Splurge vs. Steal: White Burgundy
At this year's F&W Classic in Aspen, there was an extraordinary tasting of premier cru Meursault. Ray Isle calls out some pricey favorites, and suggests some great, affordable alternatives.
One of the highlights of this year’s F&W Classic in Aspen, which happened over the past weekend, was an extraordinary tasting of Meursault Premier Crus. Fifteen top domains supplied wines from the Charmes, Genevrières, Les Boucheres and Perrières crus for a tasting attended by sixty top sommeliers from around the country, organized by Master Sommeliers John Ragan and Sabato Sagaria of Union Square Hospitality Group.
The takeaway from the tasting—other than that the wines were spectacular overall—was a sense that white Burgundy has in some ways shifted back towards a more racy, elegant mode than the richer wines of the late nineties and 2000s. What people typically associate with Meursault—a hazelnut and/or honeycomb note, a creamy texture—was not particularly in evidence. Instead the wines were impressively taut, with crystalline acidity and a kind of etched-in-glass precision of flavor (perhaps also due to the high-acid character of both the ’13 and ’14 vintages).
The top wines for me were the 2013 Yves Boyer-Martenot Meursault Charmes ($87), the 2013 Domaine Ballot-Millot Les Bouchères ($93) and the 2014 Domaine Roulot Clos de Bouchères ($295). The Boyer-Martenot was richer, with more spice and earth notes, while the Ballot Millot was both delicate and savory. The Roulot reminded me of a coiled steel spring, almost vibrating with intensity—by far the most expensive of these, but such are the prices for Burgundy superstars.
Unfortunately, there is no inexpensive premier cru Burgundy; those days are long over. But it’s still possible, with some searching, to find terrific Bourgogne Blanc at a much more reasonable price. Not cheap, necessarily, but closer to twenty bucks than eighty, which helps a lot.
If you can find a bottle, try the 2013 Remi Jobard Bourgogne Blanc Nouvelle Vigne ($25). Jobard, an acclaimed Meursault producer, uses fruit from the younger vines on his estate for this vivid, green-appley wine, but bottles it—and prices it—as simple Bourgogne Blanc. (Ballot Millot, which made one of my top wines above, also makes a superb Bourgogne Blanc for $30, but the 2014 is still on the water as I write this, and the ’13 is sold out.) And at the Grand Tasting for the F&W Classic, I also came across the 2014 Remoissenet Bourgogne Blanc ($24). Unlike the above, it isn't declassified Meursault, but at the price it's white Burgundy that's a true steal: citrus and pear notes, lightly creamy texture offset by bright acidity, and a minerally finish. If you want to see why people fall in love with white Burgundy, it’s a great first date.