Burghounds thronged the recent Burgundy tasting at the Arta Gallery in Toronto’s Distillery District to taste the region’s red and white wines.
My decades-long immersion in wine began in Toronto in 1974 with red Burgundy. One night Elizabeth Vinassac, sommelier at the legendary Napoléon restaurant where her chef husband Christian prepared perfect classical French cuisine, rejected my request for a bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils Beaujolais Superieur and insisted I try a Santenay Clos de Tavannes ‘73. On my next visit she served me a Fixin Clos de la Perière ’73. Before tasting those wines I’d had no idea that dry reds could be intense and delicate at the same time, with enticing complex harmonious aromas and flavours spanning berry fruit, forest floor (a good thing in this instance), sandalwood, sweet spices, and wood violets. The hook was set, and I became a dedicated lover of the pinot-based red wines of Burgundy. A few years later, I developed a similar infatuation with white Burgundy, the world’s original and (for me) best chardonnay.
In the decades that followed, my love affair with Burgundy ran into some rough patches. I remained passionate for the older better wines I had the good fortune to drink. They married intensity with elegance and reflected their precise origin with precision. The bad news was that too many costly bottlings seemed simple, thin and dull, even in better vintages. This turned out to be the result of two acts of vandalism in the vineyards: old vines were replaced by less flavourful higher-yielding pinot noir clones like pinot droit, and tons of potassium and nitrogen fertilizers were applied to the soil to further boost yields, resulting in K+ ions replacing H+ in the grapes (thereby lowering the wine’s crucial acidity.)
A recent tasting presented by the French Trade Commission in Toronto gave invitees to sample the wares of eighteen Burgundian producers including seven not yet represented in Ontario. The red and white wines on offer covered the quality and price spectrum. You won’t find a secret Chambertin or Corton among the entry-level products, but the quality of basic Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc has improved dramatically in recent years. They represent your best value in Burgundy.
Domaine Henri de Villamont Bourgogne Chardonnay Prestige 2015 AOC ($19.95, score 89) offers vary Burgundian citrus and oatmeal characters in a fresh but sweetly ripe mouthful. At this price it would make a lovely house white.
Chartron & Trebuchet Rully 1er Cru Les Gresigny 2015 ($28.00, score 89+) has sweet citrus, vanilla and wood aromas. It’s crisp on the palate with lemon pith through the finish.
Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2016 (~$30, score 89) shows typical Chablisien grapefruit and mineral notes. It’s round but fresh in the mouth and would stand proudly by your crustacean dinner.
Domaine Henri de Villamont Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir Prestige 2014 AOC rouge ($19.95, score 89) has sweet spicy red berry fruit and a crisp velvety grippy mouthfeel. House red, anyone?
Maison Ambroise Bourgogne Rouge 2014 (~$20, score 89) adds plummy notes to the berry fruit. It’s crisp and gently grippy and would match any chicken dish.
Domaine Cyrot-Buthiau Pommard 1er Cru Les Arvelets 2015 ($96.00, score 90+). Okay, neither of us is going to pick up a six-pack of this beauty, but I’m throwing it in to let you know what our more affluent brothers and sisters are drinking. This wine, still showing some magenta in its ruby colour, beguiled with red berry fruit, sweet spices and warm earthy mineral notes. On the palate it shows deep rich ripe fruit supported by fine firm ripe tannins and fresh acidity. The finish is powerful and lingering. It’s all about intensity without bulk. If I find a bottle of this under a bush, I’ll keep it for a dozen years and drink it with a good beefsteak.
[For more information about the wines of Burgundy contact Ms. Charline Primat, Trade Advisor, Food, Wine, Beer and Spirits at the French Trade Commission, 416 977-1257, ext. 205, or log on to www.businesssfrance.fr]