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We all know hail. It always seems kind of fun, or at least surprising, those little pellets of ice dropping from the sky and bipping off the pavement. “Huh,” you think, “look at that—hail! What the heck.”
People in Burgundy don’t feel quite the same way about hail. I was made aware of this one time a few years back when I went to meet a Burgundian winemaker at his estate. I pulled in and parked next to his car, and did a kind of double take: It looked like someone had attacked the thing with a ball-peen hammer. The hood, roof, trunk, everything was covered in quarter- to half dollar–size divots. “What happened to your car?” I asked him.
“Hail,” he said, in a tone that would have made Eeyore seem cheery.
Unfortunately, the Burgundians were all fairly despondent this summer, when a severe hailstorm hit the region. Hailstones the size of ping-pong balls decimated vineyards in the Côte de Beaune, with some growers losing up to 90 percent of their crop. This is particularly disheartening because the region also had to deal with major hailstorms last year as well—for a small-scale grape grower, losing two vintages in a row is financially catastrophic. So, why not help out by picking up a bottle or two of Burgundy? Here are a handful of the best values from the region, both white and red:
2011 Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis ($15) This white is a great, affordable introduction to the fruity-chalky nature of Chardonnay when it’s grown in the limestone soils of Chablis.
2010 Laroche Bourgogne Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée ($18) A range of growers, mostly in the Mâcon, provide the fruit for this pear-inflected, surprisingly complex Bourgogne white. (The 2011 will likely be arriving soon, but for the moment the 2010 is also available.)
2011 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles ($20) Although the label simply says Bourgogne Blanc, most of the fruit for this apple-accented, minerally white comes from vineyards in the prestigious communes of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault.
2011 Maison Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Rouge ($16) Grapes from a dozen different appellations throughout Burgundy go into this fragrant, red-fruited Bourgogne Rouge (which is made from Pinot Noir, as are all red Burgundies). And, a sign of change in a very traditional region: It’s sealed with a screw cap.
2010 Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($19) Roche de Bellene is the new négociant company from the well-respected producer Nicolas Potel (who, confusingly, is no longer associated with his old company, Maison Nicolas Potel). Old vines that are farmed either sustainably or organically supply the fruit for this nuanced, aromatic red.