Value Burgundy Battle: The NEW Cellar Direct

20 10 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

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Cellar Direct Does Burgundy.

Conscientious readers may remember this post from over a year ago where I introduced Cellar Direct, an Alberta-based online national wine club featuring subscription-based access to a specially-curated selection of non-interventionist natural wines.  Thirteen and a half months later, Cellar Direct is still doing its thing, but under a revamped and significantly more flexible business model.  Now, instead of paying a fixed amount per month for semi-recurring shipments of pre-selected wines, you simply keep an eye out for regular wine offers (generally to be unveiled weekly on Saturdays) and then place an online order for as few or as many bottles as you want, which are shipped to you shortly afterward in temperature-controlled trucks to keep your wines in cellar-like comfort during transport.  This simpler, less demanding offer-based approach is a boon to buyers in the tighter economic times in which we currently find ourselves in this province, and Cellar Direct’s streamlined e-commerce interface allows them to keep prices reasonable even while offering highly researched, quality-focused wines from traditional producers that truly pop and that you won’t see at your neighbourhood wine store.  If any of that piques your interest, you can sign up for the club’s offer newsletters and find out more info at cellardirect.ca.

Cellar Direct’s first online offering under its new and improved structure was the excellent  Senorio de P. Pecina Rioja Crianza that I have already gleefully tried.  The next offer is due out this Saturday and tackles what is often considered (including by me) to be the biggest oxymoron in the world of wine:  value Burgundy.  Wines from Burgundy can make the toughest weep and turn the deepest skeptics into lifelong followers of the vine; unfortunately, they can also empty your wallet with shocking efficiency and leave you feeling underwhelmed and disappointed.  It can be exceedingly difficult, especially at lower price points (which for Burgundy can mean anything under $50ish), to know what you’re going to get in any given bottle, and finding anything $30 or less that properly showcases the region can be a massive challenge, especially when you’re not sure where to look.  Cellar Direct’s upcoming offer this week, as well as a further offer coming in mid-November, try to be your map and compass to this frustrating yet enchanting region of legend.  Let’s see how they do, starting with a bottle due to hit your inbox in a few days… Read the rest of this entry »





Burgundy: White Tasting, Part II

19 04 2012

If you missed the inaugural entry about my dozen-bottle, Bourgogne-Blanc-to-Grand Cru, no-holds-barred white Burgundy tasting, check out my write up of four 2009 Bourgogne Blancs of varying levels of quality and corked-ness here.  Tonight we’re jumping right into Flight #2.

SECOND FLIGHT

Slightly out of order: from left to right, Wines 1, 3, 2.

From the basic Bourgognes, we move up one quality level and correspondingly narrow our regional focus with three village-level wines, so called because the village closest to the vineyards where each wine’s grapes were grown is the prominent identifying feature of the classification.  Even though Burgundy is a relatively small wine region (the Cote d’Or, the key quality area in the heart of the region, is only around 40 km long and in most spots less than 2 km wide), each of the main wine villages rests on slightly different soils and lies on slightly different aspects, which result in wines with clearly identifiable local identities.  I’ve read about the flavour differences among the various villages, but this was my first chance to experience them myself.  The plan was to open a bottle each from the three most well-known white wine villages in Burgundy:  Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.  However, after checking in with at least half a dozen prominent Calgary wine stores and being unable to locate a village-level Chassagne anywhere, I had to sub it out for Plan B:  a village wine from the nearby town of Saint-Aubin, which certainly doesn’t have the reputation of its more illustrious neighbour but which has been known to produce solid whites at (relative) value prices.  Would it stand up with the best Chardonnay spots in Burgundy?  Um, not so much. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2009 Alex Gambal “Cuvee Les Deux Papis” Bourgogne Rouge

4 01 2012

Burgundy: It begins.

Well, I couldn’t very well write a New Year’s manifesto geared around a promise to drink more Burgundy and then not follow it up with a bottle of Burgundy, so here we are.  However, this might paradoxically be my last bottle from my 2012 classic wine region of choice for a little while.  With some (much-needed) professional help, I am currently formulating a buying and drinking plan for Burgundy that will hopefully maximize my drinking and learning experience within the budget and time window that I have, but since I need to source (and pay for) the wines before this francophilic journey gets underway, you may not hear more about it for a couple weeks.  Even so, rest assured that I have not abandoned my resolution that quickly, and take tonight’s bottle as a symbol of my new Burgundian spirit of adventure.  Or something.

One issue that I and other Burgundy neophytes have to deal with when we’re in that section of the wine shop are the bottle labels:  they’re almost all uniformly boring, and unless you’ve read a few dozen wine books, they almost all contain words that on their surface don’t appear to offer any assistance in telling you what the wine inside is all about.  The key thing to remember when trying to decipher a Burgundian label is that they are first and foremost all about the land:  exactly where the grapes come from and (possibly) how that location has been historically ranked for quality.  The sub-regions of Burgundy are set up as a series of concentric circles, with the smallest ones (top quality single vineyards given the esteemed Premier Cru [very good] or Grand Cru [best] classifications) falling within larger ones (village appellations that include all of the vineyards located by one of the towns in Burgundy like Nuits-St-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin or Meursault) falling within the general regional appellation of Bourgogne.  Any wines simply labelled “Bourgogne” are made with grapes that can come from anywhere in Burgundy.  Think of it like a dartboard, with Grand Cru/Premier Cru in the middle, village wines the next ring out and Bourgogne the outer border.  Even though the smaller appellations are nested within the larger ones, a wine will always take the narrowest regional name possible (and its prestige and selling price will increase the smaller the sub-region is).  A wine made from grapes from the Grand Cru vineyard of La Tache near the village of Vosne-Romanee in north-central Burgundy will be labelled “La Tache Grand Cru” (and will likely also contain the phrase “Appellation La Tache Controlée” somewhere on the label, confirming that “La Tache” is the name of the appellation in question) instead of “Vosne-Romanee” or “Bourgogne”, even though the grapes are technically from both that village area and that general region.  Make sense?  I almost lost myself in that paragraph, so fingers crossed. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2008 Maison Roche de Bellene Cote de Nuits-Villages

9 06 2011

I’m pretty sure this is the first Burgundy that’s made its way onto PnP; I don’t drink a lot of it because the cheaper stuff tends to taste that way and almost all of the good stuff tends to be out of my price range.  However, I’m trying to put a little more effort into discovering the wines of that region, because top quality Burgundies are some of the most alluring, complex, memorable wines in the world.  I got a chance to try some high-end white and red Burgundy at my WSET course a couple weekends ago (a Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet [white] and a Domaine Roy Marc Gevrey-Chambertin [red], if you’re curious) and started to understand what all the fuss is about, so tonight I dug up this wine, which comes from one of the few solid value producers in the area, to continue my Burgundy initiation. Read the rest of this entry »








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