2005 Burgundy – stunning wines from a great vintage
2005 is a great vintage; in fact it's one of the best ever. It's not very often that the press around the world are so unanimous, but when it comes to the 2005 vintage from Burgundy, and in fact France in general they all agree 2005 is an outstanding vintage. In exceptional vintages like 2005 the quality across wines is more consistent than in tough years where vigorous fruit selection usually ensures that top wines from each producer perform but sometimes to the peril of the wines below that.
Burgundy is the narrowest and longest wine region in France, and one of the smallest, most fragmented and difficult to understand. With more than 1,000 names and over 100 appellations it’s easy to see why.
To understand the fragmentation, we must briefly look to the past. Burgundy was once owned almost entirely by the Church, until 1789 when the French Revolution took place. During this time vineyards were seized and broken up and given to families to farm, while French inheritance laws have further fragmented them.
When it comes to the grapes grown in Burgundy, things get a little simpler. There are only three main grapes grown in Burgundy. Pinot Noir for red wine, Chardonnay for the white and Gamay for Beaujolais.
There are various levels of quality in Burgundy. At the top is Grand Cru – there’s 8 white Grand Cru and 24 red. Next is Premier Cru, followed by wine from a specific Village and then Burgundy generic appellation.
Burgundy can be divided into three distinct areas:
1. Chablis: the northern most and closest to Paris is Chablis. The only grape allowed to be planted here is Chardonnay because the soil is made up of chalk, decomposing oyster shells and the fact that it is very cold and could not reliably ripen Pinot Noir.
2. Côte d’Or – the heart of Burgundy – which is then further divided into:
a. Côte De Nuits: Quite literally home to the world’s most expensive vineyards and wines. It’s virtually all Pinot Noir because of the soil being heavier and more clay based.
b. Côte De Beaune: The lower part of Burgundy central is dominated by Chardonnay and is the home to the most expensive Chardonnays in the world from the village of Puligny Montrachet.
3. Beaujolais: a huge region that produces vastly more wine than the 3 other areas combined. The only grape really planted here is Gamay.
A few more facts:
Generic wines are labeled as Burgundy or Bourgogne.
In total there are more than 400 Premiers Crus vineyards in Burgundy.
There are 32 Grands Crus Vineyards in total – 8 white Grands Crus, 24 red Grands Crus. Of these 24 are from the Côte de Nuits and 8 from the Côte de Beaune.
The largest red Grand Cru in Burgundy is Corton; this Grand Cru represents about 25% of Grand Cru Red wines by volume.
It’s very important to know your vintages when you purchase Burgundy. 2005 is an amazing vintage – one of the great vintages. Recently 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2002 were all very good vintages.
Domaines do changes hands, personnel change and the quality can improve; there are a few houses in this offer that have certainly done just that and are definitely Domaines to revisit and watch going forward.
With Burgundy, remember that means white is Chardonnay and red is Pinot Noir. I recommend you deal with experts to help you understand the wines and get the best for your money.
Interview: Nicky Pellegrino
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