Saturday Tasting – Burgundy has arrived in Borough

Things will never be the same again, Borough Wines has decent Burgundy 1er Crus! This wine is about French geography, and most probably French mindset. And it is a little bit about snobishness as well.

I think Burgundy is pretty much the best indicator of wine snobisness. This is the playground of the supernsnobbish, supergeek, and the black belt level drunken masters. So what is Burgundy? I think it is a state of mind. If you know what Bordeaux is, imagine the complete opposit, and you shall get to Burgundy.

Burgundy, or Bourgogne if you prefer the French original, is a loose chain of vineyards stretching from North to South between Chablis and Macon. I am a fundamentalist with geographical descriptions therefore I do not consider Beaujolais as part of it. The main grape varietals are Chardonnay for the whites and Pinot Noir for the reds, and then you have two minor ones: Aligote and Gamay. For the benefit of simplicity this Saturday we are just going to concentrate on the first big boys.

In Burgundy therefore, we have a lot of small vineyards and two varietals to play with. So why the big fuss? How can it be interesting, working with the same grapes on roughly 300 metres long piece of land?

The French are all about Terroir and no more so than in Burgundy. This french expression of “soil” if it is literally translated means a lot more than that to the wine. Of course the soil is a factor, but it also refers to the sun that shines on it, the wind that blowsthe rows through it, and the rain that fall on it. The true meaning of Terroir means the unrepeatableness of the wine. You may grow something similar elsewhere, but it will never be the exact replica.

All of this can be seen on the fairly complicated AOC definitions that you see on the bottles. The more unique the wine, the longer the label description. So how do they classify the wines from such a small area?

The land that produces better wine than the surrounding area are defined as the ‘first growths” or “Premier (1er) Cru” plantations. These give roughly the 12% of the total production of the region, there are 635 of them at the moment. The plots of land that produce the best fruit are the Grand Crus, or “Great Growths”. They are a minuscule 1.5% of Burgundy’s annual crop. There are 33 of them all together. Due to the french inheritence regulations, there are a lot more owners, even on a one hectare of land. It’s great prestige to own even just one row in a Grand Cru vineyard.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are perfect grapes to display the small differences between the vineyards, between the different slopes, “climates” in their aromas and structure. These wines are not massive. They are elegant, and hold several layers of aromas and maintain a fantastic structure. A Bourgogne red would never smash you to pieces with its strength. But you can spend hours decodeing its aromas, tryng to understaind its smooth finesse.

Borough Wines managed to source an excellent selection of Burgundy reds, from the town of Beaune, the heart of the Cote d`Or. On Saturday come and have a taste on Borough Market!

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