellent+. ~$150 + tax at BCLDB.
Grivot is one of my favourite producers of Vosne. Their Vosne village is always outstanding, but this single vineyard from 2011 (a challenging vintage) was full of game, ripe red fruit and intangible greatness. Excellent to Excellent+.~$180 at various private stores for the current vintage. The Platt vineyard from Littorai is epic. Platt is perhaps the most aromatic vineyard in the Sonoma Coast (or close to it) and Ted Lemon’s version, with its refined tannic structure and tremendous lift, is serious and beautiful with a touch of bottle age. Excellent+. ~$100 from winery.
Thomas Pico is one of the greatest producers in Chablis today. This 2015 Butteaux is an unusual style as it saw just around 3 years on the lees, making it fuller in mid-palate, but still with that long, minerally, sea-shell quality and tangy acidity. It is a great wine in an unusual style for Chablis that shows the brilliance of Pico’s technique. Excellent to Excellent+. ~$100+tax at Marquis and other private stores.
Mac Forbes is a favourite producer from Australia that defies the stereotype: biodynamic farming, earlier picking, bright and mineral chardonnay that pairs with similar foods to Chablis. Delicious, serious and summer-friendly. Excellent. ~$65 from Calgary.
10 years ago it was far easier to find a cola-dominant Pinot in Oregon than anything with finesse or complexity. Today – not so. Sokol Blosser is one of the original producers in Oregon and though they make some less interesting main-stream styles at the entry-level price point, their single vineyards have come to really impress. This wine comes in at 13.% with minerality, a complex structure, fruit but form. I was extremely impressed. Excellent to Excellent+. ~$110 + tax from Marquis.
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