Textbook Burgundy

You may be aware that as a company many of us at K&L have an affinity for Burgundy. I've written about it many times over the years. We may specialize in our own respective fields and hold expertise in various disciplines of booze appreciation, but all of us are enthralled with the wines of Bourgogne—to the extent that we'll drop whatever we're doing, stop in the middle of the day, and run to the tasting bar if we hear there's a new Burgundy open to taste. There are a number of reasons as to why:

1) Good affordable Burgundy isn't always easy to find, and great Burgundy isn't affordable when you can find it. Something about the challenge and the hunt to track down elusive bottles really seems to motivate certain wine people (but as whisky drinkers, you already understand that).

2) When a bottle of Burgundy is on, it's unbeatable. There are few things as haunting as straightforward chardonnay and pinot noir from the Côte d'Or. 

3) Burgundy is the ultimate master test of a wine lover's palate. If you can decipher the nuances of the various village and vineyard-specific wines, you can probably do anything. Tasting Burgundy is a way for serious wine drinkers to earn their chops.

4) Burgundy pairs incredibly well with food. In fact, you probably won't taste all the potential beauty in a bottle of Burgundy unless you do pair it with a meal. K&L people love to cook and eat, so Burgundy is always something we're experimenting with. 

5) Burgundy is the ultimate expression of terroir. There are gigantic tomes written about the soils, the microclimates, the various vineyard sites, and the capability for greatness in very specific plots of land. No other wine region in the world is as detailed and divided into painstakingly specific pieces of earth. The fascinating adventure that learning about Burgundy is for many wine drinkers is intoxicating, both literally and figuratively. No other wine provides the opportunity for this level of geekery.  

When Keith our Burgundy buyer retired last year many of us were ready to help fill the void. Trey and Alex eventually took over the official duties, but I definitely helped track down a few new products for the category, while Gary and Cindy visited producers in the region just a few weeks ago hoping to provide more K&L support. We're all jumping at the opportunity to help with the category because we all drink the wines regularly. While I've tried to introduce small producers like Andre Bonhomme and Alain Jeanniard into the fold, as a buyer I can attest to the fact that finding something truly great for a great price in Burgundy is almost impossible. Bonhomme is a lovely little producer with very drinkable wines, and Jeanniard is a boutique producer whose least expensive village wines start around fifty bucks. One guy makes simple country wines that are quaint and quaffable and the other makes more serious wines that won't really approach drinkability for another few years. Neither unfortunately offers something new and exciting for the noob, something people can grasp and wrap their head around immediately, which makes it tough to bring fresh blood into the category. That's why the million dollar question becomes: how do you find approachable, affordable, and fantastic wines to indoctrinate new drinkers into Burgundy?

Lucky for us here at K&L, Alex and Trey have begun to tackle that question. When I got to work yesterday Alex made me taste four new whites from Marc Colin, a small producer located in St. Aubin known for his incredible chardonnay. I was immediately spellbound by the intricate flavors and when I saw the prices I was almost dumbstruck. For $34.99, the 2014 Marc Colin "Les Charmois" 1er Cru St. Aubin drinks like something at twice the price. I wanted to make sure I wasn't kidding myself, so last night I brought a bottle home and made a frittata to enjoy alongside the wine. My wife likes wine, but she rarely feels compelled to partake in the appreciation. Her face lit up immediately after her first sip:

"What is this?" she said to me in long, slow syllables; her eyes as wide as saucers and her glass held out for more.

"It's good, right?" I asked rhetorically. 

"It's incredible. We never drink wine this good so I wasn't prepared for it," she answered.

"That's because I can rarely afford wine this good."

When someone like my wife reacts to chardonnay in that fashion, I know we've got something special on our hands. If you've always been curious as to what makes Burgundy so special, but you've never been able to drop serious coin on a bottle, this is one of the best introductions I've ever seen on the shelf. It's full of delicate fruit, subtle minerality, and pure Burgundian flavor and it's as graceful as a white wine can be. I'm so smitten that I'm coming back today for more and I'll probably add the fifty dollar Chassagne-Montrachet into my order just to treat myself. It's rare that I find anything in Burgundy as well-priced as the Charmois, so that's why I'm writing this post now. I think it's worth talking about even here on the spirits blog.

The scary thing about Burgundy is that it can be as disappointing as it can enchanting (and the price will still be expensive either way!). I have to imagine that thousands of people have been scared off the category over the years, having drunk some tannic or tightly-wound wine that cost an arm and a leg and didn't deliver for the expectation. This is not that bottle. The Marc Colin will cost you thirty-five bucks and it will help you decide once and for all if this whole Burgundy thing is actually worth looking into. 

If you don't like it, at least you'll know. But I really can't imagine anyone not liking this wine. I'm tempted to go deep again tonight as I watch more episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix. 

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll