12/11/2009 - 00:00

French affair to remember

12/11/2009 - 00:00


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IS fancying a French really considered cheating? Ive had a bad week.

French affair to remember

IS fancying a French really considered cheating?

I’ve had a bad week. My wife found my secret collection, called me at work and said we needed to talk.

I had told her I would stop, and for a while I did; I mean, I really stayed away.

But then the jaw-dropping 2006 vintage in Burgundy was followed by the very promising 2007 and I found myself slipping the odd bottle onto the bottom shelf of the wine rack.

Burgundy’s like that – alluring, feminine, intoxicating in a way that has nothing to do with alcohol.

Most wine geeks are closet Burgundy fans; we talk about it like it’s some sort of secret. It’s such a hedonistic experience that somehow we feel we are going behind the backs of our staples of Barossa shiraz and Margaret River cabernet by drinking a bottle.

The red wines of Burgundy are 100 per cent pinot. They don’t seem to follow the same rules as other wines though; they are not at all about fruit flavour or oak use like we are used to here in Australia.

They are delicate and ethereal yet enormously structured. There’s a presence and sense of place to these wines and they make me think of a thoroughbred racehorse – powerful, graceful, noble and desirable.

The wines are labeled according to a dizzyingly complicated formula that relates to soil type, the direction the vineyard is facing, the specific pruning and fertilising regime and yield of fruit per vine. The resulting label is difficult to decipher to say the least, but don’t get daunted.

I like to think the French make it confusing so we don’t buy the wines and they keep them all to themselves.

The wines are split in to four quality-related categories.

Bourgogne – a generic term simply meaning ‘wine of burgundy’. These wines show the overall style of Burgundy without having the pedigree of the more famous categories. These are approachable, young, evolve tremendously well in their first four years, and are a great entry point into this decadent world.

Village – of a higher quality than bourgogne, the fruit must all be grown in and around the village that appears on the label. These wines have that unique burgundy feel to them but then there’s another level of style that speaks only of their village of origin.

Premier Cru – these wines are the best of the village wines, coming from the best of the vineyards in and around that village. The selection process for vineyards to attain premier cru status is ridiculously intense, but what it does mean is that the wines are really spectacular.

Grand Cru – often within these premier cru vineyards, there are certain rows where the fruit is particularly good due to exceptional soil conditions. This means a small percentage of premier cru vineyard fruit can be classified as grand cru. These wines go beyond spectacular and may well be worth their stupidly high price tags.

So if you haven’t tried a Burgundy before, get cracking. The first bottle won’t blow you away and you won’t become an expert overnight. You will, however, start to see a nuance and elegance you may not have seen in other wines before, a growing appreciation that can become obsession.

Whatever you do though, don’t hide your collection under the bed; your wife will definitely find them there.



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