There is a good reason why fans of white Burgundy are smiling. Wines from the underrated 2004 vintage are now on retailers’ shelves, thankfully replacing the 2003 vintage.
Prices for the 2004 white Burgundies are steady or even lower than ’03, with no signs of upward movement. Retailers and wholesalers are likely to keep margins tight in order to move the wines because of classic economics: supply and demand.
Supply is up as yields in Burgundy were higher compared to the disastrously small crop of 2003. Demand for the 2004 white Burgundies will likely be muted because of consumers’ natural — but erroneous — tendency to equate the quality of the whites with the quality of the reds.
Although many leading producers opted not to make their flagship red Burgundies in 2004, these same producers are raving about their whites. Moreover, with the very favorable early buzz about the 2005 vintage in Burgundy, many consumers will pass on vintage 2004 Burgundies waiting for the 2005 vintage.
That strategy would be a mistake. While recently spending a few days in Burgundy, leading winemakers cautioned me that although the 2005 reds were something special, some of the 2005 whites were low in acid and did not compare to some from 2004.
Quality Across AOCs
The 2004 white Burgundies are delicious. At first I thought they tasted so good because they were a breath of fresh air after the heavy and atypical white Burgundies from 2003, most of which were sapped of acidity because of the ferociously hot summer. But the more I’ve tasted, the more I realize that 2004 is an excellent year throughout Burgundy for white wine, from Chablis in the north to Macon in the south.
Unlike 2003 and other warm years when the heat over-ripened grapes and consequently blurred the lines separating appellations, the 2004 white Burgundies reflect and express their origins. Chablis tastes like Chablis. Wines from Meursault are distinct from those of Puligny-Montrachet.
White Burgundies are one of the few white wines that develop additional complexity and improve with age. While enjoyable now, the 2004s have the requisite structure to evolve. Unlike the 1996s, they are not wines for long term — more than five or six years — cellaring. But I just purchased three cases of Jadot’s 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet that I’m sure will give me great pleasure over the next several years.
Fifteen 90-Points-Plus Wines
I’ve tasted hundreds of white Burgundies from the 2004 vintage. Below are 15 I recommend highly. My strongest recommendation is to try the 2004 white Burgundies whenever you can.
Bouchard Père et Fils, Corton-Charlemagne (Burgundy, France) 2004 ($120, Henriot, Inc): The 10-acre Bouchard parcel for Corton-Charlemagne is located near the top of the Corton hill and faces east-southeast. The vines are planted horizontally to take advantage of a drying north wind that acts as a natural pesticide. As a result, Bouchard can wait to harvest until the grapes reach perfect maturity. The location explains the brilliant balance in Bouchard’s 2004 Corton-Charlemagne. Riveting acidity — the product of the vintage — complements the wine’s richness and fullness, a result of fully mature grapes. It’s long and layered, deserving of its grand cru status. 95
Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis (Burgundy, France) Domaine Sainte ClaireVieilles Vignes 2004 ($16, various importers): Wines made from vieilles vignes — old vines — have an extra dimension because the roots go deep, extracting additional elements from the earth. This well-priced wine has intensity without losing the classic minerality you expect from Chablis. It’s one of the exceptional values from the 2004 vintage. 90
Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) Les Clos 2004 ($50, various importers): Jean-Marc Brocard eschews oak aging to make focused Chablis that reflects the location of the vineyard. He says he ‘doesn’t want to lose the typicity of Chablis.’ His Les Clos is a nicely textured wine with appealing smokiness and terrific length. It’s a true grand cru and will be even better with a year or two of additional age. 92
Chanson Père & Fils, Beaune 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Clos des Mouches 2004 ($88, Paterno Wines International): Chanson, with just over 11 acres, is the second largest owner of this prized vineyard after Drouhin. Chanson’s rendition — long, lush and redolent of white peaches — maintains a lively freshness. The gentle oak aging enhances the overall effect. 92
Philippe Colin, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Les Vergers 2004 ($55, various importers): Colin has managed the high-wire act of balancing intensity and elegance with this delicious combination of earthy minerality coupled with a cleansing citric edge. The finish seemingly never ends. 95
Maison Joseph Drouhin, Beaune 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Clos des Mouches 2004 ($75, Dreyfus Ashby): Veronique Drouhin describes their Clos des Mouches as having “the power of Corton and the elegance of Puligny.” You will get no argument from me. Their 2004, more forward than usual — which makes it delightful now — has beautiful balancing acidity that highlights its lushness. 93
Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) Bougros Côte de Bouguerots 2004 ($75, Henriot): Ever since Henriot purchased Domaine Fèvre in 1998 the quality of the wines has skyrocketed. Fèvre still uses barrel fermentation, but under Henriot has abandoned new oak barrels for aging. The result is rich wine that speaks of the soil. The Côte de Bouguerots is a perfectly exposed portion of the grand cru vineyard, Bougros. The wine, always bigger and broader than Fèvre’s Bougros, maintains its unique flinty minerality. 92
Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) Les Clos 2004 ($85, Henriot): Many producers consider Les Clos the best of the grand cru vineyards in Chablis. Judging by this wine, it would be hard to argue the point. This tightly wound powerhouse exudes a smoky richness without sacrificing elegance. 94
Château Fuissé, Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy, France) Tete de Cru 2004 ($32, Frederick Wildman & Sons): J. J. Vincent, owner of Château Fuissé, is one of the most talented and dedicated producers in Pouilly-Fuissé. Wines bottled under the Château Fuissé label are from his vineyards (he also acts as a négociant). The Tete de Cru, a blend from many sites with vines more than 25 years old, has the perfect balance of creaminess and minerality. Wines like this explain why Pouilly-Fuissé has such name recognition. If only all wines from Pouilly-Fuissé could taste like this one! 92
Alex Gambal, Meursault (Burgundy, France) Clos du Cromin 2004 ($50, various importers): Staggeringly good for a village wine — albeit from a well-regarded lieux-dit — Gambal puts many producers’ premier crus to shame with this Meursault. Ripe and lush — befitting a Meursault — Gambal’s is distinctive because of its finesse. 92
Maison Louis Jadot, Chassagne-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) 2004 ($45, Kobrand): Jacques Lardière, Jadot’s brilliant winemaker, told me that half the wine for this bottling came from premier cru vineyards. It certainly tastes like it. More intense and refined than most village wines, it has an engaging minerality, unexpected complexity and great length. 93
Maison Louis Jadot, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Duc de Magenta Clos de la Garenne 2004 ($60, Kobrand): The Duc de Magenta owns Clos de la Garenne, an enclave within the Folatières vineyard. Jadot makes and commercializes the wine. Sophisticated and refined, the 2004 has an alluring combination of creaminess surrounding a mineral core. You feel, but do not taste, the effect of oak aging. In short, it is a sensational wine. 96
Maison Louis Jadot, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Domaine André Gagey, Champs-Gain 2004 ($55, Kobrand): From a parcel owned by the late André Gagey, Jadot’s previous Managing Director and father of the current President, Pierre-Henri, Jacques Lardière has fashioned a tightly packed and refined wine. It’s full of creaminess and minerality, and has great length, everything you’d expect from top-rank Puligny-Montrachet. 92
Château de la Maltroye, Chassagne-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) 2004 ($35, Domaines et Saveurs Collection): Unusually rich and long for a village wine, this Chassagne-Montrachet has the characteristic attractive earthiness for which that town is known. It’s a lot of wine for the price. 92
Domaine Marc Morey & Fils, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) En Virondot, 2004 ($85, Robert Kacher Selections): For all its power and touches of earthiness, this wine is remarkably elegant. It delivers incredible satisfaction with its long, lush finish. 94
October 24, 2006