The first bottle of Burgundy I bought, over 25 years ago, was an inexpensive white Mâcon from a co-op. I can only say it was not love at first taste. A later tasting of Mercurey red on its home territory did not lead to a purchase.
In the early days of any relationship, ignorance and inexperience are big factors in our decision making. As far as Burgundy is concerned my later introduction to it was much more pleasurable, but then I was not having to struggle with the idea of any financial commitment.
Subsequent encounters have been easier as I gained a little knowledge and experience. However the reassurance of a “brand”, be it a vineyard, producer or “millesime” was useful guide as long as one stayed in the same area. For me and no doubt many others that was Chablis and the Côte d’Or, with occasional surprising forays into the Maconnais.
Not being vinously curious or needing to make regular purchases, I stayed where I was comfortable. Until last year, when I was sent to the Chalonnais to photograph a few winemakers.
While I had come across very good individual producers in Givry and Rully, the other appellations were unknown to me.
Well, Montagny was a revelation, Mercurey was a surprise and Bouzeron a delight.
We should remember what changes there have been in winemaking over the last twenty years.
So I wonder what keeps so many of these wines a secret… Ignorance and inexperience was my excuse but I suspect for many it is the reassurance we gain from a high price and the constant repetition of “brands” by experts in the media. If we have the money we are tempted by the caché of these “brands”, but how many have the experience and knowledge to justify our choices. We are “sitting on the shoulders of giants” and following received wisdom.
As fashions change around the world and scarcity becomes a factor in increasingly high prices some people are protesting that their beloved Burgundy is no longer within reach.
Well all I can say is, go south, to the Chalonnais and start tasting.
I have been working there for a week every month since last April for my next book and I can tell you there is a lot to be discovered and enjoyed. Winemaking is as serious and as committed as further north but life is more real and relaxed and I’ve heard more than one winemaker whistling. High end it may not be, but its certainly more fun.
Time to think about why we drink Burgundy……
Meanwhile here is an introduction to the Côte Chalonnaise and what I found.
More to follow, but the best stuff goes in the book, out next September in French but with an English edition for those 20pp of text amongst the 220pp of photographs.