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Brian Gilp

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Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by Brian Gilp » Tue May 30, 2006 8:58 am

My wife and I are planning to go to France this fall and while we are still "discussing" the plans we do agree that we want to spend a few days in Burgundy. Due to numerous reasons never spent the time to really learn the character of the different vineyards. Can anyone suggest some wines we should be trying prior to the visit that best represent specific vineyards. The point is to be able to understand at least a few wines prior to the visit so that when we see the vineyards we can attempt to relate them back to what we tasted prior.
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Rahsaan

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Re: Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by Rahsaan » Tue May 30, 2006 10:24 am

Kind of a massive request. There are over a hundred appellations in Burgundy.

Perhaps there are certain villages you prefer?
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David Creighton

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Re: Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by David Creighton » Tue May 30, 2006 10:26 am

hi brian - hope you have a great time. while your plan is a noble one, i suspect it is also an expensive one. why not save the money for food and drink on the trip. vineyard differences are often discovered through a lifetime of tasting - hard to do a crash course. i especially suggest finding someone who can get you an appointment with a producer who owns parcels in more than one commune, and allow that producer to begin your education as you taste. it is also good if they would give you a driving trip to the vineyards beforehand and explain the differences before you begin the tasting. if you are particularly fond of some producer, find their website and contact them and tell them you enjoy their wines and would like to pay a visit to learn more about them. most people respond well to that approach. hope you have a great trip. david
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Brian Gilp

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Re: Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by Brian Gilp » Tue May 30, 2006 8:50 pm

Kind of a massive request. There are over a hundred appellations in Burgundy.


Sorry for the confusion. My intent is not to understand Burgundy in a few months. Instead I was hoping to find some wines that can be best used to illustrate the difference between different vineyards and/or villages so that when we visit them we can remember the taste differences and try to understand what makes them that way. Only a few good examples that maybe easier to relate to the physical attributes of the land was what I was looking for.

Maybe I should stick to the difference between villages. The wines from Volnay that I have had would never be considered powerhouse wines but more ones of finese. The only Musigny I have had on the other hand was completely different but it was a Leroy so I do not know if that was vineyard or producer.
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Brian Gilp

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Re: Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by Brian Gilp » Tue May 30, 2006 8:56 pm

David,

Thanks for the advice. We are planning to coordinate some visits prior but have not done so yet. Especially like the idea about the driving trip to the vineyards and will pursue it. As this is likely the only trip we ever expect to make to France, I want to get the most out of the time there hence the reason for wanting to at least try to understand a little about the difference in terroir.

Brian
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Re: Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by Hoke » Tue May 30, 2006 9:20 pm

My advice would be to read through some good tomes on Burgundy, like the Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wines chapters on Burgundy, paying special attention to the text in conjunction with the maps. That's especially valuable, because the maps give you the indications of why the villages might be different in the first place.

Then, go to Burgundy. You can either go selectively from one village/commune to the other (but for godsake don't stop at all of them, just the ones that most stimulate your imagination or sense of wonder) and taste judiciously. I'd actually recco that you stay with the village designations through the Premier Cru. Less damage to the pocketbook that way.

The other alternative is to go to Nuits and to Beaune, and taste selectively in those two towns, because each will have places to taste wines from all over those areas. Especially Beaune, which will have the widest selection of all of Burgundy. Curiously enough, there's a major tasting room (where they will also twist your arm to buy buy buy, but what else would you expect?) right next to the Visitor's Information Center and the Hospices de Beaune in the heart of the city.

If you have enough time, don't neglect the Cotes Chalonnaise, which a lot of people do. To get the full sense of Burgundy, what I've done is start in Macon and work my way up all the way to Fixin---but that took a minimum of three days, was a professional tour, and was damned exhausting, fun only to the demented or the idiot who's trying to learn about Burgundy in the shortest way possible.

A lot..most everything, as a matter of fact...becomse much clearer from the simple fact of being there (I like to watch.), and seeing/feeling/sensing the climate and topography, and seeing in full three dimensional glory the layout of the vineyards and where the PCs and GCs are located. It triggers that moment of awed comprehension when you actully feel like you understand why things are the way they are (you don't, not really, but you feel it for a moment).

For me the thunderbolt of comprehension, the single most meaningful moment in my understanding the basis of Burgundy and the entier AOC structure and hierarchy, was standing between Chassagne and Puligny, pretty much at the base of the slope, looking up the two lane road that cuts between the two AOCs (where St-Aubin is) heading up to the Haut Cotes de Beaune. I could see everything I needed to see to understand---to understand the subtle differences between Chassagne and Puligny, to understand why St-Aubin was different (good but never more than PC simply because of where it was), and to begin to understand all the little patchworks of Puligny----Le Montrachet, Batard, Pucelles, etc.

So what I'm telling you is, go and experience. And look out for the thunderbolt.
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Re: Burgundy Education Assistance Needed

by Paul Winalski » Wed May 31, 2006 8:55 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:David,Thanks for the advice. We are planning to coordinate some visits prior but have not done so yet. Especially like the idea about the driving trip to the vineyards and will pursue it.


If you can, have a wine merchant or someone else in the wine trade set up a couple of tasting appointments for you. The Cote d'Or is not like California, where most of the wineries have tasting rooms open to the public. Most of the top estates are small family operations, and if you just show up without an appointment you're likely to find there's nobody around because they're all off working in the cellar or the vineyard. But they love to actually meet the overseas consumers who actually buy and drink their wine (as opposed to importers and others in the wine trade). If you can speak some French or go with someone who speaks French, it will be that much more enjoyable.

And definitely do spend a bit of time driving around the vineyards themselves. One of my fondest memories from visiting Burgundy was having a late picnic supper on the walls of Le Montrachet in Puligny with the great Comet Hyakutake suspended in the sky over the peak of the Cote d'Or.

-Paul W.

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