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FRANCE: White Burgundy

OK, so the days of cheap-and-cheerful Burgundy might be receding into memory, but there was a lot of really good wine here for those with a bit of budget

Burgundy’s entries might not have grown much from last year, but our tasters weren’t complaining. There was still plenty to choose from – and a stack of really good wines, too – as four Gold-Listed bottles (twice the number from last year) attests.

The only real grumble, in fact, was the difficulty in finding anything spectacular at the lower end. Only 15% of the white submissions were under a tenner, and most of them were dismissed as being either too light or too boring: not Burgundian enough.

‘For our customers white Burgundy has to stand out and say “white Burgundy”,’ said The French Table’s Sarah Guignard. ‘It needs to have typical character and fulfil expectations. Some of these wines were not expressive enough, especially at the lower prices. I was hugely disappointed with the cheaper wines.’

Nonetheless, the tasters found a well-priced pair of Silvers and a Bronze, while the Domaine Thomas Saint-Veran, for £10.76, picked up a Gold and was described by consultant Peter McCombie MW as ‘a refreshing wine that provides a good entry point for customers while showing good Burgundy character and food compatibility’.

Moving up the scale soon brought wines that the panel felt were more typical of the region, though it wasn’t long before they were doing so at eye-watering prices. ‘The wines that most said “yes, this is Burgundy” were very pricy,’ said Guignard. ‘You’d have to put them on the list at over £100 which is a very expensive to get a real flavour of Burgundy.’

True, although this is arguably the one part of the wine list that can genuinely hope to sell big-ticket wines without the venue necessarily being the haunt of bonused-up City shysters or Premiership footballers looking for something to put in their Coke.

At the Village-plus level, the biggest issue was oak integration, with many of the more expensive wines felt to have real character and potential, but not yet be fully integrated. Since nothing older than 2007 was sent in, this perhaps isn’t surprising.

‘One problem is that the best wines will be drinking well in a few years, but I’d have a problem putting them on the list now at the prices they were,’ said Antoine Dugand of Le Pont de la Tour. That said, with the ‘classic’ 2008 softening now, and the 2009 generally rather more approachable, the grumbles about drinkability were more muted than in previous years.

The result is a strong selection of medal winners, with the Gold-Listed wines delivering a range of styles and ambition across three vintages and a variety of price points, from the creamy, leesy scallop-friendly Domaine Corsin Pouilly Fuissé, through the minerally Domaine Pillot St-Aubin up to the ‘terroiry, expensive, but excellent’ (Marco Feraldi, Galvin La Chapelle) Vallet Frères Meursault. The Golds, moreover, were backed up by an extremely high-quality range of Silvers.

‘There were some excellent wines in this flight,’ said Galvin Restaurants’ Andrea Briccarello. ‘It was about finding good wines at prices that customers will pay, wines that deliver a combination of character ad quality with value.’

So, yes, Burgundy is expensive (and getting more so), but it does seem to be delivering. And of course, it’s a must-stock.

‘Some of the cheaper wines were very good value for their quality, while some of the more expensive wines, while very good, were a little young and closed to put on the list now.’ Andrea Briccarello, Galvin La Chapelle