Burgundy

JJ Buckley at the Grand Jours de Bourgogne: Update from Burgundy’s Fringe

JoursFollowing a busy day tasting the wines of the Cotes de Nuits, Jeff Loo, JJ Buckley’s man in Beaune spent the next few days attending sessions focusing on the so-called “lesser” appellations of Burgundy. While the villages of the Cote d’Or get most of the attention, the Grand Jours de Bourgogne tastings really open your eyes to the diversity of wines made throughout the region. Whether it’s sparkling wines, beaujolais and even high-octane brandies, Burgundy is so much more than pinot noir and chardonnay.

While not as glamorous, areas like the Maconnais and Burgundy are becoming increasingly important to the region’s economic well-being. The price of land in the Cote d’Or is becoming frighteningly expensive making it difficult for families to hold onto their properties. With such high prices today, only banks and multinational conglomerates have the wherewithal to purchase these expensive vineyards. With that comes a loss of the traditions passed down from generation to generation of winemakers and farmers, a blow to the region’s cultural heritage.

For years now, many large family owned negociants have traveled south to purchase vineyards in Beaujolais and the Macon to ensure they have consistent availability of fruit for the more affordable wines in their portfolio. The rise in quality of cru Beaujolais and site-specific Pouilly-Fuisses over the past decade are evidence that quality wines can be made outside of the Cote d’Or and at affordable prices.

Jeff Loo had this to say after his tasting sessions:

“As I tasted my way through the wines of the Macon region, there were plenty of examples that were simply meant for everyday drinking but I also found some stunning discoveries that would give wines from Chablis and Beanue a run for their money. 2012 is a super vintage here. The wines are expressive with great fruit profiles as well as weight and acidity. I get the feeling the best examples will easily age for a decade. Yet the quality is so good, it will be hard to keep them in the cellar.

Tasting through the wines of almost 100 producers was a thrilling experience. The winemakers I met are all fiercely proud of their regions and their wines. There’s a sense of pride to be found here and the top estates are making thought provoking wines that will please even the most jaded palates. To be clear, these are incredible values and it will be a big mistake if you overlook them. St Veran gets my nod as best of the bunch in 2012.”

Coming up is Jeff’s final report from the Burgundy’s most important trade event as he travels south to taste through the wines of the Cote de Beaune.

Click here to read our blogpost about the 2012 wines from Chablis presented at the Grand Jours. And here for Jeff’s updates from the Cote de Nuits.

Can’t make it to the Grand Jours de Bourgogne? These wines are great introductions to the “other” Burgundy.

2010 Vincent Girardin Domaine de la Tour du Bief Moulin a Vent “Clos de la Tour”

2010 Louis Jadot Chateau des Jacques Moulin a Vent Clos de Rochegres

2010 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly Flower Label

JJ Buckley at the Grand Jours de Bourgogne: Update from the Cotes de Nuits

JJ Buckley's Jeff Loo took his trademark cowboy hat to Burgundy but this producer had him beat!

JJ Buckley’s Jeff Loo took his trademark cowboy hat to Burgundy but this producer had him beat!

Following the introductory tastings in Chablis that start the Grand Jours de Bourgogne week, the wine industry entourage turns their attention southwards and begin their immersion into the wines of the Cote d’Or. The day focuses on the wines of the Cote de Nuits which are presented in four different locations from the village of Marsannay in the north down to Nuits St. Georges. There are over 200 tables at the four tastings and each producer can easily pour 4-6 wines, often pouring multiple vintages of the same wine. So basically, you’re looking at almost 1000 wines being poured on Tuesday. And there are three days of tastings to go. And folks in the trade say that tasting Bordeaux en primeur is hard……

Starting the day, you have to come to grips with the fact that there’s no way to taste all the wines you hope to try and that time management is essential. Knowing all this information from our visit to the region two years ago, it was probably rather cruel of us to send JJ Buckley’s Jeff Loo to fend off the crowds all by his lonesome. But we figured that his enthusiasm for Burgundy was all that he needed to handle the moshpit at each tasting.

Here’s a brief synopsis of his thoughts after tasting the day’s wines.

“As a whole, the village of Vosne Romanee is the most successful in 2012. They were simply the best wines I encountered today and that’s saying something given the sheer number of wines that were available to try. The amount of stunning wines that I tasted, whether grand crus or simple village wines, was simply incredible. These bottlings will be among the best candidates for long term cellaring. 

I found the 2012s from Gevrey Chambertin to be extremely fruit forward and strong. They were almost modern in style, yet still exhibited a significant measure of restraint. The best examples showed grippy tannins that are typically encountered in wines from this commune that also showed off some mouthwatering acidity. Some years in the cellar will be essential with Gevrey’s top cuvees.

The day wasn’t just about the most famous crus of the Cotes de Nuits. Part of this tasting included wines from Marsannay and Fixin, two appellations that can offer some of Burgundy’s best values. While the 2011 vintage was delicious in Marsannay, the 2012’s will easily outlive them.  Fixin also had a strong showing in 2012, with most producers making wines easily in the 88-92 point range. Look to this commune when looking for well priced pinots from the Cote d’Or.”

Look forward to Jeff’s final report from the Burgundy’s most important trade event as he travels south to taste through the wines of the Cote de Beaune.

Click here to read our blogpost about the 2012 wines from Chablis presented at the Grand Jours.

Can’t make it to the Grand Jours de Bourgogne? JJ Buckley brings the Cote de Nuits to you.

2010 Domaine de l’Arlot Cote de Nuits Villages “Clos du Chapeau”

2003 Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin les Marchais

2010 Domaine Tortochot Clos de Vougeot

2010 Bouchard Pere et Fils Vosne Romanee

JJ Buckley at the Grand Jours de Bourgogne: Update from Chablis

Grand JoursThe Grand Jours de Bourgogne tastings began a few days ago with the traditional start to the event held in the northern region of Chablis. While our preferred focus was on the famed chardonnays of this famous region, one can easily be immersed (or most likely distracted) by the diversity of wines that come from the northern reaches of Burgundy.

Consumers and the trade are guilty of thinking that chardonnay and pinot noir represent the entirety of what is produced there. But there are intriguing subregions in the north including the Grand Auxerrois that sees minerally and racy sauvignon blancs emanating from the chalk soils of Saint-Bris, aligote wines that are more frequently found further south in the Cotes Chalonnaise and even some sturdy pinot noirs from the cold area of Irancy.

We just received an update from JJ Buckley’s Burgundy specialist Jeff Loo who is our man on the scene at this year’s Grand Jours tastings. He will compile tasting notes for the top wines of each commune while offering commentary on how each village fared with the 2012 vintage. The best of his on-the-scene reporting will be summarized along with his notes in a JJ Buckley report on the 2012 Burgundies to be published shortly after his return.

In the meantime here are a few observations from Jeff on his visit to Chablis:

“In 2012, it’s not just the grand cru or premier cru bottlings to look for. In this vintage, the village level wines and the lesser appellations found amazing success. The 12’s are very good compared to the 2010’s. They have an incredible roundness to them as though they already had enough bottle age to develop that ‘fatness’ that comes out in white Burgundies with age. Many winemakers considered the 2012’s as a combination of the styles found in 2009 and 2010 Chablis melding the fineness and acidity from ’10 and the richly textured fruit from 2009.  There really wasn’t a dog at this day’s tastings.”

The Tuesday tastings will be one of Jeff’s toughest days of the Grand Jours as he shuttles between four communes in the northern Cotes d’Or. He’ll be jostling and fighting for tastes of the crus of Vosne Romanee at the historic chateau of Clos Vougeot and then running up north to Marsannay to sample the wines from the commune of Gevrey Chambertin. In between he has tastings of wines from Nuits St. Georges, Morey St. Denis, Chambolle Musigny and more. Wow, I’m just tired writing about it.

Stay tuned!!

Drink with Jeff by enjoying these tasty Chablis:

2011 Domaine Louis Michel Chablis “Grenouilles”

2009 Domaine Laroche Chablis “Blanchots”

2007 La Chablisienne Chablis “Bougros”

From Cubicle to Crush Pad

From Cubicle to Crush Pad

Post by Chuck Hayward | September 19th, 2012

If you read enough catalogs from wine retailers and journalists, it’s likely you’ve seen articles about their visits to wineries as they explore wine regions across the globe. And while certainly an industry perk, these visits really are to the advantage of both the participant and the consumer. It’s important for the trade to get a better understanding of the wines they sell and it’s always good for the reader to enjoy a visit, even if it is only vicariously.

But it’s one thing to visit and taste. It’s altogether a different thing to take time off to actually make wine. And that’s what a few members of JJ Buckley’s wine staff are planning to do in the upcoming weeks. Not for the faint of heart, this means long days of physical labor, dragging hoses and picking at grapes. Early mornings, groggy and tired from hard work, combined with the after-effects of long nights spent tasting wine and unwinding with co-workers. Any romance about making wine disappears as bees and snakes lurk in picking bins in a cellar that reeks of smelly yeast and fermenting grapes.

But trust me – I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. (more…)

Where to Wine and Dine: The Beaune Edition

Where to Wine and Dine: The Beaune Edition

Post by Chuck Hayward | May 23rd, 2012

Wherever one finds vineyards and wineries, good dining usually follows. And

Tower of power! DRC display at Ma Cuisine

when it comes to Burgundy, the local cuisine expresses itself in a very direct and focused manner. This is not a region of haute cuisine for the wealthy, the gastronomes, or foodspotters who populate cities and other foodie destinations. Rather, Burgundy’s cuisine perfectly reflects the region’s wine culture. Honest and straightforward without embellishments, the food is much like the vignerons who have worked the land for so long.

Dining out in Burgundy makes you realize how much of its cuisine populates America’s tables. Here, the menus often feature escargots presented in their shells or puff pastries. Your meal might start off with some jambon persille, a country-style pate featuring chunky ham joined in aspic with spices and parsley. And it will be hard to escape the classic boeuf bourguignon, chunks of fork-tender beef in a deeply flavored, richly colored gravy, a dish almost too intense and powerful to pair with the region’s subtle pinots. You’ll also see the trademark gougeres, warm cheese puffs that are so prevalent, and addictive, at receptions or before a meal. The highlight of the cheese cart is epoisse. Pungent and runny, it commands your attention and pairs well with an after dinner marc de bourgogne. (more…)

2009: A Very Good Year for Burgundy and Vincent Girardin

2009: A Very Good Year for Burgundy and Vincent Girardin

Post by Chuck Hayward | November 16th, 2011

A line up of 2009 barrel samples from Girardin

Highly acclaimed, the 2009 burgundies are slowly arriving on our shores and it’s shaping up to be an excellent vintage. Perhaps you’ve read the press, and while the descriptions are pretty accurate, nothing beats actually trying the wines whether here or in France. Fortunately, I have been able to do both!

In assessing any vintage, I like to use two different methods to discern its quality. One is to visit as many growers and domaines as possible, though the drawback is that one winery may be located in Gevrey Chambertin, another in Meursault. So not only is a lot of traveling involved but it can be difficult to gather an overall perspective of a vintage by looking at just a few places. Therefore, I make sure to also include visits to good negociants who make wines from vineyards up and down the Cote d’Or, thereby providing the perfect opportunity to gain a broad look at a vintage.

Where many firms have long and rich histories going back centuries, a number of new operations have cropped up in the region over the past few decades. Some are outsiders who immigrated to Burgundy from other countries, such as Alex Gambal who came from the United States. (more…)

Next Stop: Bordeaux

Next Stop: Bordeaux!

Post by Shaun Bishop | April 1st, 2011

I’m writing this from the tiny town of Vougeot in Burgundy, France where my team and I have been visiting top domaines and tasting all week. At

The Team at Tertre Roteboeuf in 2009

the same time, another JJ Buckley team has arrived into Bordeaux and is heading to dinner at Chateau Lagrange – I know it sounds ‘rough’, but I promise you, it really is a lot of hard work (and a long time to be gone from your wife and kids!)

Tomorrow morning, we take the train to Bordeaux to meet up with the rest of the JJB team. The exciting news is that this year, we want YOU to be part of the adventure and encourage you to ask us anything you’d like to know about the 2010 vintage in Bordeaux (or any other Bordeaux related questions for that matter). (more…)

Burgundy:The Big and Small of It

Burgundy:The Big and Small of It

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 1, 2011

Tasting 2009 Whites at Louis Jadot

Our trip to Burgundy has been a spectacular vinous pilgrimage on a number of fronts, but most importantly, we accomplished our mission. Trekking the holy trail that leads south from Dijon through the Cotes-de-Nuits, we spent a couple of days getting up-close-and-personal with winemakers and current releases, as well as assessing what lies ahead. Afterwards, we headed to Beaune and invaded the offices of Louis Jadot where we encountered a positively knee-buckling line-up of wine, including some pretty amazing older vintages.

In addition to getting insight into the wines themselves, these few days also highlighted one of Burgundy’s great polemics. It goes something like this:

The Vineyards Of Romanee-Conti

With the idea that smaller is better, industry pundits and connoisseurs typically hold large wineries and negociants in lesser esteem (sometimes in outright contempt) than small, farmer-winemaker estates. The romantic story of the noble vigneron tilling his vineyard and fighting the large, soul-less city-based firms just to get the mortgage paid speaks to the “little guy” in all of us. But is personal passion inherently superior to corporate pursuits? Critics of big business think so, alleging that large firms lack a unique voice, producing dumbed-down wines aimed at an audience that doesn’t know any better. (more…)

Will the real Burgundy please stand up?

Will the real Burgundy please stand up?

Post by Chuck Hayward | March 29, 2011

Before team JJB descends on Bordeaux for En Primeurs 2010, a few of us are laying-over in Burgundy to have a look at the acclaimed 2009 vintage. Coincidentally, recent articles by Eric Asimov (New York Times) and Charlie Olken (Connoisseurs’ Guide), as well as a seminar at the World of Pinot conference have placed a unique frame around the pinots we’ll be tasting during our stay.

Street signs, Burgundy

Which way, which way?!

At issue? High alcohols, particularly in domestic pinot. Without rehashing the content of these articles (and without taking sides), it is safe to say that the debate remains as active and contentious as ever. Certainly the matter is certainly far from settled.

In another article, and one particularly germane to our trip, The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin examines the differences between the 2008 and the 2009 Burgundy vintages. While he doesn’t seem to have a dog in the aforementioned fight, his preference is clearly for the 08’s, and he alludes to the debate between the more classical, restrained styles of that year vs the riper, more forward examples produced in 09.

He is not alone in his assessment. Many industry insiders have proposed that the riper 2009’s are not “typical” of Burgundy, ergo not as good as the more subtle and, as Martin calls them, “transparent” 08’s. It’s no great mystery that the cooler climate of many European wine regions results in vintage variation and some years are going to produce riper Burgundies than others. What is fascinating here is that what Mother Nature has given us has somehow become a topic of concern, where the “authenticity” of an entire vintage is put on trial.  (more…)

Burgundy Brigade

Burgundy Brigade

Post by Chuck Hayward | October 11th, 2010

Getting wind of a Burgundy tasting sends most of us in the wine trade into a vinous tizzy. And so it was last week that we jumped across the bay to

Some '06 Burgs, ready to taste

RN74, San Francisco’s shrine to Burgundy and location for a tasting of assorted releases from the Vineyard Brands portfolio. Founded in 1971 by Robert Haas, a former New York City retailer, Vineyard Brands quickly became one of the country’s top importers of quality Burgundy and we looked forward to exploring their collection of estates.

Rather than the new releases we were expecting, we were fortunate that Vineyard Brands had decided to give us another look at reds and whites from 2006. Four years after vintage, it was an ideal time to assess the development of these wines and get a feel for where they are headed. Upon release, Stephen Tanzer observed that the ’06 whites were “rich, powerful wines, often high in alcohol. Their glycerol textures and often exotic tropical fruit character give them great early sex appeal.” At the same time, Bruce Sanderson noted in the Wine Spectator  that “the young Pinots also amazed me, with their immediate charm, seduction and balance.” (more…)