Sunday, 19 December 2010

Viavino Wine Course Session Two

This Tuesday saw the second session of the Classic French Wine Regions wine tasting and education course I’m running.  The idea is to educate about the world of wine whilst also improving tasting skills.  In the first session we looked at Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, moving on this week to Gamay from Beaujolais and Pinot Noir from Burgundy, the Loire and New Zealand.

Wine 1  – Beaujolais

In this course we normally we look at grape varieties from their homeland and compare them with another example from elsewhere. Gamay though was treated as a quick intro before the main course of Pinot Noir and we stuck to one classic example from Beaujolais to kick-off the evening. The wine was a Beaujolais Villages made by the highly rated producer Jean-Marc Burgaud from the much heralded 2009 vintage.  The wine was lively with lovely crisp acidity and bags of delicious cherry and strawberry fruit.  It was simple and I thought rather delicious.

Wines 2 & 3 - Sancerre Rouge and Bourgogne Rouge

The first two Pinots we looked at were a 2008 Sancerre Rouge from the Chavingol sub-zone made by the producer Paul Thomas and a 2007 Bourgogne Rouge from Darviot-Perrin. The sancerre was quite elegant in the nose but actually a bit disappointing on the palette.  Quite thin and lacking fruit it was OK, but should have been better. Sancerre's never a cheap appellation and there are some terrific (if always very light) reds from the region, but there's always a slight question-mark over value.

The Bourgogne Rouge by contrast was a stonker.  It really showed how good a straight-ahead Bourgogne Rouge can be.  With no aspirations to turn into a complex older wine, it made a great comparison to the Sancerre Rouge, which is also a wine made to be drunk young.  Unfortunately for the Sancerre however there was very little comparison; the moreish, long and delicious Bourgogne Rouge was in a different class. I've already posted about this wine when I had a bottle for supper the other night, which you can find here.

Wines 4 & 5 - Cote Chalonnaise Rouge and Premier Cru Cote d'Or

After this we looked at two more mature Burgundies, going back in age each time.  The first was a 2005 Mercurey Domaine Louis Max and the second was a 2004 Jean-Marc Pavelot Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode.  The Louix Max Mercurey was a good example of a Challonaise red; still fairly light but with more complexity and interest than a straight Bourgogne Rouge.  This had the typical undergrowth secondary flavours you get from a more mature Burgundy, but well balanced with some primary red fruit still showing through.  A decent wine that would do justice to a Boeuf Bourguignon.

The Pavelot wine split opinion.  This was a year older, from a weaker vintage (2004) but from a great 1er cru vineyard - La Dominode.  It's said that this is the one vineyard in the Savigny appellation that can merit 10 years ageing.  This one, at six years old, was almost fully developed with loads more of the barnyard that was hinted at in the previous wine.  This style often divides opinion; I like it but there are others who find it too much.  Still, always better to have wine that generates conversation!  Whatever your personal take though, it was undeniable that the nose and palette were really pronounced with bags of complexity and excellent persistence of flavour.  Certainly up my street.

Wine 6 - Martinborough Pinot Noir

Finally we looked at a Pinot Noir from Martinborough in New Zealand, which is a contestant for the best region for Pinot in NZ, only contested by Central Otago.  This example was a 2008 from one of the finest producers of Pinot in NZ, Escarpment.  Though still very young, it was still perfectly approachable, with bags of sweet red cherry and strawberry fruit flavours and a tang of well-integrated oak.

It was an interesting contrast to the Burgundies, being much more fruit forward and tasting sweeter, though this is flavour perception, as the wine is actually dry.  Both camps have their own merit; the Burgundies with their rasp of tannin and acidity are probably better suited to a wider array of suppers, perfectly complementing a Coq-au-Vin for example, but the Martinborough wine was full, interesting and not without complexity, perhaps best appreciated with a straight-ahead piece of grilled meat.  A rare steak why not.

A good night had, we all look forward to the next session in the new year, which will tackle the white varieties of Bordeaux (Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle) and the middle Loire (Chenin Blanc), vinified both as dry wines and as pudding wines.  Merry Christmas.


  1. Happy New Year.
    I am enjoying your wine blog from afar,would have liked to come on some of your sessions--if I lived a little closer! (never to old to learn)
    I agree with your comments on the Sancerre.The white is overpriced and the pinot noir is thin.Why not stick with the real thing from further south in the Bourgogne.
    I discovered the Picpoul de Pinet a few years back, excellent with fish and shellfish and not that high in alcohol.Drinking La Font Française Ormarine 2009 at just over 3€ a bottle with my grilled dorade tonight. Cheers!
    From your Southern Rhone correspondent. John B.

  2. Cheers John, Happy New Year to you too. Enjoy your Ormarine and dorade tonight, sounds great! Pass on the website link to anyone you think might be interested...
    Best, Hugo.

  3. [...]  The idea is to educate about the world of wine whilst also improving tasting skills.  In the second session we looked at the red grapes of Beaujolais (Gamay) and Burgundy (Pinot Noir).  This time round we [...]