03/26/08 – white Burgundy

By Jesse on March 24, 2008


We’re back to a regular meeting schedule now, and it’s with great excitement that I send you the details of this week’s meeting — the first to feature a sampling of our new, post-LA-Times membership. And, correspondingly, the first to feature a more pro-active RSVP system. Details after the info.

Per Kristen’s request, this week we return to a wine we’ve dabbled in once or twice but perhaps have never given the attention it deserves: white Burgundy. We tasted it back in 2006 when we were doing our world tour, but that’s when we didn’t really know what we were doing. Then last year we might’ve had a couple bottles at the ACBCC meeting, but when was the last time we actually got into Burgundy, deconstructed it, demystified it? It’s definitely that time.

As you all well know, Burgundy (or Bourgogne, if you want to be foppish) is one of the legendary French regions so revered by white wine drinkers. Chardonnay makes up the vast majority of Burgundian whites, and definitely most of those that you’ll find here in the states will be 100% Chardonnay. The famous whites from Chablis have inspired Chardonnay all around the world. Further south, tremendous Chards are made in the Cote d’Or (which itself includes the Cote de Beaune and the Cote de Nuits). Good bargains may be found in whites from the Cote Chalonnaise or Maconnais. If you want to be unique, the village of Bouzeron in the Cote Chalonnaise produces whites from the grape Aligote reather than Chardonnay; also, you may find some cremant de Bourgogne (sparkling wines) made from Chardonnay and perhaps Aligote. Bring any you like.

There are tons of articles about white Burgundy, so do some research; as a primer, please check out this page from the wine doctor, which is an excellent summary of Burgundy and its many confusing subregions. Also, our new fan Natalie MacLean includes an excellent passage on white Burgundy in her 2006 book Red, White, and Drunk all Over (don’t yell at me about capitalization, I’m copying it straight from the book):

“…most of us will never become experts on burgundy in our lifetimes, and for a good reason: it’s too darn expensive. Never mind being able to afford the grands crus, even the cheaper ones have hefty price tags. The adage is that a burgundy costs $500: $450 for all the mediocre bottles you try before finding a good one for $50.”

Intimidating, huh? Remember, don’t be afraid to bring a $10 donation instead of trying to struggle with finding the perfect bottle. If you do go the purchase route, talk to your trusted wine dealer about finding an affordable bottle that he or she has actually tasted or heard good things about. Or, follow Natalie’s advice:

“The most affordable and easiest way to discover the wines of Burgundy is to buy from reputable negociants. The best merchants are restoring wine lovers’ faith in burgundy by making consistently good wines at less outrageous prices. They’re the closest thing burgundy has to brand names: Bouchard Pere & Fils, Joseph Faiveley, Louis Jadot, Louis Latour, and Joseph Drouhin.”

If you go shopping, godspeed. If you bring $10, that’s delicious as well.

Chill your bottle of white Burgundy, read an article or two, bring some tasting notes if you can find them — or, eschew all of that and bring an awesome $10 donation. We’ll see you on Wednesday at 9pm.