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White Burgundy made right

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, and Jason Wentworth

The homeland of Chardonnay, the grape responsible for America’s most popular white wine, is the region of Burgundy. Located in northeastern France, Burgundy is the home of several villages that give their names to the most famous, and arguably the greatest, wines made from that grape. Unfortunately, the wines of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Meursault have become too expensive for most wine drinkers.

The good news is that with improved winemaking and viticulture, recent decades have seen an improvement in Burgundy’s less pricey offerings. Wines from the Mâconnais in southern Burgundy can be both stylish and distinctive at an attractive price. Wines simply labeled Bourgogne (Burgundy) can offer excellent value, as well, particularly when produced from the youngest vines of a good vineyard site.

The staff at Northside recently blind tasted 13 white Burgundies priced under $25. As a group, the wines displayed rather bright, appley fruit, and seemed distinctly less oaky than many of their American counterparts. The best had hints of honey and butter that imparted complexity and savor.

The staff’s top pick was the Louis Latour 2011 Mâcon-Lugny “Les Genièvres” ($14 per bottle). This wine offers up fresh aromas and flavors reminiscent of pear and apple, balanced acidity and alcohol, and a hint of honey on the finish. Having recently returned from a trip to France, Rachel Brace of Latour’s New York distributor Monsieur Touton says balancing alcohol and acidity is an important goal at Louis Latour. She had a chance to visit Latour during her journey, and recalls 11th generation owner Louis Fabrice Latour saying, “If I have one glass of 14% alcohol wine, I have to go to bed!”

A close second was the Vincent Sauvestre 2011 Bourgogne Blanc ($15). Made from grapes grown in Meursault, this wine shows a bit of oak influence. It is a richer, creamier wine with a distinct, honeyed, hazelnut character on its long finish. While the fresh, appley Latour will pair delightfully with simply prepared seafood, light pastas, and grilled chicken, the Sauvestre can be savored with weightier fare such as roast pork and chicken, dishes with cream-based sauces, and flavorful cheeses.

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