Introducing Burgundy: Nuits-St.-Georges
One of the more challenging aspects of Burgundy, particularly when we get into the lofty realms of the noteworthy vineyards rated premier cru and grand cru, involves deciding when to drink it.
In ageworthiness as in geography, Burgundy is more complicated than Bordeaux. When it comes to the more highly regarded producers of Bordeaux, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant reds from the Médoc, the rule is easy in most vintages: Give it a decade or more to mature in a cool cellar, gradually shedding its harsh tannins and developing the complexity that comes with bottle age, or you're wasting your money.
But things aren't so simple for red Burgundy, where Pinot Noir invariably flaunts expectations, showing well on one occasion and poorly another, not to mention its odd penchant for changing its character like a chameleon does its colors during the course of an evening in the glass.
When you're comparing the red wines of these two great French regions, though, one generalization is fairly certain: Burgundy is more likely to be enjoyable in its youth, and less likely to age gracefully for much more than a decade, than its cousin from Bordeaux.
Today's wine, from a premier cru vineyard in Nuits-St.-Georges, the namesake village of Burgundy's Côte de Nuits, makes an intriguing contrast with last week's Morey-Saint-Denis from Arlaud. Just two years younger, the 2001 Nuits-Saint-Georges from Vincent Dureil showed much less maturity than last week's ripe-and-ready 1999, cloaking lots of potential in a tight, rather ungenerous wrapper, although - as Pinot often does - it opened up quite a bit as it emerged in the glass during the hours after dinner.
Briefly told, the village of Nuits-St.-Georges is a "market town," the French equivalent of an American county seat, a rather quaint and historic village of just about 5,000 that's just midway between Beaune and Dijon and serves as the economic center for the Côte de Nuits. The village street is pictured above in our HTML/graphics edition (and the Wine Advisor archives) in a photo by Pierre Lavaurs, whose attractive non-commercial Website features photos and information about his hiking tours all over Europe in 1996. You can view the original full-size photo on his site,
The Nuits-St.-Georges wine appellation, which includes the neighboring Prémeaux-Prissey, source of today's wine, produces wines generally reputed as sturdy and long-lived, but also showing significant variation in quality among producers. In shopping the wines of Nuits-St.-Georges, it's advisable to do your research, or rely on producers and importers you've found trustworthy.
The mixed case of Burgundies from North Berkeley Imports that I've been using as the basis for this Friday series continued to perform well this week, as the Dureil 2001 Nuits-St.-Georges (from the same producer whose red Rully we featured Jan. 23) was fine, if a bit on the youthful side.
As we move into the last three Burgundies of the series on coming Fridays, we'll also be getting up into nosebleed price territory, well above the value price range that I'm accustomed to reporting here. Accordingly, I'll plan to add a value wine as a bonus along with the pricey Burgundies that will be featured for the next three Fridays.
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Vincent Dureil-Janthial 2001 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru "Clos des Argillières" ($25)
Dark garnet in color, this unfiltered Burgundy, a specially bottled "cuvee unique" for North Berkeley Imports, shows an unusually translucent haziness in the glass. Ripe red-berry aromas add markedly herbaceous and characteristic Pinot Noir "tomato-skin" scents. Full and tart on the palate, juicy sour-cherry fruit is shaped by tangy, almost sharp fresh-fruit acidity. After about an hour in the glass, the wine snaps into clearer focus with an almost audible "click," developing layers of fruity complexity and a discreet whiff of pleasant "barnyard" that weren't there before. U. S. importer: North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with roast chicken, a simple, reliable foil for red Burgundy.
VALUE: As with the other Burgundies in this case purchased during a half-price sale in December 2003, the $25 price I paid made it an unusual bargain. The full-retail $49.95 tag makes it more of a judgement call, but it's certainly competitive with other premier crus of the region.
WHEN TO DRINK: As noted, Burgundy is the most unpredictable of wines when it comes to guesstimating drinkability, but I believe this one would benefit from at least two years under cool cellar conditions.
WEB LINK: For a profile of Vincent Dureuil-Janthial and his wines, see the importer's site:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find Vincent Dureuil-Janthial's Nuite-Saint-Georges on Wine-Searcher.com:
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Friday, Feb. 6, 2004