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|Maturity advice:||To be consumed 2006 – 2009|
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.
The 2002 growing season produced classic conditions for the production of fine white burgundy. The wines have an outstanding balance between breadth of fruit and lively freshness. Yields were down on previous vintages, so they have a luscious intensity and offer fine, pure flavours. Inevitably this combination has encouraged early consumption yet the Premiers and Grands Crus have significant cellar potential.
For long little known outside Burgundy, as a result of public acclaim Chardonnay has just about conquered the world. Whilst not always the most planted white variety, there can be few countries where it is not a feature - from California to China taking in Italy and even Israel on the way. Undoubtedly the main attraction is the magical association with the great white wines of Burgundy; but it is relatively easy to grow and its neutral flavours and soft acidity present no barrier to opportunity. Whether an inexpensive country wine or a hand-crafted high-ender, Chardonnay finds a ready audience of eager consumers. Inevitably its personality varies according to location, ranging from almost watery white and fragrant to near golden and pungent, with fruit notes in a spectrum from green apple (the Loire) to pineapple and oranges (Australia). Oak ageing is almost de-rigueur, and in the cheapest examples the flavours of oak are often simulated by the addition of wood chips or essence. White Burgundy is complex and thrilling and can live for many years if cellared correctly.
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