Tour the world of wine with Robin Garr in 2004
Burgundy and Champagne tour with French Wine Explorers, May 24-30, 2004

New Zealand tour with Wine & Food Trails, Feb. 3-12, 2004

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In This Issue
 Eric Forest 2001 "La Côte" Pouilly-Fuissé ($15)
 Roger Lassarat 2001 Pouilly-Fuissé "Clos de la Grange Murgets" Vieilles Vignes ($20)

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Introducing Burgundy: Pouilly-Fuissé

For most people, the idea of a white Burgundy seems like a contradiction in terms. After all, Burgundy means red, doesn't it? Indeed, by long (and happily declining) tradition, at least in the United States and Australia, modest red wines were often labeled as "burgundy," one hopes with a lower-case generic "b."

So it's not unreasonable that when we think of the wonderful wines from Bourgogne - that slender, favored stretch of wine country east of Paris, mostly between Dijon and Lyons - we think first of its great red wines made from Pinot Noir. But Burgundy means white wine, too, and I'm not alone in the belief that the Chardonnay grape reaches its pinnacle here.

For whites as for reds, the most sought-after Burgundies - the top 10 percent of the region's production - come from a short stretch around the village of Beaune, called the "Côte d'Or," which is often poetically translated as "golden slope," although its orgin is the more prosaic "east-facing slope."

Much of Burgundy's white wine comes from farther south, though, from the larger Maconnais (near, and named after, the village of Macon). A good bit of it is relatively "industrial" in style, the least expensive "entry-level" approach to white Burgundy. A notch up in price - and sometimes in quality - is the Chardonnay-based white wine from Pouilly-Fuissé near the southern tip of the Maconnais, where it runs into Beaujolais.

Back in the 1980s, when many of us in the U.S. were first getting into "fine" wine, Pouilly-Fuissé became surprisingly popular, defying the then widely held notion that Americans would never buy a wine that we couldn't pronounce. (For the record, it's "Poo-yee Fwee-say.") Demand and supply drove prices upward, eventually creating the perception that Pouilly-Fuissé is overpriced. And sometimes it is. But if the price is right, Pouilly-Fuissé can make an excellent introduction to white Burgundy, showing clean Chardonnay fruit, good balance, firm acidity and a touch of minerality ... all the components that display Chardonnay at its best.

Today's tastings, particular values because I found them on sale, demonstrate two utterly different approaches to Pouilly-Fuissé. The first is clean, simple but pure; the second an unusually big and forward Chardonnay that almost seems "New World" in style, but is saved by structure, complexity and balance.

As the New Year approaches and we begin the countdown to my May 24-30 tour of Burgundy and Champagne with French Wine Explorers, I'll plan to focus periodic Wine Advisor articles on Burgundy and its wines - often on Fridays, just to keep things organized. It's not easy to get to know Burgundy, where most producers are tiny and prices tend to be high. But with the help of several more on-sale items from North Berkeley and other bargains I may find along the way, I'll do my best to make it an affordable and tasty series of tutorials.

We still have a number of seats available on the tour, which is shaping up to be an exceptional introduction to the real world of Burgundy (and a bonus side trip to Champagne), with VIP-style visits at several top producers plus memorable meals and lodging. I look forward to meeting some of you and sharing time on the wine road. Details at French Wine Explorers,

My friend Allen Meadows, a Burgundy fancier and expert so dedicated that he uses the nickname "Burghound," and whose excellent subscription-only quarterly newsletter we host here, offers a special holiday present to the wine-loving community. The first edition of Extra for December 2003, a new six-page newsletter that supplements, is now online for your free enjoyment. You'll find it, in Adobe Acrobat format, at

Burghound also offers The Insider's Guide to Visiting the Côte d'Or, an excellent, concise, 39-page travel guide to the food and wine of Burgundy. It's available for $19.95 (Adobe Acrobat document delivered by E-mail). See

And for serious Burgundy enthusiasts (or those who would like to be), full Burghound subscriptions are available online at

As always, you're invited to participate in online wine conversations on our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. To join in an interactive round-table online discussion on today's article, click to

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'm sorry that the overwhelming amount of mail I receive makes it tough to respond personally every time, but I do try to get back to as many as I can.

Eric Forest Eric Forest 2001 "La Côte" Pouilly-Fuissé ($15)

This clear, light-gold wine makes a simple but persuasive statement on the nose and palate: Fresh, sweet apples, ripe and full, pure fruit over stony minerality. It's not a complex wine, but startling in its clean, lasting purity. U.S. importer: North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. (Dec. 23, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Perfect with a classic Burgundian treat, gougères, airy Gruyere cheese pastry puffs. (Recipe to be featured in next week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter, scheduled for publication Tuesday.)

VALUE: A no-brainer at this sale price; its regular retail is $29.95.

WHEN TO DRINK: Probably best enjoyed reasonably soon.

WEB LINK: Eric Forest's Website is in French only and requires Flash. You'll find it here:
North Berkeley Imports features this producer and some of his wines in its December 2003 newsletter:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors for Eric Forest's wines on

Roger Lassarat Roger Lassarat 2001 Pouilly-Fuissé "Clos de la Grange Murgets" Vieilles Vignes ($20)

Eye-catching pale gold, light in color but intense in hue. It's intense in the aroma department, too, an amazing waft of peach, pineapple and spice. Full and ripe in flavor, immense fruit over a touch of butter, a description that sounds like a "New World" Chardonnay; but pure fruit, firm acidity and an underlying minerality brings success where others fail. A delicious wine, enough to convert the most ardent "Anything But Chardonnay" fanatic. U.S. importer: North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. (Dec. 23, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: Big enough to need forward flavors in a food match, and it found them in smoked bluefish and roasted red pappers tossed with farfalle pasta with a bit of crème fraîche.

VALUE: Not cheap, but a remarkable value at this North Berkeley sale price. Its regular price tag is $39.95, an investment that would require some head-scratching for me, although it's certainly more to my liking than New World "cult" Chardonnays at similar or higher prices.

WHEN TO DRINK: The conventional wisdom holds that Pouilly-Fuissé should be drunk up in its first three years, although it's hard to believe that a few years in a good cellar would hurt this one.

WEB LINK: Roger Lassarat has a small Website featuring photos, mostly, in French and English at
North Berkeley Imports features this producer and some of his wines in its December 2003 newsletter:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find Roger Lassarat's wines on


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Friday, Dec. 26, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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