Burgundy: The Drinking Plan

14 03 2012

Burgundy, I haven't forgotten about you.

At the start of 2012 I waxed poetic about my newfound commitment to drink more Burgundy this year.  Two days later, I followed that up with a momentum-sustaining red Burgundy review of the 2009 Alex Gambal “Cuvee Les Deux Papis” Bourgogne Rouge.  I have since gone over two months without drinking or mentioning Burgundy at all.  What gives?  Am I like one of those New Year’s Resolution fitness disciples who goes to one workout on January 2nd and then gets back on the couch?  Not exactly.  Have I been turned off of the Burgundy quest since early January?  Nope.  Am I quietly getting the pieces put together on a massive mind-blowing Burgundian wine journey of epic proportions?  Oh yes.

My original idea about how to start drinking more Burgundy was to, well, start drinking more Burgundy:  head to the France section of various wine shops, buy a few bottles, crack them, write about them.  But when I asked Highlander Wine & Spirits’ Matt Browman for advice on how to approach his favourite wine region, he got me thinking in a more structured fashion.  His Burgundy drinking plan contemplated village-by-village comparisons of wines from high-quality producers across the entire hierarchy  of the area’s wine classification system…but more importantly, it called for all of the all of the test subject wines to be opened AT THE SAME TIME.  Faster than you could say “Burgundy tasting party”, I was on board.  It’s taken me until now to source (and pay for) the various bottles going into the tasting, but next weekend I’ll have a dozen bottles of top-notch Burgundy open and the wait will definitely be worth it.  Here are the official details of the Matt Browman Burgundy Drinking Plan in case you ever feel like trying this yourself:

  • Do one colour of wine at a time.  Start with the whites.
  • Get representative bottles from good producers from each of the Burgundy wine classification levels.  I detailed Burgundy’s wine hierarchy in this post, but by way of quick summary, basic Bourgogne Blanc is at the bottom of the totem pole (wine made from grapes that can come from anywhere in Burgundy and that can be blended between various sub-regions), followed by village-level Burgundy (wine made from grapes grown in the area surrounding a particular village, like Beaune or Montagny), then Premier Cru (wine made from grapes grown in a single specific higher-quality vineyard) and finally Grand Cru (wine made from grapes grown in one of the top vineyards in the region).  Climbing the quality ladder, for the tasting I bought 4 bottles of Bourgogne Blanc from 4 different producers, then picked what are likely the 3 top white wine villages in Burgundy (Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault) and bought a village-level and a Premier Cru wine from each of those areas.  Finally, not having the trillions of dollars that Grand Cru Burgundy from the Puligny/Chassagne area would cost, I grabbed two Grand Cru bottles from the famed Corton-Charlemagne vineyard instead as the icing on the cake.
  • In an ideal world, open these bottles over 3 successive nights.  On night 1, open the 4 Bourgogne Blancs and taste and compare them side-by-side.  On night 2, try the BBs again, only this time add in the 3 village-level wines as well.  This should let you (1) see the quality difference as you move up the hierarchy and (2) pick out stylistic and flavour differences between the various villages.  Finally, on night 3, start with the BBs and village wines and then work your way up through the Premier Crus and Grand Crus.  (Invite some friends over for night 3.)  This process, culminating in all of the bottles being open at once, should maximize the potential horizontal (between villages/producers) and vertical (between quality/hierarchy levels) comparisons you can make between the various bottles — it’s basically a crash course scratching the surface of the wonderful world of quality Burgundian white wine.  And a killer way to spend an evening.
  • Wait until your budget is replenished, then repeat with the reds.


Due to timing constraints, I’m going to be opening all of my accumulated white Burgundy over 2 days instead of 3, with the Bourgogne Blancs being opened first and everything else following suit the next day.  The bottles being opened come from wine shops all over Calgary and the surrounding area, each of which was a big help in getting me to my ultimate lineup; thanks to Highlander Wine & Spirits, Ferocious Grape, Metrovino, J-Webb and Cellar Door (Canmore) for the expert assistance.  I have been going crazy having all of these bottles hang out in my wine fridges for the past few weeks, but I think that the result of my patient sourcing will be worthwhile, and you can bank on the fact that the outcome of the tastings will be up on PnP in the next few weeks for all to see.  Let it not be said that I’m a man who doesn’t keep his word.  And let the tasting countdown begin!



One response

15 03 2012
Graham Law

Sounds like a fun trip through France! Here’s my snobby tip. As all Bourgogne or Burgundy are pinot noirs (the red ones, of course) look for the ones that don’t say “Pinot Noir”, because if they do, then those are the ones that are specifically labelled for export. I always wonder why … Bonne chance!


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