In a geographically focused world defined by its very own diacritic caste system, in climat, in villages, premier et grand cru, the wines from Burgundy will always be royal. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are entrenched in such status not because of wealth or conceit, but because of “humility and unassailable references” from hills, plots, rocks, soils, sun exposure and the test of time. They are, as Woodman Wines and Spirits’ Jason Woodman notes, from a place “where history, religion and quality intersect.”
From Wine-Searcher.com “Burgundy (Bourgogne in French) is an historic and highly respected wine region in eastern France. Burgundy wines have long had devout followers throughout the world and continue to do so today. Although Bordeaux produces about four times as much wine every year, Burgundy’s estimated 74,000 acres (30,000ha) of vineyards are considered to be of equal importance, producing some of the most exclusive wines on Earth.” Equally important? We’ll see about that.
To most wine-loving mere mortals, great Burgundy is inaccessible, a prepossessing supposition that supersedes reality. The pragmatic wine buyer imagines the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to personify greatness, without ever owning one. Most of the rest are viewed in a light of feigned eminence. The overpriced and the under-delivered. Quality time is spent sniffing out the paragons, the most difficult of all wines to find.
The song, Royals “is about how today’s music is all about what is considered the “good life,” filled with riches and fame, but not everyone can live that life, and so the average person is desperately reaching…” The wines of Burgundy certainly gravitate into the hands of a wealthy minority but behind the dollar signs they are simply bottles of farmed and fermented grapes.
The wines of the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise and the Maconnais speak more clearly of their terroir than anywhere else in the world. They need not boast nor flaunt their wares. They simply are what they are and Burgundy is what it is. Affordable to so few, disregarded as out of league and untouchable by the rest. “That kind of luxe just ain’t for us,” might be the complaint of the anti-Burgundian wino. Regardless of where you sit in the Burgundian aperçu, you are not alone. The Brannigan will always be debated.
There are more expensive Burgundies. There are bigger names. Houses like Jayer, Romanée-Conti, Leflaive, Roumier, Leroy, Faiveley, Coche-Dury, Comte Liger-Belair, Dugat-Py, Ramonet and Rousseau. Golden escarpment producers that fetch higher prices for their top wines. There are just as productive and wide-reaching Burgundy conglomerates, like Latour and Boisset. But at the end of the day, is there a producer of red and white Burgundy that combines quality and quantity like Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils? The estate stretches over 48 km from north to south and is composed of 450 different vineyards. The Bouchard family has “been telling the history of Burgundy’s wine and its great appellations for over 280 years.” In Chablis, the rock stars may be Dauvissat and Raveneau, but who can argue the aggregate éclat of Domaine William Fèvre?
On March 24, 2014, Woodman Wines brought the two need no introduction Burgundy producers to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club for a very grand tasting. The “rare and miraculous” 2012’s from Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils and Domaine William Fèvre. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of pedigree and learning. Producers with holdings in Burgundy as historic and regal as the domains of Kings and Queens. From places where winemaking is religion, where terroir is everything. The wines are expensive (in some cases frighteningly so) but they are a treat to taste.
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils
Aligoté Ancien Domaine Carnot Bouzeron 2012, Burgundy, France ($28.00, WineAlign)
From the Côte Chalonnaise between Chagny and Rully this was a rare chance to taste Aligoté and from the first village to receive AOC status for the variety. Bouzeron sits in what Bouchard describes as a “windswept funnel,” which might explain its crazy, natural acidity and spirited character. Begins “with a low whisper, windswept on the air.” To nose it is smooth, creamy, soft and fruity. To taste it’s tight, racy and lifted by a metallic tang. For the price it ferries exceptional quality and personality. “Windswept is on the tide, a feeling only or state of mind?”
Montagny Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($79.00, WineAlign)
From the Côte Chalonnaise, the most southerly portion of the Côte d’Or. A higher amount of Marly soil mixed with White Burgundy-loving limestone imparts richness and a soft, Malo creamy texture. At present there is a sulphur presence that stretches its legs and hides beneath a level of tart fruit. The wood effect is in a spicy radish tone adding complexity to the lightly dressed salad flavours. Finishes with terrific length.
Meursault Genevrières Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($119.00, WineAlign)
Bouchard’s Genevrières speaks in a definitively, regional tone, a Côte-d’Or oriental vernacular with absolute and utter clarity. A wine this pure and at the head of its class means “time flies, doesn’t seem a minute.” From East and Southeast vine exposures above obvious and necessary limestone that vacuums a metallurgy mixed with the finest, circular centrifuge of acidity. This is the wrapping that envelopes richness, depth and fresh produce of a fruit/vegetable continuum. One night in Genevrières “makes a hard man humble.” A contemplative moment with this ’12 Bouchard may cause longing, to look east. “Don’t you know that when you play at this level there’s no ordinary venue.”
Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($130.00, WineAlign)
From a plot of land that was called Morga, from the Latin margo which means edge border, in this case between the Côte d’Or and Saone-et-Loire. The soils in this mid-slope vineyard with a south-easterly exposure combine limestone and Marl and so Bouchard’s 2012 take shows an increased richesse and concentration. A Chardonnay with drive, determination and delineation. Noticeably toasty and though mostly quiet now, even it its youth it is already showing resurgent citrus and nutty tones. It will oscillate back and forth between the poles for five years or so and come together for many more beyond.
Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($250.00, WineAlign)
The Bouchard description of “a scarce and promising vintage” will apply to this flagship Grand Cru as much as it will to any in the stable. Corton’s ode to King Charlemagne’s not to be stained white beard is the most difficult to contemplate, assess and articulate in its steely, whispering youth. This rare vineyard planted to both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, if just by chance it “crossed the diamond with the pearl,” is no cause for concern. This Charlemagne is just a kid, yet unaware of how it will rule with purity, personality and impunity. It does not yet know this and when it matures, it might be asked “did you realize that you were a champion in their eyes?” The creamy texture, subtle toast and extraordinary flavours are all there. Lay it down for 10 years and relive its limestone treasures for 20 more.
With the largest number of Grand Crus is the area, is it any wonder how one Gevrey Chambertin finds a way to set itself apart from the others? This 2011 Bouchard does so with this refined, restrained and cleansing Pinot Noir. Earthy and sugary beet flavours echo similar aromas. Picking time was certainly key. Foregoes grit, girth and a belt’s tannic lash for elegance and a directive to balance along a straightforward, pleasing line. Will do its best work in short-term gains, from now to 2018.
Savigny Lès Beaune Les Lavières Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($62.00, WineAlign)
From a limestone and clay vineyard in Bouchard’s control for just over 100 years. Filled with “laves,” the big flat stones that characterize the land, this 1er Cru is painted by the soil, with a charred, mineral glaze. It’s also sweeter and scented by high-toned red fruit, less refined than other Beaune vineyards but all the while offering near-immediate gratification. Could use a couple of years to settle and will drink well for five or more.
Gevrey Chambertin 2012, Burgundy, France ($66.00, WineAlign)
In this vintage the Gevrey is a magnified version of itself, seemingly drawing every atom of mineral and fossil from its Triassic limestone bed. The table of clay potassium, phosphorous and iron are all in this bottle, expressed in earthy Pinot Noir character. This might be the Bouchard blazon and secret weapon; dangereux, tight, sharp and pointed. The fruit is pure and clearly defined but will require time to shed its tough outer layer. Put the 2012 Gevrey away for five years and look to see it open up to 2022.
Chambolle Musigny 2012, Burgundy, France ($76.00, WineAlign)
From the shallowest of Côte-d’Or soils, Bouchard’s Chambolle Musigny is extracted from delicate berries that rely on its vine’s roots to crawl down into limestone’s fissures in search of nutrients. Though many a Chambolle exhibits tenderness and elegance, this Bouchard hard-working vine has produced a quilted, tactile wine of texture and contour. It opens with its own special vineyard stink, a note of subterranean terroir that dissipates with a swirl. A wildly woven combination of chalk, grain and chewy licorice makes for a varied and salubrious mouthful. As big as it gets for the appellation and surely worth a go from 2018 and for a decade more.
Volnay Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Caillerets Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($118.00, WineAlign)
Caillerets and the term tête de cuvée go back as far as 1855 and with this iconic bottling there is proof in perpetuum that Bouchard knows Volnay. This is the house’s first vineyard dating to 1775 so it goes without saying that 237 years of experience is nothing to dismiss. The 2012 Cuvée Carnot is refined in a state of heightened awareness. The aromas are smoky, meaty and the favours concentrated. Distinctively opaque like a Pensieve with a swirling torrent of tannin pushed along by centrifugal force. Will need 10 years to immobilize, then to age rhythmically for 10 more.
Pommard Rugiens Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($146.00, WineAlign)
Bouchard’s Pommard Rugiens goes at the Pinot Noir diapason from every angle. At once fibrous and rigid, it is also highly perfumed by flowers, most notably violets. The rich iron-red soil imparts a large measure of ferrous aroma but the pure fruit sustains the mineral and the wine remains a good conversationalist. A metrosexual, acting out both masculine and feminine parts. The rest of the Bouchard red Burgundies tend to choose one side or the other but the gregarious Pommard lives on the edge. A streak of char and chalky tannin shows late and lingers throughout the lengthy finish.
Nuits St Georges Les Cailles Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($146.00, WineAlign)
A gorgeously refined wine built on finesse, clarity and concentration. All its graceful parts move in synch through structured stages of class, refinement and with a goal towards a realized, long evolution. Noticeable but sweet tannins are gained by a bleeding of the terroir‘s oolithic chalk by way of hard stones. Silky and feminine perfumed red fruit never wavers from its intent, to seduce and give pleasure. No dying quail this Nuits St Georges, nor a frozen rope, the wine hangs in balance effortlessly and for a long, long time. Enjoy it for 10-15 years.
Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2012, Burgundy, France ($146.00, WineAlign)
From the just a shade under four hectare, formerly owned by Carmelites vineyard within the famous 32 hectare “Roi Soleil” Grèves appellation. Like its namesake (in reference to Louis XIV), this Bouchard is the red that displays the most control and Type-A personality. A wine that draws every bit of modern terroir from the gravelly clay. A wine of great excess, state-of-the-art, jeweled, luxurious and crafted with the heaviest hand. The sun king goes for much glory, but at what price? The price of needing to be loved in its youth. The question is will that cost L’enfant Jésus 2012 long-term success? With more abundant fruit than a Versailles Trianon and the guts to soldier on, it’s hard to imagine it not aging for 20 or more years.
Domaine William Fèvre
Saint Bris 2012, Ac, Burgundy, France ($25.00, WineAlign)
From the commune of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, this is light, cool-climate tension Sauvignon Blanc. A wine of impetuous and quick-step moments. The rush of just opened soda, the spray of a freshly bitten green apple, the knife cutting through juicy lemons and limes. A hyper-clean rendition of the Loire grape, this northern rendition will work an oyster with ease.
Chablis Les Lys Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($58.00, WineAlign)
Of the Fèvre Premier Cru designations, Les Lys exhibits the softest, downy touch and the more muted or demurred personality. The fine lees is distributed through the texture and the limestone gives way to chalk on top. Offers up more spongy fruit than Montmains or Monte de Milieu and finishes with charm.
Chablis Mont De Milieu Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($69.00, WineAlign)
The Fèvre Mont De Milieu is the smallest of the domain’s Premier Cru holdings with a struck by flint personality that is quite intense. Neither Les Lys or Montmains show such dynamic mineral effect. The most righteous of the Chablis Serein River banks brothers maintains that matchstick loving feeling, though it is temporarily relinquished to a honeyed moment. It’s “a love you don’t find every day, so don’t, don’t, don’t let it slip away.” Fear not, for the gathering is beautifully concentrated and the rocky, mineral bent never fully dissipates. A Milieu to savor from 2017 to 2025.
Chablis Bougros Grand Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($97.00, WineAlign)
While the appellation may not be the most sought after in terms of Chablis Grand Cru, the dominant Fèvre presence, experience and dedication to making Chardonnay in Bougros can’t be ignored. A good, if not exceptional vintage, 2012 is appropriate and defining. The sensations are of precious gems and metals and the exuberance restrained, but this Chablis seems on the verge. It’s as if a match has touched the strip and is about to alight. A powdering of Kimmeridgian clay is saturated by a smack of late lashing acidity. The Fèvre Bougros rises with energy from a standstill to high-speed. It will age harmoniously into the next decade.
Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2012, Burgundy, France ($143.00, WineAlign)
The Fèvre take on Les Clos is the cradle of all the domain’s wines, in every respect. Intensely concentrated, this is Chardonnay expressive in every facet of its surroundings. The impart from compressed white limestone, ancient fossils and Jurassic minerals in distillate may seem abstract in description but how else can the feeling of a mouth full of rocks be conveyed? The remarkably complex Les Clos and its structured palate that goes on forever has come out of its Chablis vineyard cradle and will live on as one of the best ever. “It’s not a place, it’s a yearning. It’s not a race, it’s a journey.” There is no rush to drink it up. It will offer immense pleasure for 20-25 years.
Good to go!