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Bourgogne Rouge: terroir and the human factor 

2nd August 2001
La Vigneronne tasting

The idea behind this tasting is an interesting one. We know on the one hand the significance of the notion of 'terroir' in Burgundy, and how important the quality of the vineyard site is. On the other hand, we are acutely aware of the influence of the human factor, as a top producer's village-level wine can be as good as a Grand Cru wine from a less competent domaine. So it is of great interest to see the quality of generic Bourgogne Rouge from some of the most celebrated names in Burgundy. Bourgogne Rouge is the most basic red wine appellation here, and these wines can come from just about anywhere in the region. They might simply be from lesser sites, or be from vines just outside a village appellation, or even represent declassified wines from better appellations. So how were the wines? They were actually pretty good, although none really shone (with the possible exception of the lovely Coche Dury). But then again, none are particularly cheap, with most hovering around the £10 mark and a couple even more expensive than this. If any conclusion can be drawn from such a small sample, it would be to reinforce what most people would consider intuitive: the vineyard site (or terroir) provides a certain degree of potential, and it's then up to the vigneron to achieve that potential by good work in the vineyard and skilful winemaking. Reassuringly, it seems that in the right hands even modest sites can produce good results.

1997 Bourgogne, Goisot
(Côtes d'Auxerre, Corps de Garde) The nose shows lovely ripe cherries with some nice herbiness. Richly fruited palate is soft and full, with appropriate acidity. An attractive wine. Very good+

1999 Passetoutgrain, Gérard Mugneret
Bourgogne Passetoutgrain is a glugging-style wine made from Pinot Noir (minimum one-third) and Gamay. This is a quite deep red/purple colour, with a slightly muted nose of cherries and herbs. There is bold fruit on the palate with some tannins. Good concentration; full flavoured and a little angular. Very good

1997 Bourgogne, Nicolas Potel
Pale cherry colour. Some leafy cherry fruit pokes through the slightly reticent nose. Rounded palate with herby fruit and a touch of spice. Good/very good

1999 Bourgogne, Jean Marc Millot
Deep coloured, this displays a leafy nose with some sweet herbiness. The palate has good acidity and a touch of tannin, but it's rather simple, dominated by cherry fruit. Correct and shows good concentration, so I suspect it's a little closed now. Very good

1998 Bourgogne, Jean Marc Millot
Attractive full nose with herby, gamey notes and some spice. Palate is full with chunky fruit, spice and herby complexity. Good acidity; just a tad rustic? Very good+

1998 Bourgogne, Méo-Camuzet
Full, slightly oaky nose to this wine, which shows good concentration. It's hard to pick as a Pinot Noir. Firm, tannic palate with some spiciness. If I'm going to be picky, this lacks real complexity though, and is a bit angular. Very good

1998 Bourgogne, Robert Chevillon
Very pale colour, with an orange rim. Sweet fruit on the nose with herby undercurrents. Palate shows good balance, herby complexity, soft fruit and a touch of spice on the finish. Unusual. Very good+

1998 Bourgogne No 1, Dominique Laurent
Assertive nose of herby, medicinal cherry fruit. Palate is rich and full, with a good concentration, firm tannins and high acid. A substantial, chunky wine showing nice balance. Very good+

1997 Bourgogne, Coche-Dury
Quite a pale cherry colour, the complex nose shows caramel, toast, herbs and cherry fruit. Good density of fruit on the palate with a rounded character, spicy elements and great balance. Very good/excellent

1997 Bourgogne, Leroy
Attractive cherry and herb nose leads to a fairly concentrated palate displaying rich fruit, some spiciness and a bit of structure (contributed by both the tannins and the acid). Quite a bold wine, but hasn't developed too much complexity yet. Very good+

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