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Bourgogne: Good Bottom Feeding

If you have looked at the prices for 2005 Burgundies at the Premier Cru or Grand Cru level, I am sure your first reaction was Huh? The 2005 vintage for red Burgundy is certainly stellar, maybe the best at every level in recent memory, but the weak dollar, tiny production and the hype have sent prices to levels that have made many Burgophiles gasping for air. Burgundy has never been more expensive.

Fortunately, there is some beacon of hope in the still affordable lowest classification of Burgundy wine - Bourgogne (pronounced burr-gôn’yE). Bourgogne is one of France’s 26 wine regions and the regional Bourgogne appellation (Appellation Bourgogne Controlée) consists of four départements, Côte-d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Yonne and Rhône (northern part). The Bourgogne appellation is the broadest of the 21 appellations in Burgundy, encompassing the entire Burgundy region, a total of 385 villages and 7,400 acres of vines. Grapes for red (Bourgogne Rouge), white (Bourgogne Blanc), and rosé (Bourgogne Cloiret), may come from anywhere within Burgundy (the terms ’Bourgogne’ and ’Burgundy’ are often used interchangeably), A map of Burgundy is on page 2.

The grapes in Bourgogne wines are almost always 100% Pinot Noir. Cesar and Tressat grapes and Gamay, if grown in a Beaujolais cru vineyard, can be included. Gamay is always included in Bourgogne Passetoutgrains. The rock-bottom, poorest examples of Bourgogne are Bourgogne Ordinaire, and are not suitable for discussion here.

Navigating your way through Burgundy can be daunting and you may be scratching your head already. Per-Henrik Mansson has said, “Burgundy is like any difficult subject, be it opera or modern art: The more you know about it, the more you realize how little you know.” The most important factors to keep in mind in choosing a Bourgogne wine, (or any level of Burgundy above Bourgogne, including Villages, Premier Cru and Grands Cru), is the vintage and the producer. Recent vintages 2002 and 2005 are great, 2003 and 2004 are good. In great vintages, like 2005, Burgundy is consistently excellent throughout the heirarchy from generic Bourgogne appellation wines to Grands Crus. The wines that are reviewed in the following pages include many prominent individual producers (who own their own vineyards) and négociants (merchants who buy grapes or wine and may or may not own vineyards).

The North American equivalent of Bourgogne Rouge would be the broad appellation Pinot Noirs of California (for example, Santa Barbara County) and Oregon (for example Willamette Valley). Some of the French Bourgogne wines have become “Americanized” and more consumer friendly to the United States market. The words “Pinot Noir” are displayed prominently on the label rather the traditional word “Bourgogne.” The labels of 2005 Frederic Magnien Pinot Noir and 2005 Domaine Denis Mortet Bourgogne are pictured below for comparison.

I sampled 25 Bourgogne Rouges from primarily the 2004 and 2005 vintages. A few older vintages, dating back to 1999 were included and revealed that, although Bourgogne is ready to drink upon release, it may be cellared as well, developing a secondary bouquet and flavors that can be interesting. Prices ranged from $14 to $45, with several less than $20. The wines were a mixed bag, with a few quite good for what they are, and several others disappointing, even from the 2005 vintage. Not surprisingly, there were no wines that brought me to my knees, but considering the cost, many supplied a perfectly fine drinking experience. The wines are rather thin on the backend and shy on the attack, emphasizing finesse over power. They do not supply the rich fruitiness that many pinotphiles are used to from California Pinot Noirs. In addition, they are more tannic than many stateside Pinot Noirs and the aromatics can veer toward the excremental and funky. That said, with brisk acidity, low alcohol, and elegance, they can be superb food wines.

By sampling Bourgogne from multiple vignerons, one can develop a preference for the style of favorite producers and this can used be a guide for purchasing wines higher up the Burgundy hierarchy.

Unlike many of the cherished Cru Burgundies, Bourgogne Rouge is readily available in the retail marketplace. Because of the popularity of the 2005 vintage, however, the wines are disappearing quickly.

I have listed the wines by vintage, from the more recent, 2005, to the oldest, 1999.

2005 Gérard Raphet Les Grands Champs Bourgogne Cuvée Unique

13% alc.. Imported by North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA. · The perfume starts off funky but airs out to reveal attractive cherry and orange peel notes. Tart and simple red current and cherry flavors are framed by lively acidity.

2005 Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $14. Imported by Henriot, Inc., New York, NY. · Shy and shallow aromatics which are a bit musty. Simple strawberry and cherry flavors. Finishes with assertive acidity. Hard to cozy up to this wine. Website: www.bouchard-peretfils.com

2005 Domaine Bachey-Legros Veilles Vignes Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $17. Imported by Wine Agencies Inc., Van Nuys, CA. · A reticent but pleasing nose of cherry and mahogany wood. Red fruit driven, with svelte tannins and a tart finish highlighted with a whisper of oak.

2005 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $17. Imported by Martine’s Wines Inc., Novato, CA. · Simple and sweet dark red Pinot fruits are soft and silky in the mouth. Red raspberry and a touch of funk fill the finishing aromatics. The finish is firm with weighty tannins. Simple but appealing.

2005 Frédéric Esmonin Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits

12.5% alc., $18. Atherton Wine Imports, San Jose, CA. · Scents of plum, black cherry, decay and citrus carry through to the long and chewy finish. The tannins are nicely integrated and the whole package is well balanced. Straightforward and likeable.

2005 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot Bourgogne

12% alc., $20. Atherton Wine Imports, San Jose, CA. · Bright and appealing scents of crushed ripe strawberries and Xmas cheer. The spiced cherry flavors are crisp and juicy. Virile tannins on the finish suggest cellaring for maximum enjoyment.

2005 Domaine Heresztyn Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $20. Imported by Esquin Imports Inc., San Anselmo, CA. · Clean and fresh cherry aromas with exotic wood and cookie dough highlights. Lightly oak-tinged cherry red fruit. Smooth in texture with commendable elegance and a lingering citric edge on the finish. A great drink for one Jackson.

2005 Alex Gambal Bourgogne Cuvée les Deux Paris

13% alc., $21. Imported by Wine Warehouse, Los Angeles, CA. Gambal is a négociant-eleveur. · Light in color, light in intensity. Noticeable oak and toast dominate the aromatics throughout. Simple red fruits and a hint of spice. The finish is tart.

2005 Rubeus of Lore Pinot Noir from Burgundy

13.5% alc., $22. Produced for Rubeus Vineyards by Henri de Villamont, negociant Savigny-Les-Beaune. Imported by WX Imports, Novato, CA. (Purchased at a supermarket). · Ripe cherry and red raspberry scents lead to sweet and soft red fruit flavors that are enhanced by subtle oak. The tannins are fine-grained and there is plenty of cleansing acidity. Simple and straightforward, but an appealing drink.

2005 Bertrand Ambroise Cuvée Veilles Vignes Bourgogne

$23. Imported by Robert Karcher Select, Washington, D.C. Website: www.ambroise.com. · Scents of barnyard, black fruits, oak and grass lead to simple flavors of red currant and dark berries. The finish is a touch bitter with notable tannic grip. Decent.

2005 Chateau de la Maltroye Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $25. Imported by Wine House Limited, San Francisco, CA. · This wine starts off quite alluring with a pure and extroverted nose of red berries with a hint of mint. On the palate, the healthy core of red Pinot fruits is framed by aggressive, drying tannins. This one needs some time in the cellar to soften.

2005 Domaine Taupenot-Merme Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $25. Imported by Thomas Wine Imports, Thousand Oaks, CA · The most California in style in the lineup. Extravagant super ripe berry nose with a hint of maple syrup. Rich core of intense red fruit. Plenty of t and a on the finish. Website: www.taupenot-merme.com.

2005 Domaine Anne Gros Bourgogne

12.5% alc., 2005 Domaine Anne Gros Bourgogne 12.5% alc., $30. Imported by Atherton Wine Imports, Atherton, CA. Located in Vosne-Romanee, Anne Gros (right) is one of the new generation of Burgundian winemakers. She followed in her father’s winemaking footsteps in 1988 and started Domaine Anne Gros in 1995. Her wines are known for their silkiness and preciseness. · This wine is a real winner, a diamond in the rough. The nose is typically Burgundian with musk, earth, and baby diaper. The symphony of vivid, fresh red fruit flavors are glorious and mouth filling. The texture is plush and milky. Tannins are reigned in and the raspberry kiss on the lengthy finish is quite nice. Impressive for a wine of this level. Website: www.anne-gros.com.

2005 Frédéric Magnien Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $36. Imported by North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA. · This is an earthy wine from start to finish. Darker fruits are predominant but play second fiddle to the hearty mushroom, musk and meaty flavors. Tannins are weighty but not over the top.

2004 Domaine Chevillon-Chezeaux Bourgogne

12.5%, $17. Imported by Weygendt-Metzler, Unionville, PA. · On the lighter side of garnet, this wine offers cherry, woodsy and floral scents. The sour cherry flavors are thin and lead to a finish of mouth-puckering acidity and notable tannic grip.

2004 Maison Camille Giroud Bourgogne

12.5%, $18. Imported by Adventures in Wine, a Becky Wasserman Selection, Daly City, CA. Founded in 1965 by the man of that name, for many years this producer was known for traditional, long-aged Burgundies. It was acquired in 2002 by Ann Colgin and husband Joe Wender. They brought in young winemaker David Croix, turned to Becky Wasserman for direction, and undertook a major revamping of the winery, including the introduction of modern winemaking, use of gentle oak and little racking. A remarkable turnaround has occurred, and the wines are now much more supple and approachable. · This wine has an appealing sappy cherry aromatic nucleus. The sweet core of caressing red fruit is framed by spice and musk. Harmonious from start to finish, this is a wine that will win hearts without pillaging the wallet.

2004 Domaine Fougeray De Beauclair Bourgogne

12,5%, $19. Imported by Vinalia Imports Inc., Camarillo, CA. · A perfectly elegant wine that is pale in color. Spiced cherries and vegetative decay aromas are enhanced by tart red fruit and flowery flavors. The texture is smooth as silk and the balance is impeccable. A discreet wine of great charm. Website:

2004 Domaine Henri Perrot-Minot Veilles Vignes Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $30. Imported by Martine’s Wines, Novato, CA. · A grassiness permeates the bright red and herbal flavors throughout. Firm tannins are evident on the finish. Website: www.perrot-minot.com.

2004 Domaine Anne Gros Bourgogne

13% alc., $32. Imported by North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA. · An endless potpourri of ripe cherries, wax and Xmas spice keeps your nose in the glass. Red currents and red raspberries are elegantly presented with fine-grained tannins in the background. Commendable balance. Like the 2005 version of this wine, quite beguiling.

2004 Domaine Denis Mortet Cuvée de Noble Souche Bourgogne

13% alc., Imported by Martine’s Wines, Novato, CA. · A wine for lovers of Francois Fréres oak. Toast and char dominate the aromatics. Rich, red berry and cherry flavors are dominated by charred oak. The tannins are rugged.

2002 Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $20. Imported by Vinalia Imports Inc., a Becky Wasserman Selection, Camarillo, CA. · Rich aromatics with sweet red fruits, mushrooms, barnyard and a little Brett. Soft red and blue fruits are likeable, but the finish is too dry and tart.

2000 Dugat-Py Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $30. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, PA. · Very funky aromatics with plenty of barnyard. Nicely weighted with perfect acid/tannin balance. Red and black berry flavors are lip-smacking. Still has notable tannins on the finish. Website: www.dugat-py.com

1999 Domaine Bachelet Bourgogne

12.5% alc.. Imported by Martin Scott Wines Ltd, a Becky Wasserman Selection, Lake Success, NY. · A decent but not terribly interesting wine with funky, woodsy scents, tart cherry flavors and a soft mouth feel.

1999 Joseph Roty Cuvée Pressonnier Bourgogne

13% alc.. Imported by Atherton Wine Imports, Atherton, CA.. · Light in color and body, this elegant wine smells of fresh sawed wood and mushrooms and tastes of rhubarb and red currents. Muscular tannins still persist on the finish.

1999 Leroy Bourgogne

12.5% alc., $30. Imported by Leroy Inc., San Rafael, CA. · The long cork was wet with black mold on the top. Funky nose with baby diaper and toast. Rich in texture, darker fruits predominate with a woodsy and earthy edge. Tannins are well integrated.

It doesn’t take a genius to read into these notes that the producers to seek out are Camille Giroud, Fougeray de Beauclair, Heresztyn, and Anne Gros. You won’t be disappointed with these quality Burgundy wineries. All of these producers’ wines are readily available in the United States.

Village of Vosne-Romanee

Want to learn more about Burgundy? How about a first-hand look with a guided tour. See next page.

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French Wine Explorers
Wineries in this Article
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