For me, white burgundy still hits heights that no other white wine region can - but that's because I'm not really a fan of Riesling (huge respect; little love).

However, I have pretty much abandoned the region. I'll pick up the odd case of Meursault, and really like St Aubin from PYCM, Prudhon and Lamy, but the days of buying 4 cases of Leflaive are long gone. There are three reasons for this.

1. Price. The wines are getting silly.
2. Reliability. If the producers lack the ability to make a wine that ages gracefully and consistently (that is, no pox or fundamental faults), then as a consumer, I am not willing to suffer for their failings. I really miss the pre-95 wines; I came to the party too late.
3. Competition. Kumeu River, Ataraxia and the top Mullineux wines (plus gorgeous wines like Rhys) are where I am now. They are simply better in flavour, price and consistency.

I wish it were not so. I would love to try once again old white burgs with their clarified butter flavours and wonderful shimmering structure. I will not shell out £100 for a white wine with manzanilla aspirations.
 
IN your dreams Toby. No way has a solution been found and I am amazed you think it has.
Even if the pox situation is resolved( which I doubt) the prices need to drop by about 50% before I am interested

Diam (or stelvin or vinolok) are all potential solutions, but it's difficult to know for sure, especially when we appear to be no closer to finding out what the cause of the problem is. It is absolutely feasible that better seals will mitigate the problem, but not solve it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I would have gone down that route if I were a producer, but the scale of the problem, and the lack of clarity over 20 years on is really quite bewildering. I think many punters (and no doubt many merchants) are angry at the slowness of acknowledgement that there was/is a problem, and resistance to faulty bottles being returned. Such attitudes live long in the memory, even if all get (sometimes unfairly) tarred with the same brush.
 
Another thought that just occurred to me after reviewing the list of Burgundies at the Shoot-out and the vintages involved. 15-20 years ago if anyone had posted notes on so many young (some only 4 years old) GC Burgundies they would have been shot down with cries of 'infanticide'. Sadly no longer considered, as no-one is prepared to take that risk and the preference is to drink them young in case pox sets in. But do they really taste that great at such a young age and stage of their development? Do they have the developed complexity we'd expect from a bottle costing £hundreds?

That's what really conceived my question about WB still being top dog?
 
I understand Keith that if you had lined up older Burgundies then you may have ended up with a sherry tasting. The question in my head is are the WBs any good at such a young age as people were often accused of infanticide several years ago but now it seems acceptable. Personally it would still seem like infanticide but non of the tasters seemed to imply this. I think it has now become acceptable to drink GC WB at such a young age only because of the risk involved in letting it mature, rather than then actually tasting great (but that's possibly only to tasters who are old enough to have experienced the pre-premox wines at maturity).
 
Yes agreed which is one more reason why anyone who buys WB for more than say £30 a bottle has a few screws loose

Hell hath no furry like a wine drinker scorned? ;-)

I have been buying and drinking Roulot, PYCM, Raveneau, Dauvissat and Boisson Vadot for years up and down the appellation scale and still find them to be tremendous value (with the exception of the hyphenated G-Cs of the Cote de Beaune in the case of PYCM). Stopped buying Fontaine Gagnard and a couple of others as premox risk was too high and Ente as release prices escalated past my pain threshold. I buy them on primary market where prices remain reasonable. In the context of fine wine, spending £80 inc VAT on a bottle of PYCM Meursault Perrieres, Dauvissat Clos or Raveneau Blanchot frankly strikes me as an unmissable bargain: I drink a lot of those with age and my failure rate is well below 10%.
 
Another thought that just occurred to me after reviewing the list of Burgundies at the Shoot-out and the vintages involved. 15-20 years ago if anyone had posted notes on so many young (some only 4 years old) GC Burgundies they would have been shot down with cries of 'infanticide'. Sadly no longer considered, as no-one is prepared to take that risk and the preference is to drink them young in case pox sets in. But do they really taste that great at such a young age and stage of their development? Do they have the developed complexity we'd expect from a bottle costing £hundreds?

That's what really conceived my question about WB still being top dog?

Gosh, there's a lot to go at here ... but white Burgundy in general is not top dog anymore.

As was demonstrated formidably at the taste-off - when you drink Chardonnay made in the modern style* young there is very little to differentiate between the Old and New Worlds - and not even between US, Australia and New Zealand, never mind between Savigny and St Aubin.

* the modern style is to me made using 'low sugar' fruit to deliver a lean and low alcohol wine, which is given a light oak treatment and a touch of sulphur and reductive bottling for the 'pixie dust' nose.

What is interesting is that within a generation of wine drinkers the style has changed so much. Did the Burgundy wine-makers lead us here because it was a safer wine to make ? Whatever happened, the whole commercial chain have successfully convinced the next generation of drinkers that this is a proper, fashionable, Chardonnay style, and that it should be drunk young. Only a few old fogeys like myself bemoan the fact that 'they don't make it like they used to'. But on the plus side, the Californians don't make it like they use to either, which I count as a good thing ! We have ended up with a stylistic convergence between old and new worlds, onto a style which doesn't exhibit much differentiation.

And that lack of differentiation showed through in all the scores, guesses and notes that I have seen, to the extent that I think the majority of judgements were largely made on personal taste preferences. As a consequence, I think that the judgements and notes from the event are of very little use to me (though it would have been great, and extremely useful, to be there and make my own judgements based on my own taste). So in this modern world of Chardonnay it is entirely valid to say 'buy what you like' and 'there is no justification for spending a lot more'.

It is notable - even in these modern wines - that the older vines on really good terroir (and especially when the climate is cool enough to allow longer hang times without any over-ripeness) can give much more depth and nuance to the wines. At the moment that level of vine age and suitable terroir exists in only a few places, both in Burgundy and the New World. I'm not familiar with all of the taste-off wines, but certainly vineyards like Sanford & Benedict, Thieriot, Giaconda and Moutere are up there. As more of the new world plantings mature then I expect even more vineyards to emerge that rival the best of Burgundy. I'll be spending my money on these wines that are bottled under screwcap or DIAM ... but if I could afford Ente I would be buying that as well !
 
I agree with Peter S post about the increasing lack of differentiation. With 2 caveats
I was talking with a producer today who praised his PM Pucelles 2017 as it was not in the mineral, ...but more the fruity/round style of yesteryear, so maybe there are people trying different things
...and, of course, there is much difference between the styles of Ente, Coche, PYCM and the style of Comte Lafon and even more Buisson Charles... for better and for worse.

But, of course, my knowledge of NW chardonnay is zero so I can't comment on NW vs OW
 
I was talking with a producer today who praised his PM Pucelles 2017 as it was not in the mineral, ...but more the fruity/round style of yesteryear
Louis Latour avowedly never went down the mineral route but I don't think that the style of yesteryear is at all well described as fruity and round. Sulphurous, twangy and a bit dirty is closer!
 
Agreed Tom, with the caveat that I don't think there was "a style" of yesteryear, there were all sorts of styles and what we have had is a convergence towards the 'best' (most successful) style. ie producers choosing to move more towards the high scoring and high pricing style of eg Coche - albeit to a greater or lesser extent, and some more and some less successfully of course. Lafon would be a good example of a definite shift in this direction.

I would bet that, fully blind, you could not reliably tell Coche, PYCM, Lafon and Ente apart. Sadly I can no longer afford the samples to set up such a tasting !

And the antidote to this convergence is of course to drink other things and just come back to Chardonnay occasionally. There is, after all a very wide world of wine :)
Spontaneous fermentation, zero sulphur, bidoynamics and a multiplicity of grapes offer lots of routes for exploration.
Nowadays at home we probably drink as much Italian white as we do Chardonnay, with grillo, timorasso, arneis and trebbiano topping the list of varietals
 
I agree, this was a conversation anecdote (people trying to diversify), he was just praising a wine he had just made which was not aligned with today's trends but he did not claim it was representing yesteryear model.

And by the way the take on Burgundy 2017:
- Grande annee en blancs
- Annee plaisir en Rouge but with a few diluted wines
 
Last edited:
Just back from my trip to France (Provence) but on the way home I made an appointment with a producer (I won't name them as I never mentioned that I would publish some of the conversation here). This producer makes both red and white Burgundy and is not is the 'premier league', however has been very solid, reliable and reasonably priced (their Meursault lieu dit is €30 although I found their Volnay 1er cru at €40 too expensive, especially after having already spent more than intended).
They make both whites and reds through the ranges from generic to 1er cru from a few villages. When they were opening a white wine to taste I noticed that they used a natural cork so I asked the pox question, first of all asking why they didn't use a synthetic cork and if the natural cork meant that their whites wines didn't age as well as they used to. They admitted straight away that they have had a big problem with pox and now recommend that most of their whites are drunk within 5 years of the vintage, unless there is high acidity, then they could stretch to 8-10 years. They said that they had recently opened examples of their whites from 1990 and 1997. The 1990, they said, was still very fresh and drinking beautifully. The 1997 was knackered. They claim that the change in their winemaking technique has come from feedback from customers who generally have said they don't want astringent wines and wanted wines that are more approachable when young. It sounds like people just don't cellar wines these days and impatience has taken over (or cellar planning, when you build up a stock that is for keeping, while drinking other wines in the meantime, while waiting on the more complex wines to mature). It just served to remind me that we are indeed a tiny community of wine geeks and have virtually nothing in common (wine-wise) with the general wine-buying public.
They also mentioned that they are mainly using a pneumatic wine-press, but still have the mechanical one in place and use it when the feel the ripeness of the grapes needs it. A lower sulphur regime has also been incorporated - so basically all three of what seems to be the main contributing factors is in use at this winery. They are well aware that this has caused the pox and make it clear to customers what their recommended drinking windows are, but ultimately it is not how they used to make them.
I also got the impression that they will not be reverting back to their old methods and, reading between the lines, they don't get too many complaints because most of their customers will drink the wines before they hit 5 years old anyway.
Fortunately their wines did taste good, although young, and I bought a mixture of reds and whites. I too will be sticking to their recommended drinking windows but, with one or two bottles, will probably go closer to their upper end just to see if pox is starting to appear.
While I'm slightly more relaxed about white Burgundy, I still have concerns that if they are representative of producers, then there are no intentions of even trying to sort out the problems, although there are producers who are switching to other closures, which may extend the life of a wine by a few years.
But there's also the high prices, mainly for the better known villages, to consider.

I also dropped into the Caves des Grands Crus Blancs in Vinzelles. Again I'd been there a couple of times over 20 years ago. It is now a slick, modern operation and building, but the wines are also pretty good. I did notice here that the closures are synthetic, however, the sales staff had never even heard of pox (or at least were trained to stare blankly when asked about it). Anyway, picked up some bottles Pouilly-Vinzelles and Pouilly-Fuissé, so, along with the Domaine Michel wines purchased on the road down to Provence, I have come back with a fairly decent selection of white Burgundy (but not a Grand Cru in sight)!!
 
I would bet that, fully blind, you could not reliably tell Coche, PYCM, Lafon and Ente apart. Sadly I can no longer afford the samples to set up such a tasting !

I bet you could Peter as pretty much every Lafon I’ve tasted was poxed or dull!! Coche and Ente I agree would be much harder to separate, but PYCM I think of as generally less opulent, though that could just be because must I’ve drunk have been bottom to middle range of his spectrum of vineyards.
It would be a fascinating (and very expensive) tasting.
 
I bet you could Peter as pretty much every Lafon I’ve tasted was poxed or dull!! Coche and Ente I agree would be much harder to separate, but PYCM I think of as generally less opulent, though that could just be because must I’ve drunk have been bottom to middle range of his spectrum of vineyards.
It would be a fascinating (and very expensive) tasting.

Perhaps if we did village wines from 2014 ... cost would not be so high and Lafon would have a chance !
Would you be interested ? I should say, you would need to provide one of them.
 
Would anyone be interested in a 'white Burgundy nostalgia' offline, where we all bring along a bottle of white burg from the 1980s or early 90s? We can spend the evening wallowing in nostalgia and cursing pox and modern winemaking techniques (and prices).
I suspect some of us are sitting on the odd older bottle of white burg and are waiting for a suitable occasion to open it.
I have a 1985 Corton-Charlemagne from someone - Chartron I think. Colour looks good and I'd be happy to bring that.
 
I bet you could Peter as pretty much every Lafon I’ve tasted was poxed or dull!! Coche and Ente I agree would be much harder to separate, but PYCM I think of as generally less opulent, though that could just be because must I’ve drunk have been bottom to middle range of his spectrum of vineyards.
It would be a fascinating (and very expensive) tasting.
Times have moved on. Lafon moved to Diam in 2013 I think. Recently the complaints have been of reduction not oxidation.
 
Top