Burgundy is divided into a number of sub-regions and these are important in
sorting out this jigsaw puzzle of a viticultural area.
White Burgundies are, typically, Chardonnay wines. There are a few exceptions:
"Aligoté" is a rather simple and acidic dry white, making its most noteworthy
wine in the area of Bouzeron.
"Sacy" is responsible for some wines designated "Bourgogne Grand
Ordinaire" which come from the Yonne (Chablis) region.
"Sauvignon" (blanc) makes some very nice little wines in the Chablis sub-region
of "St-Bris-le-Vineux" and we've, periodically, had some of this steely, dry
white here in the shop.
I have seen references to Pinot Blanc and Pinot Chardonnay with respect to Burgundy. There
is even a supposedly "mutant" clone of Pinot Noir, said to be first isolated at
the domaine of Henri Gouges in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
So, for the most part we're dealing with CHARDONNAY.
Now, you need to know the sub-regions here:
"Chablis," located about 60 miles
northwest of the heart of Burgundy. There is a wine known as "Petite Chablis"
from small pockets of vineyards scattered around the region. This is usually really
simple, acidic, bone dry and very light. "Chablis" can be magnificent wine. The
most prestigious are of Grand Cru status and encompass seven "crus": Blanchot,
Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Les Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir. These can be the most
interesting and long-lived wines, going ten or more years. The most common Premier crus
include: Beauroy, Fourchaume, Montée de Tonnerre, Montmains and Vaillons.
These often take three to five years to blossom.
Click here for a page with
Chablis photos and maps...
"Côte d'Or," the heart of
Burgundy and where the most prestigious wines come from is divided into two sub-regions:
the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune. It is from the latter area that the most
well-known white Burgundies come from. Here you'll find Corton Charlemagne, Meursault,
Auxey-Duresses, Saint-Romain, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Saint-Aubin.
"Do you know the way to Montrachet?"
"Cote Chalonnaise" makes some
good, lighter-weight Chardonnays. These might be found with the appellations of Givry,
Mercurey, Rully or Montagny.
"Macon" is the most southerly
region of Burgundy and it's most famous wine is Pouilly-Fuissé. There are a number of
producers attempting to make oakier, richer white wines here, but, frankly, the
wines sold by the large negociant firms are expensive and, to our taste, rather soulless
and empty. Happily some small estates have figured out how to make
more interesting and complex wines. A few of these rival good California
Chardonnays and offer an alternative to good Côte de Beaune whites. Few,
though, reach the level of quality of fine Premier Cru or Grand Cru white
the other hand, the area is loaded with producers of good, simple, straight-forward,
non-oaked Chardonnays and these, costing around fourteen bucks, can be pretty satisfying.
White Burgundy Producers We Like:
7th generation of Pinsons is running this family estate right near the
'wash-a-teria' in beautiful downtown Chablis.
No kidding...the winery is right along the little creek that flows through
town and there's an ancient community clothes-washing place right there in
case you're visiting and feel a need to beat the hell out of your
laundry. I didn't notice an automated laundromat in town, by the way.
The Pinson family traces its roots back to the year 1640. We think
their Chablis wines are better than ever, but then we weren't around to
assess the wines made in the 1640s.
The winery was one of the first to bottle its own wines. They hadn't
thought of this in the 1600s and it took them until 1940 to come up with the
notion of vinifying wine and selling it in glass containers which customers
could transport home. The property encompassed some 3 hectares back
then. By the 1982 vintage the domaine comprised all of five
Laurent and Christophe run the estate today and they care for a whopping 12
hectares of vines. In 2004 they built a new, modern cellar. We
found a nice installation of temperature-controlled stainless steel
fermentation tanks. This allows them to really capture the fruit and
minerality of the various parcels of vines.
Laurent explained they like to incorporate a small percentage of
wood-fermented wine into most lots. Even the basic Chablis has a small
amount of barrel-fermented juice, though the wood is rather neutral.
Laurent explains they like the complexity this adds to the wine.
Yields are much less today than in their father's day. The grand cru
vines produce about 35 hectoliters per hectare, while the premier cru vines
turn out 45 to 48 hectoliters/hectare. Quality seems to be the name of
the game here and we tasted some very fine bottles on our visit.
We had their 2011 basic Chablis in stock. Here's a lovely example of
Chablis at a most affordable price. I seem to recall that 80% of the
wine is from one vineyard in particular. Only 7% of the wine sees
wood, as they strive to retain the character of "Chablis" in the
wine. Moderately stony and quite dry, it's a perfect accompaniment to
simple, pan-fried fish filets, a platter of oysters, etc.
Their 1er Cru La Forêt is magnificent Chablis. It comes from vines
which are 40+ years of age. Nice fruit and a whiff of wood.
Complete. Delicious now and it'll be good for a number of years.
The Grand Cru of Les Clos reaches great heights in this cellar. Very
fine and deep. It is delicious in its youth and one can see if will
continue to develop handsomely for a number of years.
By the way, I understand the Pinson wines cost more than
the famous Chablis wines from the Raveneau family at the cellar door.
The Raveneau wines, though, due to their fame and demand, end up commanding
insanely higher prices when they reach the consumer.
We are fortunate to have access to the Pinson wines through a reliably good
and honest importer here in the area.
Currently in stock: 2011 PINSON "CHABLIS"
SALE $19.99 (750ml)
2009 PINSON "CHABLIS" $11.99 (375ml)
2008 PINSON CHABLIS 1er Cru "La Forêt" (list $40)
2007 PINSON CHABLIS Grand Cru "Les Clos" $57.99
Chablis Meister, Laurent Pinson
Mr. and Mrs. Pinson
- DOMAINE Des COMTES LAFON
- It's not fair
to "tease" you with a huge write-up of a domaine whose wines are
so highly regarded and so scarce that we can't offer you but a bottle from
time to time.
I had the good fortune to visit this small domaine in Meursault in March
of 2002. The property covers some 13.9 hectares, 8 of which are
devoted to Chardonnay. This is one of those domaines run by a
perfectionist. Dominique Lafon took over for his father René some
years ago. "Dad" was a highly regarded wine-grower and
Dominique has the same reputation.
It was really
great to taste these wines out of barrel (sorry if I'm torturing you),
because when I've tasted the wines fresh-off-the-boat I've wondered what
all the fuss is about. Tasting them out of barrel (we tasted very
fine 2000s and still-developing and hard-to-assess 2001s), I found the
elements about which I've read. These are deep and profound wines
which are refined and elegant. Dominique Lafon's right hand man, Stéphane
Thibodaux told us that the wines are really nice after five or six years
in the bottle. But he said their 1992s, at ten years of age, were
still "closed" unless you decant them and let them
"breathe" for about an hour!
Ellen visited the estate in February of 2005 and described the wines she
tasted as "magical."
a property in Macon, so
we are now able to have a taste of how a Meursault-Maniac handles
Macon. The first vintages have been rather promising, so this will
be a project whose progress we will follow with great interest. (How
many Macon producers make great Montrachet? Only Lafon!)
Macon Milly-Lamartine. Good wines, though I didn't mistake them for
Lafon's Meursault Clos de la Barre. I am curious to see how these
develop with cellaring. Time will tell.
Post-script: I recently had a chance to taste some "older"
bottles of Lafon's Macon wines. Wow...what a difference with a year
or two of bottle aging! These are remarkably good wines but you
can't really evaluate them when they're just-bottled and
first-released. These showed nice depth and hints of ripe apple,
honey and toast (but not oaky). The texture on the palate was much
Montrachet, of which there is precious little! Lafon has one-third
of a hectare of vines in this appellation. In 2000 they made six
barrels. We are fortunate to be on the allocation list for this
rarity. Delicious and expensive.
Currently in stock:
We have some recent vintages of Meursault...
Leflaive name has long been highly-regarded with respect to the wines from
Puligny-Montrachet. Having been privileged to taste these wines over
the years, I can say it is in the past decade that the wines have really
become a reference point for the appellation and for white Burgundy in
Part of the rise in quality may be attributed, perhaps, to the conversion
of their vineyards to biodynamic farming practices. Another
contributing factor is due to a modest change in management back in 1990
when Anne-Claude Leflaive took over running the domaine. Her cousin
Olivier runs his own business, the Olivier Leflaive negociant company.
The winemaker is Pierre Morey, whose name appears on his own brand of
wines, both home-grown and negociant bottlings.
The winemaking is straightforward, adding credibility to the
notion that "wine is made in the vineyard."
Leflaive has segmented its vineyard holdings into numerous
"blocks" and harvests according to the maturity of the
The Leflaive holdings are outside the village of Puligny-Montrachet in various
Once the grapes have come into the cellar, the fruit is pressed
and the juice is allowed to settle in stainless steel tanks. I have heard
some winemakers argue against this, claiming it robs the wines of a dimension of
character, while other winemakers assert this allows for a "cleaner"
fermentation. You can't argue with the results from Leflaive, however.
The juice is then racked into small French oak barrels and the
fermentation is initiated. They're big fans of stirring the sediment
following the fermentation. The French call this battonage and you
can't miss it in the Leflaive wines as they show a really intensely smoky,
"leesy" character which is their signature.
Some people may describe the wines of Leflaive as oaky or the product of really
toasted oak barrels. But this isn't the case. The wines are
smoky from their maturation on the spent yeast.
been a fan of the Clavoillon wines, a cru which is just north of Les Pucelles
and east of Folatières. Leflaive owns nearly the entire site, holding
4.79 hectares of the 5.59.
The 2006 Clavoillon is young and delicious, but probably
won't really shine for another couple of years. You can see the wine has
some outstanding qualities, however. We're big fans of this steely
dry, smoky, minerally white Burgundy.
The 2007 and 2009 are in stock, as well...both very fine and still a bit young.
Currently in stock: 2006 Leflaive
Puligny-Montrachet "Clavoillon" $149.99 (a couple of bottles in stock)
2004 Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Sold Out
Puligny-Montrachet "Clavoillon" SALE $139.99
Puligny-Montrachet "Clavoillon" $139.99
Ambroise name is note hugely well-known, though the family has been in
Burgundy for hundreds of years. The estate of Michel Dupasquier
passed to son-in-law Bertrand Ambroise, whose signature now appears on the
They're in the town of Premeaux-Prissey, near Nuits-St-Georges, but today
their holdings extend from a parcel of Clos Vougeot in the north,
south to Meursault. Ambroise is now cultivating the vineyards using
biodynamic principles and yields, we're told, are well under the maximums
mandated by law.
- We tasted a really stellar Saint Romain recently...it's from the 2009
vintage and it's not only top quality, recognizable as "fine"
White Burgundy, it's also priced fairly.
Ambroise likes to put whole clusters of Chardonnay into the press and
allow the free run juice to cascade out...he gently presses the fruit and
then allows the juice to 'settle' for a day or two before transferring it
to small French oak barrels.
- Ambroise uses indigenous yeasts and but a light filtration to his white
wines before bottling. We were amused to see the Saint Romain comes
with a screw cap...and it's remarkably good! There's a nice touch of
wood to the wine, along with some stony, minerally notes. The fruit
is in the direction of ripe apples, though it's not an especially
"fruity" wine on the nose or palate. Bone dry, of course
and it's nicely acidic. Very showy for thirty bucks.
Their simple Bourgogne Blanc is a stunningly good wine.
It's made in precisely the same style as the Saint Romain, with lots of
battonage to create a magnificently toasty note. It's not for the faint of
heart, though. If you like dramatic white wine, give this a try!
Currently in stock: AMBROISE 2009 SAINT ROMAIN
2010 AMBROISE BOURGOGNE BLANC $27.99
- The name of Etienne Sauzet is
well-known to most fans of
Sauzet was born in the early 1900s
and the domaine comprised about
12 hectares of vines by 1950.
Sauzet passed away in 1975 and
the estate has been run since then
by grand-daughter Jeanine and her
husband, Gerard Boudot.
The domaine comprises approximately 9
hectares today, with the full spectrum of
wines being made. You can start at basic
Bourgogne and work your way up to
Boudot follows in the footsteps of the late founder, keeping the
wines in barrel on the spent yeast for 10 to 18 months, depending upon the
appellation. The premier cru and grand cru wines are entirely fermented
and aged in small oak barrels. Boudot seems to prefer about one-third new
cooperage for these wines and I understand he'll put wines into stainless steel
if he feels they need more aging but not more wood or exposure to oak.
We tasted Boudot's range of 2009s and found them to be really special
wines. Each was very fine and they all tasted "expensive" to me,
a rarity with respect to most tastings.
"IS" Puligny-Montrachet. So's Leflaive, for that matter and both
make some terrific wines. Leflaive's tend to be more smoky and toasty,
with a bit more of a lean aspect, while the Sauzet wines have a more opulent
quality to them while still retaining their expressive terroir and being complex
The Champ Canet parcel is approximately one hectare and the vines are close to
50 years of age.
Troncais and Allier barriques are used for the fermentation and aging, with
perhaps 40% being new according to Boudot. The wine may spend close
to a year in wood and then it may go into stainless steel for another 6 months
or until Monsieur Boudot deems the wine ready for bottling. The 2009 is
fairly full, mildly woodsy with some apple and peach notes in a 'reserved' sort
of fashion. Nicely acidic, too, so this is zesty at this stage and should
remain in top form for a few more years...
Currently in stock: 2009 ETIENNE SAUZET
Puligny-Montrachet "Champ Canet" $119.99
DOMAINE PAVELOT (Pernand
appellation of Pernand-Vergelesses is one of those relatively 'forgotten'
names amongst Burgundy aficionados. It's a little village of perhaps
300 people tucked away at the northern part of the Cote de
Drive ten minutes north and you're in Vosne-Romanee. Drive ten
minutes south and you're in Pommard, Volnay or maybe
Puligny-Montrachet. All those names are far more famous than
Pernand-Vergelesses. And the most prestigious domaine situated in
Pernand doesn't make a wine from vineyards within the AOC of Pernand-Vergelesses,
but Corton and Corton-Charlemagne (that would be Bonneau du Martray).
The entire appellation of Pernand-Vergelesses tallies to around 132
hectares, so it's not exactly a large place.
You can easily be confused as to the name Pavelot, for there are two
wineries with this name. One Pavelot is located in
Savigny-Les-Beaune and this little domaine of 9 hectares is in beautiful
It's run, these days, by a brother and sister team, Luc and Lise
Pavelot. Both of them graduated from the wine school in nearby
Beaune. Each had good winemaking experiences in doing
internships: he ventured to California and spent some time at
Navarro, while Lise headed to the Loire Valley to see how things operated
at the Dagueneau winery.
Importer Gary Roshke and his wife Lise Pavelot.
- Grapes are all hand-harvested into these special harvesting baskets.
vineyards of Pernand-Vergelesses used to be the source of much Aligoté,
but in the past few decades most has been replaced by the more
financially-rewarding Chardonnay. Pavelot, however, still cultivates
a modest amount of Aligoté. It's planted, keep in mind, in sites
which would be AOC Pernand-Vergelesses were they planted to Chardonnay, so
the pedigree of the terroir is particularly good.
It has been fermented, typically, in stainless steel and then left in
stainless until bottling, but with the 2011 vintage, a remarkably tasty
wine, this was matured in neutral oak barrels.
While old-time Aligoté was a shrill little white wine, you'll find this
to be marvelously stony and crisp with some "there" there.
also were delighted by the 2010 Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc. This
comes from a variety of vineyard sites, some facing east and others
catching the afternoon sun being west-facing. There's also a small
amount of a parcel which is a Premier Cru site (En Caradeux).
The wine sees about 10% new oak, so it's actually more along the lines of
a really serious Chablis than big, white Burgundy. We like the
lemony and stony notes here...a delight with seafood,
- Showing off the map of some of the Pavelot vineyard sites.
Lise opens a number of bottles to show off the family artistry...
Currently in stock: 2011 PAVELOT ALIGOTÉ $19.99
2010 PAVELOT PERNAND-VERGELESSES BLANC $31.99
DOMAINE DES GANDINES
Dananchet (rhymes with Montrachet) family has been cultivating Chardonnay
in the Macon region for several generations. Grandpa Marc had 4
hectares of vines. His son Robert took the reins of the place and
instituted some changes.
For one thing, he discovered one could put the wine in glass bottles and
these could be sold to willing consumers.
In 2005 Robert's son Benjamin came on board and he, too, has some fresh
ideas. Ben liked the idea of cultivating the vineyards in a more
environmentally-friendly fashion and today their ten hectare domaine is
certified for its "Agriculture Biologique" and they're
affiliated with Ecocert.
We applaud their farming responsibly, but we're frankly more concerned if
a wine "tastes good" than its "organicity." The
point being, it's great that vintners "do the right thing" in
the vineyard, but if the wine is dirty, oxidized, spoiled or simply weird,
we're not interested.
(( As a side note, we attended a tasting of 'organically' farmed wines and
found some really strange bottles...the most odd was a wine which tasted
like the liquid in a container of Kosher Dill Pickles...!!!))
We tasted their Mâcon Péronne which comes from vineyards
a few kilometers north of the winery. The vineyards were planted in
the late 1950s. The soils are chalky/clay and they've got 2.5
hectares in Péronne. The fruit is hand-harvested and they
whole-cluster press the grapes, fermenting using indigenous yeasts.
The wine does go into large wooden tanks where it's left on the yeast
sediment for 6 to 10 months.
The wine tastes like Chardonnay, for one thing. It's not the
"fruit cocktail" which so many California winemakers
produce. It's dry and elegant, with aromas of ripe apple and a hint
of citrus. There's a mild minerality to the wine, as well. And
Currently in stock: 2012 DOMAINE DES GANDINES
- Luc and Veronique are at the helm of this old Burgundy domaine, situated
in the village of Mercurey.
This is the Côte Chalonnaise, a region which doesn't get as much
attention as it probably deserves these days. For fans of Burgundy,
if the wines of the fancier appellations in the Cote d'Or are too costly,
appellations in the Chalonnaise such as Givry, Rully and Mercurey are
certainly worth investigating.
We routinely poke around the Chalonnaise in search of a
diamond-in-the-rough and found some nice little gems there.
The Brintet family traces its roots back to the 16th Century and the
domaine covers a bit more than 9 hectares of vines these days.
And their vineyards are certainly mature, with the average age of the
vines being in the neighborhood of 45-to 50 years. Two hectares of
Chardonnay are cultivated by the Brintets along with 7 hectares of Pinot
- We were enchanted by a 2009 Mercurey Blanc "Vieilles Vignes"
bottling. I should say the wine showed well when we visited, but I
was pleasantly surprised when we tasted it here in the Bay Area--the wine
had blossomed beautifully, showing a nicely stony note, but some apple and
pear qualities had become more apparent along with a faint suggestion of
- The cellars are impressive and well-kept.
Currently in stock: 2009 DOMAINE BRINTET MERCUREY
BLANC "VIEILLES VIGNES" Sold Out....waiting for a new
Claude Manciat and his wife Simone Poncet have been growing grapes for
decades, but they only began bottling their own wines in 1979.
have about 4.5 hectares of vineyards in the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation and
another five in Macon. While most of the vineyards in Macon are
machine-harvested, Manciat-Poncet vineyards are still picked by
Though they both qualify for the senior citizen's discount at the local
cinema, both Claude and Simone are vivacious and still enthusiastic about
We tasted a variety of tank and barrel samples on our visit a few years ago. Claude buys oak, for example, from several different coopers and
the wines aged in each has a slightly different "seasoning" as a
result. To complicate matters, slightly, Manciat-Poncet works with one
importer whose preference is for lavishly-oaked wines and another whose
preference is more for wines which have no oak or merely a hint of
wood. The importer we purchase from prefers the wines which taste more
of the grape than of the lumber.
Pouilly-Fuiss we have is the "Les Crays" bottling, a wine which
shows just a bit of wood. One part of the wine is exposed to a
percentage of new barrels, while most is matured in seasoned, more neutral
oak. Large negociant firms such as Louis Jadot bottle a small lake's
worth of Pouilly-Fuiss which is rather bland, simple white wine of little
character. (And I'm being polite.)
Manciat-Poncet's wine actually has quite a bit of Chardonnay character and a
hint of wood.
- Their Macon-Charnay (Charnay is a village whose wines can be sold either
as Macon-Villages or Macon-Charnay) is a delicious, light, uncomplicated
white wine. It still has character, though, even though wood is not
part of the equation. The 2006 comes from a good vintage and the fruit
in this wine is reminiscent of the fragrance we get from a bucket of
fresh-picked apples from our friend's place in Woodside.
Delightful! It's an uncomplicated, yet delicious, wine.
- They make a bit of Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Simone organized a lovely lunch for us.
Crudités and Macon-Charnay.
This is a lovely combination!
Asparagus, Haricots Verts and Jerusalem Artichokes along with
some Pike Quenelles made for one nice lunch!
CURRENTLY IN STOCK: 2010 POUILLY-FUISSÉ SALE
A. et P. DE VILLAINE
isn't exactly the center of the universe when it comes to Burgundy.
It's a small appellation (and a new one, at that) which is devoted to the
white grape, Aligoté. When wine connoisseurs visit Burgundy,
Bouzeron is almost certainly on the itinerary. Visiting there
would be a bit like heading to a fancy car dealer and taking a spin on a
scooter, instead of test-driving a Bentley.
The Bouzeron appellation was created in 1998 and today it
comprises about 52 hectares of vineyards and there are perhaps a dozen vintners
who offer wine of this designation from La Côte Chalonnaise.
The most famous is this domaine, which is run by the main man of the Domaine de
la Romanée-Conti, Aubert de Villaine. He's the "A", while his
wife Pamela is the "P." She's the first cousin, by the way, of
Carneros (Napa) grower, Larry Hyde. They have a modest estate in Bouzeron,
with about half the production devoted to this looked-down-upon grape.
Aligoté, however, was, once-upon-a-time, more highly regarded and even
cultivated in such esteemed appellations as Pernand-Vergelesses and
Meursault. There still may be scattered plantings in those towns and in
other places around Burgundy, but it's typically cultivated in places where you
wouldn't bother with the more noble Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
In Bouzeron, however, it's a different story: Aligoté is cultivated
exclusively on slopes and not on flat land. Not surprisingly, what is
often a meager, skinny, runt-of-a-wine in other areas, produces a somewhat more
interesting white wine in Bouzeron.
I don't want you to think this is a wine of the complexity of a major league
White Burgundy. It is not.
It is, though, a very enjoyable, stony, minerally, bone dry white wine which may
strike you as being sort of like a crisp Sancerre with the minerality of a good
Chablis. It's a good partner for shellfish starters as it will provide a
lovely contrast with a more complex and opulent wine with the main course.
Currently in stock: 2010 DE VILLAINE
family traces its history in Chablis back to the year 1690. Three
hundred and fifteen years later, we finally bought some wine from
them. I'm sure they're hoisting a glass of bubbly to celebrate.
We've tasted various vintages of the Lamblin's simple "Bourgogne
Blanc" and typically found the wine to be well-made, crisp, nodding in
the direction of Chablis. The 2005-2010 bottlings were very good and now the
2011 vintage is here...quite nice! And it's selling for but eleven bucks! There's a touch of
the minerally,lime-like, appley, mildly mushroomy note...sort of Chablis-Meets-Vouvray
(except no sugar). It tastes like it
comes from Chablis or near Chablis and is a good example of non-oaked
We like this paired with steamed clams, pâté, cold chicken and other light
fare. The Lamblin's suggest serving this with cream-sauced
fish. Your mileage may vary.
Currently in stock: 2011 LAMBLIN "Bourgogne - Chardonnay"
GERALD & PHILIBERT TALMARD
is a father and son team located in the village of Uchizy in Macon.
They actually have holdings in a couple of places and produce
attractively-priced, crisp, snappy Chardonnays.
They make two wines, one from Uchizy and the other from the town of
Chardonnay (yes, the grape is Chardonnay and the town is called
We stock the Macon-Chardonnay and this has been a frequent offering here
in the shop.
The wine is not exposed to wood and it's a simple, crisp, bright dry white
wine. You won't confuse this with Montrachet, but then, you can buy
cases and cases of Talmard Macon for the price of a single bottle of
Currently in stock: 2010 TALMARD
- More White