June 2011 issue no. 4

Title Gary_jersey

2009 White Burgundy has been beat up by many of the top wine publications and critics. Is it the most structured and age-worthy of vintages? Far from it! But the wines are undeniably ripe, round, approachable and downright delicious at such a young age, which makes them ideal for near-term drinking.

These days, it seems like each passing vintage in the great wine regions of the world yields, yet another, "Greatest Vintage Ever". In Bordeaux, 2000 was the best year since the heralded 1955 and 1982 vintages. Then 2003 came along only a few years later, blowing critics out of the water. In the following seven-year span, 2005, 2009 and 2010 appeared to trump all before it. Simultaneously, 2007 in Napa Valley, 2006 in Montalcino, and 2009 in Red Burgundy have all experienced similar praise (or "hype", if you'd like). It's become increasingly rare that these regions experience anything less than a Godsend vintage.

Then the critics weighed in with their 2009 White Burgundy reviews, bringing those in the trade back to earth, while leaving drinkers disappointed.

Coming on the heels of the classic, downright adored years of 2007 and 2008, the 2009 White Burgundy vintage on paper may look like a clunker. Just a few days ago, New York Times wine columnist, Eric Asimov, published a report in which one of his lead sentences asserts, "It's not hard to find 2009 white Burgundies that are somewhat heavy, with sweet fruit flavors and an absence of freshness and minerality." He goes on to sing with the choir that 2008 is a superior vintage, with the structure and acidity for long-term aging and electric mouthfeel.

While I won't play devil's advocate purely for the purpose of taking a unique stance, I think many 2009 White Burgundies have one redeemable feature that many of the great 2008 wines lack right now - approachability.

Americans like their portions large, and their wines young. Studies have found that about 80% of wine bottles are opened within 1 hour of leaving the wine shop. We're an increasingly impatient culture. It's with this in mind that 2009 should be commended. The rounder edges and more fruit-forward attributes of 2009 allow for appreciating the wines within the next few years. Compare this with the top Chablis, Montrachets, Corton-Charlemagnes, and Meursaults of 2008, which will require longer-term aging to fully develop. When factoring in the phenomenon of premature oxidation (or "premox"), which has rapidly advanced and spoiled these otherwise age-worthy white wines, you have to wonder whether playing a game of Russian-2008 White Burgundy-Roulette will pay off. British wine writer, Tim Atkin MW, may have said it best when he summed up the 2009 Burgundy vintage with, "It is a vintage for wine drinkers rather than wine nerds".

With mounting vintage hype across all the world's great wine regions, it's easy to get in the mindset of ignoring anything less than what critics proclaim "The Best". I'd suggest reading between the lines - and numbers - and learning to appreciate each vintage for what it has to offer, in Burgundy and beyond. If long term aging and tightly wound, cut-your-tongue acid levels are your things, look no further than 2008. Meanwhile, 2009 can also be appreciated for its fruitiness and approachability across the board. Each vintage has its virtues.

Jon Troutman
Daily Grape, Director of Operations

An additional "valuable" note:

With 23 White Burgundy scoring 90 points or higher, Gary found a ton to get excited about. In a category that's rarely viewed as a value, he also managed to find seven wines that scored 90 points or higher priced at under $30. Below are the value-driven gems worth seeking out:

2009 Domaine Gilbert Picq Chablis 1er Cru Vaucoupin, 91+, $28
2009 Domaine Gilbert Picq Chablis 1er Cru Vosgros, 90+, $27
2009 Domaine Pattes Loup Chablis, 90+, $26
2008 Deux Montille Auxey-Duresses, 90, $29
2008 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Bourgogne Blanc Clos du Chateau, 91, $28
2008 Domaine Jean Chartron Rully Montmorin, 90, $20
2008 Domaine Costal Chablis Les Truffieries, 90, $26