Our world tour takes us back across the Atlantic to the mid-eastern area of France – Burgundy. An appellation whose prestige rivals Bordeaux and is famously difficult to source a bargain from - had I not used up my overpriced English footballers analogy a few weeks ago I could have used it here! Burgundian wine is Pinot Noir if it’s red and Chardonnay if it’s white, with the latter being our poison of choice this week. Bourgogne Chardonnay is the gold standard, the pinnacle, the Helen of Troy of the Chardonnay world. It is where the most popular white grape in the world originated and is the archetype that others aim for, hence the often hefty price tag.
It was Moliere who said ‘If Claret is the King of wines, Burgundy is the Queen.’ Whilst Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the 18th-19th century politician quipped that ‘Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.’ Once you’re hooked on white Burgundy, there’s no going back. Some would say white Burg is the crack cocaine of Chardonnay. Sommeliers and retailers who sell white Burgundy sound like drug dealers: “Just try some, you’ll love it…”.
White Burgundy is broadly from 4 areas within the region, each with varying terroir and flavour profiles. Those we shan’t be drinking are:
Bourgogne Blanc: unoaked simple wines with mineral and apple notes.
Chablis: unoaked wines that are zippy and lean with lime-like mineral flavors. Pricier than a BB.
Côte de Beaune: This is the “crème de la crème” of White Burgundy. Wines are typically oak-aged wines with rich, fleshy yellow apple and starfruit flavors with undertones of truffle, hazelnut and vanilla. Oak-aging costs more to make so tend to be the most expensive bottles.
The Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard, Mâcon-Villages 2020 comes from the Maconnais, in the far south of Burgundy. Flavours range from yellow apple-and-citrus like flavors to tropical honeydew and pineapple notes in richer vintages. The Talmard is a sizeable and rotund white Burgundy, but not overly heavy or boorish. It has been fermented in stainless steel tanks to maintain the apple and melon, then kept on its lees to heighten the flavour. Expect more specificity and intensity than the average Bourgogne blanc, but with slightly less power and filigree than the wines from the Côte de Beaune. Mâconnais whites can often have the heft and weight of their more serious Côte de Beaune cousins, but are a little bit more rustic in nature.
This particular beauty has gone down well with Wine Society members and with good reason – it is a great and stereotypical example that comes in at a reasonable price. Unless your car runs on good will, your central heating on the laughter of children and your electricity is provided by philanthropic fairies, this is perhaps a little much to be a midweek quaffer but it’s definitely good value for a something from Burgundy – French wine royalty that likes to strut around with its chest puffed out, collar up and nose raised to the sky, like a liquid Eric Cantona and Gerard Depardieu hybrid.