by VineSleuth Contributing Writer, Steve Gross
This is the third post in A Tasting Tour of French Wine, a bi-weekly series on VineSleuth Uncorked.
We are staying in Burgundy, but shifting our focus to white…
White Burgundy is Chardonnay
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect when the word Chardonnay comes up. Chardonnay can be the insipid, flat, lifeless whites in plastic cups at social events or fund raisers. It can also be the thick-tasting, rich, and buttery wine that gives you the feeling that you could stand a dessert spoon in the glass. And it can even inspire poetry.
One area where Chardonnay is grown and made is, to me, the zenith of what the grape can produce. That area is Burgundy.
Though lower priced white Burgundies are often one-dimensional, as you rise up the price scale, you’ll find wines with complex layers, minerality (caution: fancy wine term – in this case it’s a good thing to taste like rocks or chalk), and as you drink more and more of each glass, you will find yourself pondering the wondrousness of existence, and your date or spouse will look especially fetching and charming.
Chardonnay truly deserves its place as one of the noble grapes.
Overview of Burgundy
Burgundy is at two o’clock on the clock face that is the French map. From north to south, it covers Chablis (not officially part of Burgundy, but Chardonnay is the main grape there, and good Chablis has a clean, minerally, layered profile found in many fine Burgundies). In the south, Pouilly-Fuisse and other villages offer their own wonderful (slightly richer) Chardonnays. The center of the region (the Cote D’Or) is where some of the most magical winemaking in the world takes place.
If you aren’t familiar with fancy-sounding areas with the word Montrachet in them (Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet), that’s okay, but if you take the time to taste these wines, you will see what all the fuss is about. The Montrachet vineyard is one of the most famous single vineyards in the world, and given the prices for the wines and the law of supply and demand, it produces some of the best wines in the world. The most famous, in most people’s opinions, is Domaine Romanee-Conti (DRC) Montrachet. DRC makes other beyond-famous wines like La Tache, Richebourg, Echezeaux, and Romanee-Conti. I wasn’t able to taste these wines for this project, but we all have dreams….
You can get lower-priced wines with Montrachet on the label from makers like Louis Latour and Leonce Bocquet. You’ll find these in many wine shops. They start around $40, and though that’s not cheap, it is the price line where you begin to get wines with the wondrous qualities described above.
Because they’re clean-tasting wines, white Burgundies pair well with food (I’ve noticed that European wines have evolved to complement food, and in that they differ from many New World wines). So, the next time you’re putting on a swanky dinner, or just looking to really taste something fine, in my opinion, try a white Burgundy.
In our next post, I will share more about White Burgundies I have tasted and my impressions of them. In the meantime, please share some of your favorites in the comments…
This is the third post in A Tasting Tour of French Wine, a bi-weekly series on VineSleuth Uncorked. Click the title to see the schedule and taste alongside us. Steve discussed Red Burgundy in his previous post.