If ever in doubt when describing white Burgundy go for ‘white flowers’. It’s a catch-all description that sounds impressively non-descript, and does actually sum up the non-exuberant florality of this wine without saying ‘non-exuberant florality’. Bigger houses like Louis Latour keep consistency up in poorer years like 2013 so we can still enjoy well-made, citrus and honeysuckle scented wines like this.
For all the talk of grand Montrachets and minute parcels of Premier Cru vines, this is the sort of wine that makes white Burgundy so popular. Full-bodied and ripe without being flouncy or exotic. They enjoy a year in (usually old) oak giving a hint of smoke and the ability to age for five years or so. A lighter vintage like this is best with fish (try a nice piece of hake) and samphire.
You have to buy carefully in 2013 with white Burgundy. It wasn’t a big year or an easy year. Only producers with the ability (and foresight) to really focus on quality did well. But that does mean value hunters can find that typical racy acidity Puligny that runs through a rich, straw and citrus heart. Hazelnuts are always the acme of a great white Burgundy and this is rich in them. Gorgeous.
The villa and tower where Matt, Matt and I spent the summer lies by Orvieto – where they make this. A hugely under-rated wine, especially in this style. People translate ‘amabile’ as medium-sweet but actually it’s just soft, peachy and with a rounded almond aroma. Simply beautiful afternoon sipping wine, perhaps whilst watching the tennis, the garden or the children. Don’t be fooled by the notion that good wine has to be steely and taut. Sometimes a gentle caress is what you need.
Alois Lageder and his extensive family are ‘not winemakers’. He insists they look after the land and help wines through to birth like ‘midwives’. They also make Pinot Grigio like it should be. Aromatic, slightly spicy and with a heart of apple and a lingering smokiness. This is aromatic mountain wine from within the Dolomites (hence the name) and worthy of elegant light fish suppers and mountain cheeses.
There’s a story that the best soils in Pouilly-Fuisse are enriched by the long-dead carcasses of animals driven off the crags above by stone-age hunters. I prefer to think that the honeysuckle aroma and sweet lemon fruit comes from the natural sun-trap vineyards. 2014 was one of the great modern years for white Burgundy. I’d have this with cooked shellfish or herby roasted chicken.
If you think winemaking is easy this name will correct you. Calvarino means ‘little Calvary’, a hint at the crucifying work of growing grapes on this steep hill with its winding path. But it produces a complex, restrained wine that surprises you with its almond blossom scents, and persistent fruit. Go for grilled fish drizzled with olive oil and fresh vegetables.
One of the great summer wines, this is everything Soave should be. Lightly aromatic, fresh and youthful. Its gentle citrus and almond blossom aromas complement rather than compete to make for a wonderful food matching wine. Baked fish with a squeeze of lemon, summer salads, grilled vegetables and seafood. All delicious.
Vibrant with lime-citrus aromas and the unmistakeable character of passionfruit, this wine’s refreshing zing lets you know that its grapes have been cooled by the bracing Humboldt current in the nearby pacific. Summer salads, lightly spiced seafood and grilled chicken are the best food matches.
I once asked two winemakers the difference between the adjacent Barossa and Eden Valleys. ‘I sleep under a sheet said the winemaker from the Barossa Valley. ‘She sleeps under a blanket.’ That cooler climate is perfect for Chardonnay, making for pristine white peach fruit, embraced by a stylish oak spice. Today it’s a seafood wine, but in a few years expect the richness to work with roast chicken.
I have a very good book on the Australian wine trade called ‘Why the French hate us’. And blends like this are part of the reason. Chardonnay (Burgundy) mixed with Sauvignon and Semillon (Bordeaux). Sacre Bleu! Yet in Australia it works, and has done for generations. Peach and nectarine Chardonnay, zippy grassiness from Sauvignon. I’d go pan-Asian with this, perhaps a Thai Green curry.
Understanding Burgundy is hard work but like many challenging things, it’s worth the effort. Its vintages vary, but knowing 2011 is ready now helps. It has complex appellations, but then you discover a lowly Bourgogne Blanc made by a truly great winemaker like this in the style of much grander wines. That’s what gives this a subtle but persistent oak spice over lemon and melon fruit, perfect with roast chicken.
I poured this award-winning white recently for some friends and their expressions said it all. Wide-eyed looks of revelation; mouths pursed in a ‘oooohh’; big grins. Great Verdejo has the fresh zest of Sauvignon Blanc but with quince, not gooseberry. And it’s a more herbal, less aggressive wine, making is so much more versatile with food like coriander chicken, grilled Halloumi salad or seafood paella. Best of all, Verdejo (native to the Rueda district in central northern Spain from which this hails) is a relative unknown, so you get a better wine for less money.
Aromatic, fruity and juicy are not ‘manly’ attributes. But the tall, broad-shouldered, rugby player Gerard Bertrand is an expert at making the most of this scented, tropical grape. He’s utterly committed to his native Languedoc-Roussillon and balancing Viognier’s heady frangrance with local typicity and freshness. It’s perfect with salads and richer white-meat dishes, and anything that includes fruity, spicy elements. A delicious summer wine really and great value too.
We weren’t kidding when we talked about China’s great heritage in producing drinks. This comes from the oldest distillery in the world, dating from 1408. It has a distinctive and unusual taste to our Western palates. There’s aniseed that feels familiar but also a savoury character of soy and exotic fruit.
If the first duty of wine is to be refreshing, then 2011 white Burgundy hits the spot. Lemon aromas, light alcohol and well-integrated oak are the hallmarks of the wine and it works better with lighter dishes, plain grilled fish, and delicate flavours. There’s still the racy freshness of Puligny, but with restraint.
Why do people love Meursault so much (particularly compared to its neighbours Puligny- and Chassagne-Montrachet)? Perhaps the guilty pleasure of exotic fruit, like the peach and pineapple in this wine and the rich, almost buttered toast finish that makes it so good with roast poultry and fish in beurre blanc.
Burgundy is a vintage where vintage really matters and 2010 is a vintage to snap up. A Meursault like this should be rich and generous, and 2010 gives is the proportions of a proper white Burgundy. It’s ready now for white meat dishes (Burgundians often serve turkey) and richer sauces.
The phrase to drop in when you’re trying Puligny-Montrachet is that it has a ‘racy acidity’. It’s that bright, mineral, lemon-fresh character that makes the wines so appealing, balanced by nutty oak. Beautifully done here by Pierre Naigeon, a fifth generation winemaker, producing a wine infused with bergamot and apricot scents.
A great bottle of Burgundy and a hunk of cheese (in this case, Comte) is one of life’s great pleasures. 2013 is a Cinderella vintage that initially looked rather humble and has blossomed into a bright, fragrant princess. Look for a core of quince fruit with hazelnutty oak, the hallmark of true quality in white Chardonnay.