It’s easy to spend a lot of money on a really good white Burgundy. Yet, Burgundy is, surely, the most complicated of all of France’s Appellations Contrôlées (ACs) and, as a result, it’s just as easy to make an expensive mistake. But, this same complexity allows you, just occasionally, to find a bargain – or as close to a bargain as is possible among the wines of this famous, much sought-after region.
A bottle I opened recently falls into this category.
A quick glance at the label, showing the lowest level of the Burgundy hierarchy (AC Bourgogne), suggests it might be a simple everyday drinking wine, the kind you find in every supermarket for around £10 – £12. But, look further: Olivier Leflaive is a well-respected name and the ‘Oncle Vincent’ tag looks like a special bottling, as indeed it is. A tribute to Leflaive’s uncle and mentor, the grapes for this are from vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet, one of the most sought-after villages in the Côte de Beaune, where the top wines frequently sell for £50 a bottle and upwards.
This example has lovely flavours of white fruits – peach and pear – made deliciously tangy and spicy from 10 months in barrels and has great length. It’s really one of the nicest wines I’ve tasted all year. This was the 2014 vintage I bought from the Wine Society a few years back, but they now have the 2016 vintage in their list at £20 and, if it’s as good (and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be), then it certainly is a bargain, even at that price. I’d keep it a couple of years before opening it, though.
So, why label a wine as a simple generic Burgundy when the fruit comes from a top village? The explanation lies in the complexity of the Burgundy ACs I mentioned earlier. Different vineyards have different classifications – one may be Grand Cru or Premier Cru while its neighbour may just be village AC. Clearly, Leflaive has some less favoured patches, or perhaps younger vines or even grapes not needed for more expensive wines. Whichever is the truth, Oncle Vincent is certainly a wine that Burgundy lovers looking for value should seek out.