A Lesson in White Burgundy

It all began with two innocent sentences: ‘We’re talking about White Burgundy or, as the French labels read, Bourgogne… and a good portion retails for under $25.  The grape variety is invariably Chardonnay.’  Wait, what?  I thought White Burgundy was some uber-fancy, revered white varietal that I would be lucky to get my hands on – was it possible I already had some concept of the flavor profile of the grape that makes up White Burgundy’s golden juice?  I re-read these simple but weighted words in my latest edition of Wine Enthusiast several times and then dove into the article head-first, a detailed and clearly written piece about great value bottles of White Burgundy.  This is one of those times when I am reminded of the core values of my foodie-girl world – my mission statement, if you will: unabashedly admitting that I have an overwhelming amount to learn about food and wine and then stepping into the fray of it all, taking in as much as I can possibly hold.  A couple of years ago you would not have found me curled up with a Wine Enthusiast, reading it veerrryyy sloooowwlly, trying to make sense of every word.  My friend Matt (wine guru from such posts as All Things Chardonnay and Foodie-Girl Goes to Napa) chuckled at me when I admitted my White Burgundy naivete and he promised to walk me through some White Burgundy basics during his recent visit to Louisville.  So this is how I came to find myself sitting in front of two beautiful bottles hailing from one of France’s most honored regions.

It was agreed that I would seek out a nice, basic Burgundy, something that best represented what White Burgundy was supposed to be in a simple, affordable form.  With the help of the incredibly knowledgable staff at Westport Whiskey and Wine, I selected a 2008 Jean Mar Brocard Kimmeridgien White Burgundy, retailing for $21.  Matt spoiled me rotten and presented a 2008 Meursault Perrieres White Burgundy, falling more along the $90 price spectrum.  We began with my bottle, a blend of chardonnay grapes from throughout the Burgundy region. No one specific area or vineyard was highlighted, just an overall sampling of what Burgundy does best. We were met with a nose full of peach and apricot, mineral overtones punctuating the scent. That familiar, welcome green apple note presented itself at first sip and a tart, lime-focused citrus followed suit. The finish was relatively short but the acidity was balanced. It was a wonderful bottle and has earned a quick spot near the top of my ‘go-to’ list. Our second pour brought a beautifully round and complex demonstration of what White Burgundy is when it is put on a pedestal. Focusing on the town of Meursault, we are now narrowing our Burgundy sights and settling in on one specific vineyard, tasting a wine that is a product of fussed-over, protected vines – vines that offer up grapes with insanely smooth and complex parts. Drinking the Meursault was like sampling the wonderful Kimmeridgien after it had been revamped and cellared for several years, even thought they were from the same harvest year. The green apple had turned to more of a red delicious variety, the pleasant tartness mellowed by a deeply rich mineral quality. A creaminess presented itself, a buttery banana characteristic that kept me coming back for more.
This is the beginning of my relationship with White Burgundy and I can already tell it will be a beautiful friendship. The region is vast and I am excited to submit myself to chardonnay, especially now that I know where it is treated the very best. And a long list of options under $25 will be a great starting point for my latest adventure. I never thought I would be proclaiming my love for white wine… but when it comes to White Burgundy, it is impossible not to fall head over heels.

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