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Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


WBW #39 - Silver Burgundy

This month's Wine Blogging Wednesday is being hosted by Brooklynguy. His topic of choice is what he calls "Silver Burgundy," that is to say, the wine producing regions south of of the famed Cote d'Or (gold slope). Most of the production in the region (made up of both the Cote Chalonnaise and the Maconnais) is based on the same two grape varieties - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - that produce the great wines of the Cote d'Or. Silver Burgundy can often be more affordable, and in favorable vintages, can churn out some terrific wines. In fact, many young, talented producers, having been priced out of the Cote d'Or, have been raising the bar on production here with distinctive, classy wines. I know this to be the case, as I've enjoyed many of them over the years... sad to say, the two wines I chose for WBW were less than great.

I decided to try both a white and red wine, and my wife and I worked out a meal for the two, based on what I knew of them. Our Chardonnay came from the well respected village of Rully, which is among a few villages located on a continued section of limestone soil extending south from the Cote du Beaune. The wine, Jaeger Defaix Rully Rabouce 1er Cru 2005, is produced by a family based in Chablis, who inherited the land a few years back and started production in 2004. The was quite distinctive, quartz-like minerality, darn ripe fruit, but fermented VERY dry. It was pretty tight too, leaving me with the impression that a bit more time would allow it to strut its stuff more. I'm pretty sure that some oysters would have been a better match than the scallops I had made (the meat of the scallops was too sweet for the wine), but nothing could have helped that fact that the wine had a faint, but persistent corkiness to it. How sad.

I had high hopes that the second wine would overcome the (slight) disappointment of the first. Paired with a simple herb-roasted chicken, butternut squash, and truffled mushrooms, we drank Les Champs de l'Abbaye Cotes du Couchois "Les Clos" 2005 from Alain and Isabelle Hasard. On paper, the producer seems to be doing lots of things right: dense planting, biodynamic farming, selective hand-harvesting, a second triage at the cellar, etc. The Hasards do a maceration of 6 to 10 days to extract color and flavor. Their goal is a wine of extreme concentration and elegance. In order to help achieve this they employ up to 60% new oak. I'm not sure if it was the soak time or the wood, but this wine was among some of the most tannic Pinot Noir (not a grape known for tannin) I've encountered from France. The fruit was certainly present, and a noticeable dry autumn leaf character was lurking in the background, but the tannin issue was too distracting. In an effort to give the wine the benefit of the doubt, I retasted it the following morning, finding the dryness of the tannins to have subsided a bit, but not appreciably.

This experience in no way diminishes my appreciation for "Silver Burgundy." These were two solid wines, where the producers clearly made decisions about what they were after and how they planned to get there. True, I didn't love either one all that much, and having spent $21 (Jaeger Defaix) and $26 (Hasard), it's reasonable to say that, while they may well be low-priced for Burgundy, neither is a great value in the greater wine world. Nonetheless, I do plan to seek out another bottle from Jaeger Defaix at some point... and, with a better take on their style, find a better pairing.