You may ask how I became so passionate about wine because not many people share the same curiosity. To many, wine appears to be simple and just an extra “thing” and is not always embraced. To me, wine is a divine addition to enhance every flavor and bring a little something extra to any occasion. The following varietal will show you exactly why and how I fell in love with wine.
I started working in the retail side of business when I was just 18 years old. At the time, I was convinced it would only be temporary, especially considering my strong drive to play professional baseball. However, this thought changed with a tasting I’ll never forget. They were sampling Pinot Noir, one from a region just north of the wine discussed in my last blog (Beaujolais) and one from central California. I was left speechless. I asked myself how can the flavors be SO different even though they are from the same grape, I HAD TO LEARN MORE. The soil, the climate, the elevation, and the process of fermentation (ex. carbonic maceration with Beaujolais), all impact the individual flavors of wine. All of this still seem simple?
Here we are 8 years later, and I have only scratched the surface. The information about wine is endless. For example, learning all the grape varietals that are grown in Italy alone, would require years of study. The goal of this blog is not to educate for the master sommelier exam, but simply so everyone has the opportunity to learn about, enjoy and appreciate the incredible world of wine.
Let’s move on to wine number 2 which is also from France, but just north of our last region, Beaujolais. Just like Beaujolais, this varietal comes in many styles but the grape never changes. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the varietals used in the production. The acidity isn’t quite as high as that in gamay (Beaujolais) but the tannins are still minimal. Low tannin is going to be a common theme as we move through thanksgiving wines because tannin will completely overpower such a lean meat. You want bright acidity to highlight and compliment the dinner.
The flavors your palate will experience in wine number 2 are lavender, jasmine and hints of tea leaves. In describing any Pinot Noir that has class, wine experts will say “Wow, this is very Burgundian.” Another weird term to describe our next wine that you will hear winos say is that the wine is very “forest floor or dry/wet leaves” and this is a very great quality to have.
Any guesses?? (even though I sort of gave it away)
You could easily write a massive book on Burgundy and still not cover all the information. But let’s keep it simple…
Burgandy is broken up into four main regions:
- Chablis (white)
- Cote d Or (white/red)
- Cote Chalonnaise(white/red)
When shopping you will not see any of these regions on the bottle unless it is on the back, with the exception of Chablis. This is because the Cote d Or, Cote Chalonnaise and Macon are broken up into sub regions which I will give examples as I break them down.
We start with Chablis, it is produced with the Chardonnay varietal but not even close to your typical overly oaky or buttery California style. Chablis has acidity and minerality, attributed to the limestone soil that rests below the vines. This is the main reason it goes so well with the sweetness of some dishes on the table. The wine does not see aging in the barrel, rather it ages in the bottle. French say that Chablis wines do not need oak to express its true personality. Even though when drinking Chablis you may think “this has to have oak aging” but in fact that is just the quality of the region.
On to the Cote d Or. This is one of the most famous regions, not just in Burgundy, but the world. Home to some of the most expensive wines ever made. Within it you will find places that may sound a bit familiar and that you will see on labels. These are the Appellation D’ Origine Controlee, or the AOC regions that make up the Cote d Or.
Some of these include:
- Cote de Nuits
- Cote de Beaune (bone)
In the Cote de Nuits sits Vosne-Romanee (vo-row-man-eh) and in this region the most expensive wines in the world are produced, up to $30,000 a bottle. This is because the AOC is a strict French controlee that ensures the best quality for the best regions.
Fixin is a tad cheaper because it is not indicative of superior quality. The Pinot Noir expression you will get from this area is pure elegance. The herbaceous qualities of freshly picked roses, violet and wet leaves (weird I know, but it’s true).
The Cote Chalonnaise is built from regions such as:
This region is known for its value wines and a less strict AOC. Great entry wines to experience the award winning region.
Just south of that is the Macon region or the Maconnais. Known for its supply of the Chardonnay grape.The two notable regions here are:
- Pouilly-Fuisse (don’t mix up the first two letters of that one)
- Saint Veran
All of the wines, just like Chablis, are unoaked and take on characteristics of melon and starfruit.
Burgundy can be a bit overwhelming based on the fact that there is so much information. When picking out a quality Burgundy, different from Beaujolais, you want to focus on the AOC or the region in which the wine is from. For example, Rully and Givry have great values while Corton and Cote de Nuits can be extreme in price but worth every penny.
I know this is a lot to take in but it is crucial to know background and why wine tastes the way it does and more importantly, how to pick out the best ones.
Here are some regions and producers to look out for
Givry- Domaine Besson $$
All regions- Domaine Joesph Drouhin (easier find) $-$$$
Rully- Domaine Jaeger-Defaix $
Picture sourced from here