New Wave Burgundy

Jasper Morris MW

The ‘New Wave Burgundy’ tasting led for the Club by Jasper Morris MW on Monday 12th April was revelatory.

The tasting featured six white wines chosen by Jasper as personal favourites from a range of merchants. These were all less expensive, less well-known wines that “couldn’t be made better”. In other words, made by winemakers who’ve “got the touch”. Top end Burgundy has now passed beyond the budgets of most of us but – came the clear message – all is not lost. Climate change, the greater effort put in by younger generations of winemakers and the increasing market pressure for wines made to be drunk younger have all contributed to these new wave successes. Take note, for here are names to reckon with in the future.

In the course of a wide-ranging discussion Jasper welcomed the return of skin contact to white wine, the passing of the ‘premox’ problem (even though the causes of this worldwide problem are still not entirely elucidated), the consequences of the shift away from wines built to age, the new-found recognition that, as a grape, Chardonnay is not a ballerina but a rugby player coupled with a lament for the passing of 12 bottle case in favour of the six pack. And now we know that ‘minerality’ is out and ‘salinity’ is in!

The first wine of the evening was a 2019 Macon Villages made Frantz Chagnoleau and his partner Caroline Gon (who also runs a business for the renowned Dominic Lafond) from the alluringly-named Clos Saint Pancras (the local saint rather than homage to London railway stations).

In the past, Macon was neglected. Restaurants would have one Macon on their list but 15-20 Chablis. However, this warm dry year, allied to Frantz and Caroline’s skills, produced a concentrated, vibrant wine with an appley nose but a beautiful, creamy palate reflecting just a hint of new oak and a clean, persistent finish. Natural yeasts, aged mainly in old foudres and (reckoned Jasper) just a touch of CO² to help accentuate the acidity and the energy of the wine. The result would grace any wine list and – reckoned one of our members would pair wonderfully with a smoked salmon roulade with chive and cream cheese.

This is one of the 5* wines on Jasper’s ‘Inside Burgundy’ site ( Full reviews need a subscription but there’s plenty of other content and for those caught up by the potential problem of the recent devastating frosts across France he will be doing a free-to-access presentation on the implications of these unprecedentedly wintry conditions. Of the 15000 or so wines that he lists only 5% get the 5* rating (which is independent of the now nearly obligatory 100 point scoring system he uses). 5* wines are those which are great for their type and context.

Wine no 2 was the only Chablis of the evening – made in the northern end of the region by the Lavantureux brothers on a mix of Kimmeridgean and non-Kimmeridgean soils. This 2018 vintage offers a citrus and pear nose with a touch of salinity (and a spot of sulphur?) followed by a rich but elegant palate with a touch of reduction (“adds tension” was Jasper’s view). This is a 12.5% wine rather than the 15% and more wines that some growers boast of – and all the better for it. There is, said Jasper, something very wrong with the concept of ripeness if it entails that sort of alcohol and that sort of wine. Arnaud and David are also in forefront of reducing yields. Famous names of the past looked for 100 hl/ha plus but now low 60s is the standard. Less dilution, more energy, less need for that ‘ripeness’.  Fine for drinking now but could go another five years perhaps.

Wine no 3 was St Romain Sous la Velle 2018 made by Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson. The St Romain appellation was created only in 1947 when the local mayor “got the fix in” but the land tends to be higher up the slope  and / or in side valleys. Before the climate started to shift this meant it was hard to ripen wines properly but now it’s “good news”. Fred and Frank Buisson spare no money and no energy when it comes to getting things right. Sixty year old Chardonnay wines, a warm spot and no-sulphur winemaking (though they offer a choice of no-sulphur and lightly sulphured cuves from barrel) characterise the domaine but their whites (as well as the reds) benefit from their belief in crushing the grapes before pressing to increase skin effects and add density to the wine. Chamomile and acacia flower on the nose, mild spice and coconut on a creamy palate and a persistent tang. Overall, it was very clean, very balanced and, for many, one of the wines of the evening.

After a fifteen minute breakout session to chat about the wines, discuss food matching and catch up with friends, we moved on to the second set of three wines.

Wine 4 was the Dessus les Gollardes 2018 from Domaine Pierre Guillemot in Savigny-les-Beaune. Near 60-year old vines in a 70% Pinot Blanc, 30% Chardonnay blend (“co-habitation” say the makers), aged in 50% acacia oak (giving wines with more floral notes, less body and perhaps less persistent aromas). The nose here was slightly honeyed, with floral notes (orange blossom?) with a graceful palate. Despite its grace and delicacy, this is a wine that will age well, certainly ten perhaps twenty years.

Here Jasper addressed the issue of sulphur in response to a question. Sulphur has been used by winemakers for millennia to clean barrels and preserve wine but in the last decade or so its use has been linked to ill-effects on some drinkers – headaches say some, though this effect was more likely linked to high levels of sulphur used on salad products to keep them fresh. The apparent increase in sulphur use (many of the evening’s wines had a touch of ‘struck match’) is a consequence of drinking wines younger. Merchants would normally wait for wines to lose the sulphur tang with time (which is what happens) before releasing them; these days we are drinking wines younger which demands that winemakers use less to start with – though that may prejudice ageing. A delicate balance to get right…

Wine no 5 was Domaine Rougeot’s 2018 Les Grandes Gouttes from the Côte d’Or. The founder of the Domaine (long-time Mayor of Meursault) was also a builder with the habit of acquiring land and vineyards as and when he could. Some of that land was along the main road in the valley and used then for basic Bourgogne Rouge. But Rougeot’s grandson Pierre-Henri has transformed the domaine since taking it over in 2010. Minimal intervention, minimum / no sulphur regimes, organic farming and a winemaking style that aims for tension rather than opulence are the new hallmarks. The Grandes Gouttes had a softly floral nose with a note of citrus, and a creamy / almondy palate. Plenty of acid energy here balanced with lots of body and rich fruit. This is a wine to be drunk young rather than aged and the UK agent, Uncharted Wines, will supply in 10 litre kegs for that post-lockdown party!

Last up, wine no 6, was Clos de la Perrières La Combe, Aligoté 2018 from Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair (name known to many members). For many years Aligoté was the unregarded, high acid wine (good for nothing bur Kir in many people’s eyes); a “small, ugly, green thing”! But not now. Here’s another climate change bonus for Burgundy aficionados. Such is the level of interest in this ancient grape variety that there’s a move to allow up to 15% in ‘village‘ wines and there’s even a group of ‘Aligoteurs’ dedicated (in a slightly anarchic way, we gather) to promote ‘their’ grape. The results, suggested Jasper, can be mixed. Some wines go all out for raw energy and funk (cue member debate about the meaning of ‘funk’); others look for more balance and ripeness. This wine – one of the members’ two favourites from the night – had energy for sure. The deeper colour (compared to the other wines in the tasting) and faintest hint of appley ferment underlying the peachy nose (and a touch of acacia) reflected the length of skin contact (a week) and old barrel fermentation.

At short notice, Richard managed to conjure up a voting system on Zoom and the rank order was:

1st – wine no 6

2nd – wine no 3 (only just behind)

3rd – wine no 1

4/5th equal – wines no 4 and 5

6th – wine no 2.

As Jasper said in conclusion. “the last thing we want is for everyone to be average and in the middle”. The trick is finding wines that you really do like.

And, as Richard reflected in his thanks to our speaker, Jasper had, as always, managed to pull some remarkable ‘rabbits’ out of the hat – particularly the Aligoté. Definitely a wine that changed members’ perceptions.

Our thanks, as always to Jasper for his selections, his insights and his courtesy (and erudition) in dealing with the dozens of questions that members popped onto the chat.

Even better news … he has promised to do an equivalent session on red wines. Bring it on came the chorus…     


GH: 13/4/21