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Thursday 15 November 2018

Are you ready to be beguiled by Burgundy?

There is no doubt that Burgundy, or Bourgogne as the French call it, is home to some of the world's finest - and most expensive - chardonnay and pinot noir.

But a recent visit from key people from the Bureau Interprofessionel de Vins de Bourgogne was aimed at encouraging Asutralians to re-try not Domaine Romanee Conte, Domaine Leroy, Henri Jayer and other benchmarks, but instead to sample entry-level and affordable wines.

Wines from communes like Mercurey, Givry and Irancy have cleaned up their act in recent years. Instead of typically whiffy characters, many of the village and Bourgogne rouge and blanc wines are fresh and clean.

Headed by Amaury Devillard (left) from Domaines Devillard, which owns wineries in Givry and Mercurey and vines across the region, the mission also aimed to promote wines made from lesser-known Burgundy varieties, including Sauvignon de St Bris, Bourgogne Aligote and the gamay/pinot noir blend formerly known as Passetoutgrains but now labelled Cotes de Bourgogne. Also Cremant de Bourgogne, the region's sparkling wines.

Devillard said: "People recognise that Bourgogne wines are very good, but also see them as being very expensive. Our message today is that there are a lot of hidden gems within the region.

"Beautiful wines exist that offer classic expresssions of Bourgogne without the high price tags.

"There are wines with freshness, balance, and also depth and length that are available. 

"The key is in finding these wines and discovering them." That quest will be aide by the fact that yields were up substantially in both the 2017 and 2018 vintages.

"Both years had beautiful quality and style," says Devillard. "Even though 2018 was a hot summer we were very pleased with the balance of the fruit."

Devillard points to appellations like Pernand-Vergelesses, Marsannay, Mercurey and Montagny as offering particularly good value.

"A lot of Macon wines are also very good, and what we believe is a good bottle of Burgundy wine is an empty bottle. The message is that you do not have to spend a fortune to find a wine you are pleased to come back to.

"Wines from Bourgogne also shine with food. Many are also perfect to enjoy now. They don't need to be cellared for years."

The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated grand cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. 

The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy goes back to medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry.

Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais.are formally part of the Burgundy wine region, but wines from those sub-regions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

The big names are eye-wateringly expensive. When the 7.53-hectare Clos de Tart vineyard in Morey-Saint-Denis sold last year it fetched $311 million. 

Fortunately, however, there remains that gap between the top of the pryamid and those in the regional Bourgogne appellation. Something for all wallets.

"The consumer has never had so much opportunity to get a good experience without spending spending a lot of money," says Devillard.

Among the sins of the past, sharp tannins have disappeared, along with farmyard aromas, even if unreliable corks still remain an issue. 

"The winemaking evolution in Bourgogne has been a real revolution," says Devillard. "Winemakers have travelled a lot, and learned a lot; young people came back to Bourgogne knowing what they had to do, and what they do not have to do. 

"There was a real change in that in the past young people were trained by their parents, for better, or worse. Now, the new generation has a clean, pure and very different vision." 


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