I love when people who are avowed California chardonnay drinkers say, “Wow, that’s really good!” when they’ve tried a white wine from Burgundy. Better yet are those who scoff at the mere mention of the word chardonnay, but are mystified when white Burgundy passes their lips. What gives, people? Get over your preconceptions, will ya?
White Burgundy is not just chardonnay (sometimes it is not even made with chardonnay) but ideally an expression of terroir. Burgundy has five subregions: Chablis, the Cotes de Nuits, the Cotes de Beaune, Cote Chalonnais and the Maconnais. There is quite a bit of variation, even within the appellations, but the one thing that binds them together is that fruit does not bully the wine. Rather, it is one part of an equation that includes minerality, sometimes oak, and the magic of the parts coming together and creating a greater sum.
Many would say that Burgundy is home to the best white wines in the world. While this is subjective, it certainly makes many of the most complex wines that improve with age. Most of what are considered the world-class wines come from Puligny and Chassagne Montrachet, Corton and Meursault the Cotes de Beaune, and Chablis.
Price-wise, they are a little out of reach for the 99 percent, at least to drink on more than an occasional basis, but outside of these top areas, superb wines can be found for under $30.
Starting with ...
Domaine Denis Carre Haut Cotes de Beaune Chardonnay, 2009: Located in Meloisey, Denis Carre makes wines from a number of appellations, but his Bourgogne chardonnay is all you need to be impressed. Composed of fruit from vineyards near the domaine, Carre ages 50 percent of the wine in oak and 50 percent in stainless steel, giving it just a touch of toast without masking the apple, pear fruit or mineral purity. Suggested retail: $22
Domaine Terres de Velle Bourgogne Blanc, 2009: Fabrice and Sophie Laronze worked at Domaine Alex Gambal before starting Domaine des Terres de Velle. Based in Auxey Duresses, they are in the process of converting to organic viticulture. Domaine Terres de Velle works with fruit from the different parts of the Cotes de Beaune. The vineyard used for the Bourgogne Blanc is a stone’s throw from Chassagnge Montrachet. With a mouthful of vanilla, sweet, melted butter and golden delicious apples, this is a perfect way to introduce Burgundy to California chardonnay drinkers. Suggested retail: $24
Lucien Jacob Bourgogne, Hautes Cotes de Beaune, Les Larrets Blanc, 2008: Domaine Lucien Jacob makes the best cassis I have ever tasted. Keep in mind that aligote, another white grape grown in Burgundy, is traditionally used to make kirs. Cassis and framboise were the cash cows that allowed Lucien and now his son, Jean-Michel, to purchase prime vineyards in and near Beaune. A modest village wine, Les Larrets is dressed for success. On the palate, it reminds me of one of my guilty pleasures — banana baby food — and another favorite postdental surgery food, applesauce — but I say this in a very positive way. With bright acidity and a firm core of minerals, this is a delicious wine that should not be used to make a kir. Suggested retail: $25
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.