A region large geographically, stretching from Auxerre in the north to Mâcon in the south. Despite its size there are few large domaines or châteaux, in contrast to Bordeaux. France's Code Napoléon has forced the fragmentation of vineyard ownership with the passing of each generation so that, as a consequence largely of inter-grower marriage, the typical producer today will maintain small plots but of numerous different vineyards. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rule, with red and white wines in roughly equal proportion. Whites are typically barrel-fermented and both red and white will be aged in barrel until ready to bottle: oak is therefore an important flavour character. In the past most wine was bottled by merchants with cellars in the principal towns; since the 1970s the region has seen a growing movement towards estate bottling, under the name of the individual grower. As a consequence the most demanded producers have found their wines enjoying a dramatic premium for scarcity.
2005 - Burgundy
Luscious, vibrant and pristine in perfume and flavour with an underpinning framework, 2005 Premiers and Grands Crus reds will age effortlessly – and splendidly. However, such is the exquisite fruit ripeness in the wines and with tannins showing not the merest suggestion of aggression, we will enjoy the 2005s at every stage of their evolution. So exquisite did we find the flavours and textures at our tastings that it seemed a crime not to swallow the wines! High levels of natural sugar in the fruit rendered chaptalisation (the permitted addition of sugar to the ‘must’ to raise alcohol levels) completely unnecessary, with the result that the 2005s are beautifully natural and fresh. Neither was it necessary to over-extract in a bid to gain colour and substance, a feature that has resulted in wines that display Pinot Noir in its purest, most classic, benchmark and incomparable form. At their best, 2005 Côte d’Or reds reveal concentration and sumptuous flowing fruit, wines
that are already hinting at a silkiness found only in the greatest years. Without doubt, 2005 is a great vintage for red Burgundy.
Inevitably, we are being asked whether the Côte de Nuits out-performed the Côte de Beaune or viceversa in 2005. Happily we can report that throughout the length and breadth of the Côtes, red wines from the leading estates are uniformly
excellent. Red wines from the southern Côte de Beaune villages of Santenay, St-Aubin and Chassagne- Montrachet that are susceptible to a rustic character in lesser years, display volume and ripeness in 2005. Volnays are truly wonderful,
indeed mind-boggling and may even be superior to the fabulous 1999s. The naturally more structured style of Pommard benefits from the copious fruit intensity its wines possess this year. It is difficult to recall when wines from Beaune, Savigny-lès-
Beaune, Monthélie, Chorey-lès-Beaune and Aloxe- Corton displayed more enticing and seductive fruit. As for the Côte de Nuits, the wines are superb.
Dare we suggest that the fabulous stretch of the ‘Golden Slope’ between Morey-St Denis and Vosne-Romanée achieved the pinnacle of perfection in 2005?
The reputation of the red wines of Burgundy rests squarely on the shoulders of Pinot Noir. At all levels above Passtoutgrains, where Gamay is blended with it, Pinot Noir alone is employed. Hardly an easy grape to ripen even in its homeland, the thin-skinned variety offers the potential of delicacy, complexity and refinement, and perhaps better than any other grape anywhere in the world could do, it holds a mirror up to each of the region's varying appellations, subtlely reflecting the characteristics of each. And when grown on the great slopes, despite its apparent fragility, Pinot Noir is capable of producing wines of penetrating presence, a heavenly affinity to oak and with tremendous ability to age. Pale in colour, it offers the scents of red berry fruits when young, a crisp, satisfying acidity and a captivating lithe body-weight. With maturity the flavours evolve into complex notes of game, undergrowth and spice. Around the world, winemakers have sought to emulate Pinot Noir's success in Burgundy. It is found in both Sancerre and Alsace where it makes a fragrant wine, though new wave versions aged in barrel are found. And in neighbouring Germany, as Spätburgunder, it produces a delicate red, almost rose in colour. It can be found today in the cooler regions of almost every wine-producing country of the world, from Italy to South Africa and New Zealand to the USA. In the latter, it is the state of Oregon that claims the greatest success to date. Pinot Noir is a key component of many sparkling wines, most notably in Champagne. Here it is usually blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, however many Blancs de Noirs styles depend exclusively on the variety.