Introducing Burgundy: Côtes-de-Nuits
Continuing for a bit with our every-Friday exploration of Burgundy, let's revisit "the rule of real estate" that I discussed last week.
Under this rule, you'll recall, the more narrowly defined the location, the more sought-after the wine. Wines from specific vineyards (especially vineyards with a good track record) trump wines defined only by the name of the nearby village. Village wines in turn are generally considered more desirable than wines whose labels reveal only a broader region. And even at that level, a more specific region - like today's Côtes-de-Nuits - still outclasses generic Bourgogne (Burgundy).
Of course wine is rarely as simple as it seems, and in the case of a subject as complicated - and as expensive - as Burgundy can be, canny consumers will quickly gravitate toward the exceptions that prove the rule.
One easy way to do this is to look for the producers who have a reputation for outshining their peers. Last Friday's featured Burgundy, for instance, rose above the reputation of the lightly regarded village Chorey-les-Beaune on the basis of its producer, the respected Jean-Luc Dubois.
Today's wine comes from an even broader (and thus hypothetically less desirable) stretch of real estate. The Hautes Côtes-de-Nuits ("Upper Côtes-de-Nuits") is huge by Burgundy standards, some 50 square miles of hilltop land above and to the west of the Côtes-de-Nuits region, the hillside vineyards that reach northward from Beaune almost all the way to Dijon. Representing sort of a "suburban sprawl" from the classic Burgundy regions, it's a newer region composed of younger vineyards that have hardly had time to build a reputation.
So, when the land is unfamiliar, wise wine-shoppers look for a familiar hand. I found one this week in Frédéric Magnien, a second-generation producer, who owns no vineyards but is developing an excellent reputation for putting together excellent wines from purchased fruit. His 2001 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes-de-Nuits is a fine example of what to expect from young, out-of-the-way vines in capable hands: While it's a relatively simple wine, it is balanced, fruity and mouth-wateringly acidic and a fine table wine, as you would expect from Burgundy where gastronomy is just about as much a part of daily life as the grape.
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Frédéric Magnien 2001 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes-de-Nuits ($10)
Clear garnet but not overly dark, this wine shows the light but gem-like color that's often characteristic of Pinot Noir in general and Burgundy in particular. It breathes lightly spicy red fruit on the nose and palate, opening up with time in the glass to a wild-cherry flavor that's oddly reminiscent of Life Savers candies but bone-dry, nicely shaped by tart, mouth-watering acidity. On the simple side, perhaps, but well-balanced, a natural companion with food. U. S. importer: North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. (Jan. 3, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: An excellent match with a thick, simply prepared pork chop from a local processor.
VALUE: A fine value at this 50-percent-off sale price; a bit iffy at the full-retail $19.95.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, although it could make an interesting experiment to cellar it for a year or two in the hope that evolution will add complexity.
WEB LINK: The importer has an article about Frederic Magnien and his wines in its May 2003 newsletter:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors for Frederic Magnien's wines on Wine-Searcher.com:
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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, Jan. 9, 2004