Tasting Wine: Finding just the right talent at the Burgundy ‘draft’

I did something Thursday that I have not done since April: I went to a trade tasting. It was a Burgundy tasting I couldn’t resist and I’m happy to say, it was not a waste of time. Actually, it was two of the best hours I had in January — along with watching back-to-back episodes of “Big Love.”

Many of the producers represented either did not have an importer or are not the highly touted producers you read about, at least not yet. As the Super Bowl is Sunday, it was kind of like taking part in the NFL draft and spotting the young, or at least undiscovered, talent. There may be some speculation about how a producer’s wines are going to develop, but the thought of spotting the Burgundy equivalent of Tom Brady is pretty thrilling.

Sometimes, though, you need a seasoned scout and mine came, unofficially, in the form of Jeanne-Marie Deschamps, a Beaune-based importer. When it comes to Burgundy, there is no one I trust more. Her portfolio includes the likes of Paul Pernot, Lamarche and Naddef. Need I say more?

After tasting through her wines, Jeanne-Marie sent me to the table across directly across from her to Domaine Comte Senard. A warning: They don’t have an importer, but I am reasonably certain that after this tasting they will. The Senard family has been making wine in Aloxe-Corton since 1857. They have both red and white wines, mostly from Aloxe-Corton plus a little wine from the Beaune satellites, Chorey les Beaune and Savigny les Beaune. The entire lineup was sensational, but if there is one wine that you should look out for it is 2005 Aloxe-Corton. Ultimately it may not reach the heights of their monopole, the Corton Clos des Meix, 2005, but it is incredibly seductive now, with lush red fruit, black currant overtones and floral and tea aromatics.

Jeanne-Marie also told me to pay her friend, Anne Parent, of Bourgogne Parent, a visit. I was actually introduced to Anne Parent’s wines several months ago and met her the day before. Located in Pommard, Anne is the 12th generation in her family to make wine. The salient characteristics of her wines are the aromatics. Even the wines that are in no way ready to drink have a gorgeous bouquet. What is ready to drink, and is absolutely gorgeous, is her Beaune Premier Cru, Les Epenottes, 2004 ($55). It has just a touch of good ‘ole Burgundian funk with framboise, cherries and silky tannins.

Domaine des Malandes, in Chablis, was a most pleasant surprise. Proprietor Lyne Marchive made the wine in 2005 and has been involved in the process since. Her wines have the pure flinty minerality of Chablis without the pomp of a lot of oak. Again here, if there were one I had to choose, at least for drinking right now, it would be the Chablis Vieilles Vignes, Tour du Roy, 2006 ($28). Made from a 50-year-old vineyard located on the outskirts of the grand cru Vaudésir, it has intense minerality with floral nuances, white peaches and hazelnuts.

Before signing off, let me leave you with a few more names to keep on your Burgundy radar screen. Domaine Auvigue is great Pouilly Fuissé; Domaine Tortochot from Gevrey-Chambertin and Domaine de Chazelles in the Mâconnais. Enjoy!

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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