Winenous’ fables #1: The Naoussa and the Burgundy

On the face of it, this is a simple story of two tasting notes, linked only by the wines’ having been tasted and drunk within a couple of days of each other. But there is a sting in the tail, and a moral.

Naoussa PDO, Greece, 2011
Medium pale tawny garnet. Nose: Intense. Dark fruit with a slight caramel nature. Mature notes. High-toned with violets. Rose. Herby, vegetal and savoury. Edgy licorice. Complex. Very attractive. Palate: Medium high acidity. Medium high astringency. Coarse in a good way – like a thin paste, or fine coffee grounds. As nose, but with more emphasis on the high-toned aspect. And something more savoury or meaty – crispy bits on the side of a roast. All in balance. Elegant, and not hugely intense on the palate. Excellent length. Refreshing, savoury, slightly bitter finish. Not a stunning wine that whacks you round the face, but it hits the spot. Drink now in my book, but good for another 5 years at least. Great with steak, also with Middle Eastern food. Also tried the day after opening, and it had not changed much ******

Premier Cru Burgundy, 2000
Nose: Pale tawny garnet. Huge nose, but rather too oaky for my liking. Warming, complex. Mature Burgundy lurking there somewhere. Palate: Medium high acidity. Smooth, gentle, ethereal. Merest hint of astringency. Oaky, yes, but the fruit comes through more on the palate. As mentioned before, warm, complex and mature. Still good Pinot fruit though, with delicate fragrance. Excellent length, with refreshing fruity finish. Oak got more obtrusive on the palate as the wine warmed throughout the evening. Drink now *****

So, two wines that I liked a lot, though I definitely preferred the Naoussa, produced by Boutari, which was the cheaper wine. I gave it my maximum score, which might seem over-the-top, but I reached the same conclusion on two occasions. I bought the Boutari Naoussa earlier this year from Booth’s Supermarket, when there was a 2 for 3 offer and 5% half-case discount, for £6.97. Full price was £11.00.

The Burgundy was considerably more expensive. In 2007 when I bought it, The Wine Society said its conservative market value was £75, but I got a 25% discount on that as I bought it in a mixed case, so I paid £56.25. Looking back on my tasting note, I wonder if my score was on the high side, as a result of being influenced by the high price. But despite its oakiness, I did think it was very classy and elegant.

But the scores not being reflected in that price difference is not the sting in the tail: a price difference of a different order of magnitude was the culprit. The Burgundy was Armand Rousseau’s Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques and I checked current price on Wine-Searcher (after writing my tasting note). The asking price from the only listed UK merchant selling 75cl bottles was £640 (SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY QUID). That’s over 10 times what I paid for it, and about 100 (ONE HUNDRED) times the price of the Naoussa. And the bottle price of £640 might be regarded as a bargain, as another merchant was wanting £1,928 for a magnum.

burgundy naoussaAnd the moral? Well there are actually a number that spring to mind. The first one that occurred to me was “if you are going to check the current market price of a decent wine made by a famous name, do it BEFORE you open the bottle”. On later reflection the most screamingly obvious ones were “buying decent Burgundy is now a mugs’ game”, and “the Boutari Naoussa is a great wine that you really need to try”. I am sure there are also deeper morals lurking, on the subjects of price, value and quality, but I’ll let you figure them out for yourself. And feel free, if you must, to moralise about my plebeian taste – I can take it.

Hotel veranda, bottle of wine

I cannot verify the quotation, but I understand that “Hotel veranda! Bottle of whisky! Telescope!” was Mark Twain’s recipe for exploring the alps.  I can recommend the spirit of the idea, if not the detail.  Here is an evening view of the Jungfrau we had from our hotel garden a couple of weeks ago while polishing off a bottle of Rieussec 1985 after dinner.

The wine was oxidised, and I should have immediately spotted it from the colour in the bottle.  But I accepted the wine in the hotel restaurant, and in the end I was pleased I did.  My wife enjoyed it more than me I think, but I too liked it.  I can best describe it as a sort of low alcohol tawny port with marmalade notes.  Not Sauternes as we know it, Jim, but still a nice drink.  It is amazing how wine faults can give interesting and pleasurable results even if the wine is not as intended.  The one big exception to that rule as far as I am concerned is corkiness.  The moment I detect, or believe I detect, the smallest amount of TCA in a wine, it is for me undrinkable.

But the big vinous event of the holiday was the discovery that I like Bordeaux after all – if the wine is good enough and nicely mature. Sadly, I also learned that the Bordeaux I really like is now generally well out of my price range. Here are the two wines that turned my head:

Château Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc, 1996
Medium tawny garnet. Intense, smooth and round Claret nose, with some pencil box. Medium acid. Medium low tannin – velvety. Excellent length. Aromatics are led by fruit.  Primarily blackcurrant, but also red fruits.  But behind the fruit there are plenty of other more savoury and complex notes, all nicely integrated.  Undergrowth even perhaps.  This is good now, but primary notes are still to the fore, and it might well improve further *****

Château La Mission Haut Brion, Graves,  1985
Medium to deep, beautiful garnet. Intense, soft, complexity that comes with maturity. Great bouquet. Violets, and dark fruit. Medium acid. Medium tannin, but not at all obtrusive. Sweet fruit. The violets and fruit nicely lift the more subtle and complex notes that dominate. Huge length, with a finish that fires on all cylinders, continuing to show the depth and intensity of the wine when it is in the mouth. For me the I would say the wine is at its peak, but there is absolutely no hurry ******  (The first time my top score has appeared on my blog.)


The other wines we had, all in the hotel restaurant, were considerably more modest.  They are all Swiss apart from the Burgundy, which was selected by a Swiss merchant.  Here I have given estimated UK retail prices to give you some idea of how the wines compare with more familiar ones.

Grand Vin Vaudois, AOC St Saphorin, Riem Daepp, 2006, £10.50
Medium pale greenish. Intense fresh and clean. Medium low acid.  Dry.  Wet wool and aniseed. Understated and good despite limited length.  Some caramel. Maybe a little over the hill ****

Vins des Chevaliers, Salgesh/Salquenen Valais Suisse, Dôle, AOC Valais, 2009, £11.00
Pale ruby garnet. Intense primary cherry Pinot fruit. Medium acid. Low tannin. Tad hot and thin.  Served a little too warm. Good length. Drink now ***

AOC Lavaux, Dézaley, Riem Daepp, 2010, £12.30
Pale greenish tinge. Intense stone fruit. Apricot Low acidity. Dry. Excellent length. Almond finish. Floral. Refreshing despite lack of acidity. Drink now ****

Côte de Nuits Villages, Riem Daepp, 1999, £11.50
Medium pale tawny garnet. Intense soft mature Burgundy. Touch of the farmyard. Caramel. Some vague red fruit. Medium high acid. Medium low tannin. As nose. Excellent length. Drink now. On its way out.  Remember I am still at heart a Burgundy man, so *****

I don’t want my blog to become a travel site, but I must say that if you want a comfortable hotel and a summer walking holiday in spectacular alpine scenery I can recommend the Hotel Wengener Hof.  I have been a bit coy about the prices we paid for the Bordeaux there.  I am sure you are capable of using Google to get market prices, but to see the prices charged by the hotel follow the link from this page.  If you are persuaded to try their Bordeaux list, just remember who told you about it and leave some for me the next time I visit.

Grape varieties in Passe-Tout-Grains

I remember that one of my first geeky wine questions was about the allowable varietal proportions in Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains.  I asked my guide, on a Côte d’Or wine tour in 2003.  She didn’t know, but promised to ask the next producer we were visiting.  They didn’t know either, and I was recommended to get a copy of Pitiot and Servant’s “The Wines of Burgundy” from Ateneum in Beaune.  That book said: Pinot 1/3 max, Gamay 2/3 min.  Unfortunately it was the wrong answer – as you might guess if you pause to think.  Why would any regulation want to limit the amount of Pinot Noir in a region where Pinot Noir is king?

Since then, as a new wine book falls into my hands, one of the first things I check is its opinion on the grape proportions in Passe-Tout-Grains.  So far I have:

Book Grape proportions
Pitiot and Servant
The Wines of Burgundy
Pinot 1/3 max, Gamay 2/3 min
Jasper Morris (Ed Jancis Robinson)
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Pinot Noir (minimum one-third)
and Gamay
Clive Coates
An Encyclopedia of The Wines and
Domaines of France
Gamay and Pinot Noir (minimum of
Tom Stevenson
The Sotheby’s Wine Enclyopedia
Pinot Noir plus a maximum of one-third Gamay and a combined maximum of 15% Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris

Some are better others, but none is really what I would call a proper text-book answer.  I have already highlighted errors in Tom’s Encyclopedia, and on the subject of Passe-Tout-Grains it is wrong too.  Jasper and Clive are in practice about right, but wrong in detail (Oops – that’s unfair – see update at the bottom of this post).

It is not difficult to discover the correct answer.  For any French appellation, the starting point is the INAO website.  Click on “Recherche” and “Produits | Liste des produits et leurs cahiers des charges [CDC]” (I manged to create a bookmark here, but it seems I cannot simply give you the URL in a link).  Now, after a bit of poking around with this search page, you can find the regulations on Passe-Tout-Grains.  My French is not great, but it does not take much knowledge to find the bit on the cépage.  The proportion of Pinot Noir must be greater than 30%, the proportion of Gamay must be more than 15%, and the proportion of other allowable grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris) must be less than 15%.

I am getting increasingly annoyed by the sloppiness shown in well-known wine books.  I grant that not many people care about Passe-Tout-Grains, but if it is not important why mention it in the first place?  The current Wikipedia article on Passe-Tout-Grains is more detailed, accurate and precise than any of the books mentioned above.  And if I manage to get my finger out and improve the article a little, it will be pretty much spot on.

With the internet providing information from the horse’s mouth, high quality collaborative texts like Wikipedia, and (dare I say it) the occasional high quality blog, book writers are going to have to up their game.  Flannel is no longer going to cut it.

Update 18/02/12: Jasper Morris informs me that, at the time of writing, the books quoting a minimum of one third Pinot Noir were correct.  Historically the required percentages of Pinot Noir were 20% (1937-1943), 25% (1943-1947) and one third (1947-2009).

Bertrand Ambroise Nuits Saint George

Looking back at my previous post it is clear that it might have been helpful to provide examples of the styles I now recognise as bona fide expressions of Pinot Noir and Burgundy.  I didn’t partly because of the work involved, and partly because the lines are not always that clear and others might draw them differently.  But what I will do here is give you a good example of Burgundy I do like at lot: the Nuits Saint George of Bertrand Ambroise.

I would like to say that I have found a domaine whose wines I can buy with confidence without trying them first, but I have not reached that point quite yet.  Apart from the Nuits Saint George, I have tried a couple of his cheaper whites, the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2004 and Ladoix 1er Cru Les Gréchons 2005, both tasted in 2007.  They were perfectly fine *** wines, and decent value for money, but did not excite me enough to want to buy.  I also tried his straight Bourgogne Rouge 2009 in March last year, which I also gave ***, but as I thought this would improve I decided to buy half a case as £15 per bottle.  I am not sure I properly have the measure of this wine yet.  The taster on which I decided to buy was  of the primary red cherry fruit style I like so much, but the bottle which I opened a couple of weeks later was more black cherry and blackcurrant, and seemed to have more dominant oak.  I am not necessarily suggesting bottle variation – taster variation is at least as likely an explanation.  Either way I am not going to fret too much about the difference.  The fruit was good and intense, and tannins were evident, so I am going to tuck the remaining bottles away for a few years and see what happens.

But the Nuits Saint George is on a totally different level.  For the 2002 and 2005, in March and December respectively last year I did the same as for the Bourgogne: I tasted a sample, bought a half case, and opened a bottle from the half case a week or two later.  For these wines, the tasting sample and bottle experiences were very similar, and are described below in one note for each wine.

Nuits Saint George, Bertrand Ambroise, 2002, £26
Medium garnet.  Intense, slightly funky, Burgundy.  Good mature Pinot Noir fruit. Sous bois.  Highish acidity and medium astringency.  Excellent length, with tingly fruit finish.  Excellent all round wine.  Good to drink now or in next few years.  *****

Nuits Saint George, Bertrand Ambroise, 2005, £31
Medium garnet.  Intense beautiful Burgundian perfumed Pinot Noir.  Mainly primary fruit, but with a savoury edge – bacon perhaps.  Sous Bois.  Some spicy oak, but not obtrusive. Medium acidity and astringency.  Sweet, light, delicate fruit.  Extremely long, with tangy perfumed finish.  Great now.  Not sure how much it will improve as I like it so much now, but will certainly last several more years.  ******

Yup, 6 stars is my maximum score – and given to a village level Burgundy.  I was tempted to to knock a star to create what might seem like a more sane assessment, but decided eventually to stick to my guns and say what I really thought.

I was pleased to be introduced to all these wines by the Manchester Wine Society.  The red Burgundies were both tried at excellent tastings lead by Peter Ainsworth, and were bought from his company Delamere Wines (sadly longer trading).

Pinot Noir and unknown unknowns

To quote a former US Secretary of Defense out of context, with wine “there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know”.  To complete the set, there are probably also some unknown knowns; things we know only subconsciously.

After a brief burst of known knowns leading up to me taking a WSET exam, my vinous life is again descending into unknowns of both varieties.  Well, I say descending, but that is maybe too negative.  I am quite happy for many aspects of wine to be a mystery.  Give me the scientific explanation if there is one, but otherwise let it be.  Please don’t over simplify or compound the mystery with metaphysics.

But occasionally I do encounter the odd shaft of light.

As I was initially pushing back the frontiers of ignorance I decided at quite an early stage that I had pretty much nailed Pinot Noir and Burgundy.  Not at a deep level, but I knew I liked it, and thought I understood the basic flavour profile.  I found the delicate, perfumed cherry aromatics irresistible, and the barnyard and sous bois notes of mature Burgundy were also seductive and easily recognisable.  (I never was quite sure how many Rs there were in forest, so went for the pretentious option in my descriptors.)

Then, in the last few months, over the course of quite a few tastings, I have been realising that what I understood to be correct Pinot Noir was just one expression of the grape, and is not even consistently found in Burgundy.  For example there are the more tannic masculine Burgundies, and the ripe black fruit style typified by many American producers.  And I have recently been finding Pinot Noirs that have reminded me more of Syrah than anything else – primary Syrah aromatics, and meaty bacony flavours when more mature.  I knew the other styles existed, but I thought they were aberrations.  Now I realise that they are qually valid, and some people actually prefer them.

My favourite, more delicate and aromatic, Pinot Noirs seem to come mainly from Burgundy and New Zealand, but just because they come from those regions is not at all a guarantee of style.  I am becoming increasingly aware that the New Zealand Pinot Noirs I like tend to be the cheaper ones.  Sadly the same cannot be said of Burgundy – that is definitely a known known.

Terroir expression as described in books

Following my previous post, I thought it would be interesting to see what some books say about terroir in the Côte d’Or.  I was after specific detail as to how the terroir of each vineyard gives rise to different characteristics in the wine, and expecting to find little agreement.

So I assembled my Burgundy library of rather weighty British tomes:  Anthony Hanson’s Burgundy, Clive Coates’ The Wines of Burgundy and Jasper Morris’s Inside Burgundy.  And alongside these I had somewhat more lightweight French books: Pitiot and Servant’s The Wines of Burgundy, Charles Pomerol’s (Ed) The wines and Winelands of France and Gérard Corret’s Les Grands Crus de Bourgogne vus du ciel. I don’t want this to become a book review, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that The wines and Winelands of France is full of mind-numbingly geeky detail about terroir and wine across France, but it also manages to be superficial at the same time.  There is no way I could read it from cover to cover, hardly even a whole chapter, but I am pleased I have it.  Les Grands Crus is not really a wine book at all, but has pretty aerial shots of vineyards.  The books are pictured above, complete with a rare glimpse of the WordPress dashboard I am currently typing into.

Hanson gave me very little to go at at all. His village-based chapters are divided into sections on producers, and very little is said about specific vineyards at all.

Coates looked more promising.  He at least had sections on all the major vineyards, and most of the vineyard descriptions describe the terroir in terms of geology and slope.  But it is largely left as an exercise for the reader to correlate the terroir with anything the wines have to offer.  There are a few exceptions though.  I concentrated my search around Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée, and all I could find was on Grand Exchézeaux, which he says compared to Exchézeaux is “a richer, more structured wine with greater intensity and definition and a black, gamey flavour: rustic in the best sense.  It can be firm, even hard in its youth, less obviously generous then either Exchézeaux or the more refined grand crus of Vosne-Romanée”.

What about Morris?  Well, Jasper is more than willing to give his own evaluation of each important vineyard, and compare it with the official classification and historical views; this he does in a very systematic fashion.  But I could find no clear attempt to typify the wines coming from each vineyard in qualitative terms.  He did make an interesting comment in the section on Clos de Vougeot though, where he says a tasting organised to link quality and style with location within the vineyard failed in its mission, as no such link was obvious.  However, strangely, in the following paragraph he goes on the say a “huge amount will depend on exactly where in the Clos a parcel of vines is located”.

In marked contrast to the British books, Pitiot and Servant is much more willing to give a short tasting note for each appellation or group of appellations it deals with. Thus, Clos de Vougeot is “deep red in colour, has a generous bouquet, is harmonious, highly bred, elegant, and with a long finish in the mouth”.  And on the grand crus of Vosne-Romanée: “These wines, (like [Exchézeaux and Grand Exchézeaux]) have a good nose and are well-bred, solid, robust, harmonious and exceptionally suitable for ageing”.

The book edited by Pomerol is not afraid to pepper the book with potted notes of how wines of an area or vineyard should taste.  For example, an author (who apparently did not attend Morris’s tasting) writes that “the wine of Clos Vougeot, with its robustness and aroma of truffle and violets, continues to be consistently finer and more delicate from the higher ground and heavier from the slope bottom”.  And on the opposite page, I see that that you will observe that Aloxe-Corton is “the most muscular, most robust wine on the Côte de Beaune”; Pernand-Verglelesses “resembles it, but is less robust and has a flavour of rasperries or cherries; Savigny-Vergelesses “starts off with a more pronounced flavour of cherries”; and Chorey-lès-Beaune appellations “are more vigorous in the north-east and have a flavour of cherry in the south-west”.  This, we are assured, “is a good illustration of the relationship between the geology and the soil, with the elements eroded from the high ground above continuing to play a role in the aromas and the flavours of the wines produced further downhill”.

Corret’s picture book has a paragraph-long tasting note for each of these three areas: Clos de Vougeot; Exchézeaux and Grand Exchézeaux; and the Grand Crus of Vosne-Romanée.  I will not reproduce them here, but they look very much like notes for specific wines, complete with phrases like “violets in the morning dew”, serving temperatures, and “best with red meat, cheese and pasta dishes”.  OK, I made up the last bit – there were no serving suggestions – but the rest is true.

Well, I did not get what I expected, and was quite heartened to see how reticent the more serious British books were in describing the wines of different terroirs. The French ones though seem quite happy to trot out naive simplifications which I find difficult to take seriously.  It is probably unfair to judge French wine writing on these three books, but I do think it can be concluded that French readers seem to expect and accept these little terroir portraits a lot more readily than we would.


Terroir is utter bollocks

Not my words, but a parting shot from Malcolm Gluck as he recently left The Oldie magazine.  Taken at face value anyone who spares a moment to think about his assertion would have to disagree.  Even using the narrowest of definition of terroir, it is clear that certain soils and vineyard slopes are more auspicious for viticulture than others.  And using the broadest definition, which as far as I can make out encompasses just about everything that influences wine production, it is trivially true that terroir is important.  But I doubt that Mr Gluck was thinking in those terms, and neither are most people who enthusiastically embrace the concept.

I think the real issue is how meaningful all the various usages are.  My observation is that terroir can mean all manner of things to different people and that the meaning subtly shifts depending on what point is being made.  It is often justified in the terms I have given above, and then used in whatever way is most convenient.  In that sense, I think Gluck has a valid point.

It is informative to consider the history of the terroir concept.  According to this article, from the 18th century people wrote about the peculiarities of various Burgundian vineyards, but the T-word was not extensively used in that context.  “In the early 19th century, when experts were beginning to speak of ‘fine wines’, terroir had pejorative connotations. To speak of a terroir wine was to speak of a peasant wine – harsh and earthy – a definition that was to stick until the 20th century”, and “the contemporary idea of terroir – that a wine (or food) acquires a particular quality and character because of where it was produced – is a relatively recent phenomenon”.  And the rest of the article goes on to explain how the 20th century notion of terroir was closely linked to the creation of the AOCs in France.  You have to wonder if the Gallic explanation “c’est le terroir” for a badly made wine refers back to 19th century usage.

Whatever the details of the history, I think we have to accept that the concept has evolved rapidly in the last two centuries.  And even today there is little agreement about what it means.  I think that is why it lends itself so well to misuse and exploitation – bollocks if you like.  Here are some examples of what I see as more bollocky usages:

  1. Several years ago Bordeaux was promoting itself by saying that it was its terroir that made the wines so great.  Terroir is a marketeer’s dream.  With it you have a ready made USP for your wine, especially if you include in your definition of terroir that the wine making methods have to be traditional in the area.  And does Bordeaux really only have one terroir?  If there is one thing that unites the whole of the region, surely it it simply climate.  Of course this is not the only example of marketing using terroir in a questionable way.  One of Gluck’s earlier tirades was directed at WOSA.
  2. Another misuse in my book is to distinguish between terroir-driven and fruit-driven wines.  I can understand fruit-driven – it means fruity I presume.  So are we really talking about fruity and non-fruity wines, with the implication that wines without fruit have some mystical relation with the terroir not available to fruity ones?  I find it very difficult to buy into that idea.
  3. The above distinction also seems to hint at the fact that terroir-driven wines might taste earthy or minerally, which brings me onto another point: the naive assumption that wines taste of the soil the vines were planted in, or indeed that rocks taste of anything at all.  The vast majority of rocks have no flavour, the most common exception being Halite, which is rock salt.  Others are listed here on page 15.
  4. Then there is the idea that winemakers allow the terroir to express itself through minimum intervention.  Putting aside anthropomorphic objections, one wonders why it is the terroir in particular that expresses itself under those circumstances.  Why, for example, do the grape varieties decide to take a back seat.  Besides, how can one isolate the influences of terroir from anything else on the palate, especially if your concept of terroir covers pretty much everything anyway?  In blind tastings people have enough difficulty telling white from red, let alone  identifying terroir influences.

So in principle I think I agree with Gluck.  I just wouldn’t use such extreme language.

The terroir in the picture is from Côte de Py by the way, but of course you knew that.  How could it be mistaken for anything else?


Modest Burgundies in Burgundy

Returned from the ACE Cultural Tours Mediaeval Burgundy a few weeks ago.  So not so much focus on wine, and a lot of churches and abbeys.  I would highly recommend the tour if you are into that sort of thing. ACE will doubtless run it again at some point.

At our first hotel, the Hostellerie Le Cedre in Beaune, the food and wine was a lot better than on many of these trips.  Here the food was very accomplished, particularly considering they were catering for a party of 16.  It was excellent and well-presented French cuisine, though not as far as I know particularly Burgundian.  Usually 4 courses, with a varying number of small little extras.  Not quite as fussy as what you might expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant, but heading in that direction.  The wines were also good, if modest, and they were definitely from Burgundy.

At L’Hôtel de la Poste et du Lion d’Or in Vézelay, the food was typical tourist-grade hotel mediocrity, most things being premade and/or preformed.  To be fair to the hotel, I don’t know what their brief and budget was, and what they are capable of on a larger budget, but I was not impressed by what we got.  The wines were not great either.

We had a good few glasses of wine with each meal, so I feel I had a good chance to form an impression of each one, and I describe them briefly at the bottom of this post.  I was particularly impressed by the Prosper Maufoux wines.  Unfortunately this négociant does not seem to be available in the UK – not the straight Bourgogne AC red and white at least – but I will keep an eye out for them next time I am in Burgundy.  Apart from the wines drunk in our hotels, we had a touristy tasting at Bouchard Ainé et Fils which I don’t feel inclined to comment on further, and a few jug wines for lunch.  Ones I particularly remember were an overly-acidic Passetoutgrain, which suddenly became enjoyable when my steak frites arrived, and an Irancy which reminded me of the Domaine Rigoutat wine described below.  Is all red wine from North Burgundy like this?  I wish I had stuck with Chablis in that area.

At Hostellerie Le Cedre, the wines listed below were €20-30 on the wine list, and as far as I could tell they would retail for around £13 in the UK.  No idea how much the wines drunk in Vézelay would cost in the UK.  Maybe £8.  I would not buy them at any price.

Hostellerie Le Cedre

Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Référence, Maison Prosper Maufoux à Santanay, 2009 – Good Pinot Noir fruit. Medium low tannin. Would benefit from a few more years ***

Domaine Bertagna, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Les Dames Huguettes, Pinot Noir, 2007 – Intense varietal Pinot Noir fruit. Hard edge on the nose and palate. Medium acid. Medium low tannin. Would benefit from a few more years ***

Bourgogne, Haute Côtes de Nuit, Bichot, 2007 – Intense. Citrus and peach. Medium acid. Drink now ***

Domaine Chevrot, Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, 2009 – Bright intense varietal Pinot Noir fruit. A little rubbery. Medium high acid. Medium low tannin. Drink now ***

Bourgogne, Chardonnay, Prosper Maufoux, 2008 – Intense. Slightly mature. Slightly oaky. Some citrus. Medium high acid. Drink now ****

L’Hôtel de la Poste et du Lion d’Or

Domaine Rigoutat, Bourgogne, Coulage la Vineuse, 2008 – Sickly cheap Pinot Noir fruit. Coarsely oaked. Awful *

Irancy, Domaine Verret, 2008 – Sweet, icing sugar, Pinot Noir fruit. Medium acid. Low tannin **

Lafarge Passetoutgrain 2002

The wine is Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain 2002. Bought from Byrne’s of Clitheroe for a tenner.  After drinking the first bottle of this wine, I decided I liked it enough to order a case. Something I don’t often do.  A couple of bottles in the case were corked to varying degrees I think, but this one, drunk a few days ago, was top notch.  Here’s the tasting note:

Pale garnet.  Intense mature Burgundy nose.  Red fruit.  Smoke, crispy bacon almost, and spice.  Some minerally peppermint notes – something I have occasionally got on Morgon wines so maybe it is something to do with the Gamay.  Medium acid, and medium low tannin.  Certainly enough structure to hold its own with food.  Excellent length, with smoky finish.  Excellent wine for a modest appellation, and a modest price. Drink now.  ****