Introducing Burgundy: Chambolle-Musigny
Moving onward and upward in our 12-bottle, 12-article exploration of the wines of Burgundy, we remain on the Côte de Nuits, the northern half of the short strip of favored hillside vineyard land called the Côte d'Or.
Today's Premier Cru red Burgundy comes from Chambolle-Musigny, an attractive village that lies just south of Morey-Saint-Denis (featured Jan. 30) and immediately north of Vougeot, the fabled appellation that, among others, I'll visit in person with our French Wine Explorers tour of Burgundy in May. (More about that below, along with an unrelated tasting note on a good value Italian red for those who aren't in the market for pricey Burgundies today.)
Chambolle-Musigny is one of the smallest appellations of the Côte de Nuits, although given the tiny, fragmented nature of Burgundy vineyards, it manages to fit two exceptional Grand Crus (Bonnes Mares and Le Musigny) and a couple of dozen Premieres Crus (including today's featured vineyard, Aux Beaux Brunes) into a rather compact stretch of limestone hillside.
As a generalization, Chambolle's red Burgundies are known for delicacy, not strength; the critic Robert M. Parker Jr. quotes French poet Gaston Roupnel as likening the region's wines to "silk and lace." Other experts, though, use heavier fabrics like velvet as a textural metaphor for Chambolle, particularly the powerful Bonnes Mares.
Today's wine, another from North Berkeley Imports, certainly falls on the sturdier side. It is a wine so dark and rich that, in a good way, it evokes the old-fashioned Burgundies of an earlier day when unauthorized doses of dark Rhone red grapes occasionally sneaked in with the Pinot Noir, making wines that were jokingly said to have been "Hermitaged." (I make no such claim here, of course, except to note that Magnien's presentation of Pinot Noir from this Premier Cru vineyard is rich, full-bodied and a long way from silk or lace.)
TALK ABOUT BURGUNDY ONLINE
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Frederic Magnien 2000 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru "Aux Beaux Bruns" ($30)
Very dark reddish-purple, almost black at the core. Smoky and meaty notes are borne on a wave of ripe black fruit in a big red Burgundy of the old-fashioned style. Flavors are consistent with the nose: Ripe and tart black-cherry fruit, with spicy oak present but not dominating; a clean, not tainted, hint of natural cork adds an additional earthy note of complexity. Tannins are present but cloaked by the abundant black fruit, which lingers in a very long, clean and tart finish. U. S. importer: North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Calif. (Feb. 9, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: As we move toward more authoritative Burgundies, I find myself relying on simple, traditional food matches. A medium-rare rib eye steak with plenty of black pepper made a perfect companion for this wine.
VALUE: The full retail price, $59.95, is appropriate for a Premier Cru of this quality. As with the other Burgundies in this mixed case from North Berkeley, it was a true no-brainer in the importer's December 2003 half-price sale.
WHEN TO DRINK: Although this wine is drinking very well now, its structure, balance and perceptible tannins strongly suggest that it would reward aging under good cellar conditions for a decade or even longer.
WEB LINK: North Berkeley profiled Frederic Magnien's new releases in its May 2003 newsletter at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate vendors for Frederic Magnien's wines on Wine-Searcher.com:
Because the last few installments of this Friday series on Burgundies feature wines much more expensive than the value price range I normally cover, I'll also offer a separate report on an affordable wine of value each Friday for the duration. Here's an Italian item of great value, sort of a "Baby Super Tuscan" from a less-familiar corner of Tuscany.I Campetti 2000 "Castruccio" Monteregio di Massa Marittima ($8)
A blend of mostly Sangiovese (80 percent) with small amounts of the indigenous varieties Ciliegiolo and Canaiolo, this wine comes from Tuscany's seacoast region, Monteregio di Massa Marittima. It's dark ruby in color with a hint of amber at the edge, and breathes a fresh black-cherry scent with a whiff of smoke and a hint of "barnyard." (Another bottle tasted at a local restaurant recently was much more barnyardy, in a pleasant way, suggesting that some bottle variation may occur.) Ripe and mouth-filling black-cherry fruit dominates the flavor, much more fruit-forward than the nose, laced up with lemon-squirt acidity; soft tannins and ripe black cherries linger in the finish. U. S. importer: Marc de Grazia, represented by Vintner Select of Cincinnati and other regional distributors. (Feb. 12, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Beef burgers enhanced with shredded arugula and crumbled Roquefort made a startlingly good match.
VALUE: Outstanding value, one of the more interesting wines around for less than $10.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not a wine to lay down, but it should continue drinking well for a couple more years at least.
WEB LINK: Marc de Grazia's Website is available in Italian, German and English. The English home page is here:
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Locate price and vendor information for I Campetti on Wine-Searcher.com:
Deadline nears for our Burgundy trip
Excitement is building around our place as springtime nears, and with it departure time for my third annual group tour in association with French Wine Explorers.
You've seen me talking about this wine adventure - and encouraging you to consider joining me - for some months. We still have a few open seats in the tour as the final registration deadline approaches, so if you've been thinking about joining us but haven't quite made up your mind, I'd like to encourage you to give it a close look.
It has been my great pleasure to work for three years now with the principals of French Wine Explorers, the French-American certified sommelier team of Jean-Pierre Sollin and Lauriann Green-Sollin. Our tours of the Southern Rhone and Provence in 2002 and of Bordeaux last year rank among the best wine experiences of my life, and the Wine Advisor readers and others who traveled with us on those memorable tours tell me that they feel the same way.
Taking advantage of their extensive knowledge of wine and their wide contacts in the French wine industry, Jean-Pierre and Lauriann put together remarkable tours that combine VIP-style visits to a cross-section of each region's most interesting producers (like Chateau Margaux and other first growths plus Chateau d'Evangile and the fabled Chateau d'Yquem in Bordeaux) with luxury accommodations and gastronomic meals with outstanding wines at the region's best restaurants. Tour groups are intentionally kept small, so this is no cold, formal guided tour but more like an intimate group of good friends traveling around the French countryside enjoying wine and food together.
Burgundy, as this 12-part series points out, is one of the most intriguing wine and gastronomic regions in the world, but with its rich and complex history and heritage, it may also be one of the most complicated. It is very difficult to learn this great region and its wines without going there yourself. With Jean-Pierre and Lauriann as our guides (and adding my own small background on Burgundy to the mix), you'll come home from this tour with a level of understanding and expertise that you might not have thought possible ... and memories of times spent with good new wine friends as icing on the cake.
All this, and a quick, fun and fizzy visit to Champagne too: I encourage you to consider joining us, and look forward to meeting some of you in France. The six-day tour of Burgundy and Champagne runs from May 24-30. Feel free to write me at email@example.com if you have questions; or get more information, and register, at French Wine Explorers,
30 Second Wine Advisor Premium Edition: What's next?
The inaugural issue of The 30 Second Wine Advisor's Premium Edition was E-mailed to subscribers Tuesday with an overview of a very fine Malmsey from Madeira, a dessert wine whose luscious sweetness married with intriguing complexity makes it a natural choice for sharing with a loved one on Valentine's Day ... or cellaring for decades.
Now I'm thinking about a wine to feature in the second Premium Edition issue, to be published Feb. 28. Possibilities in the tasting list include a Cote-Rotie, an Australian Shiraz and top-rank California Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays and Zinfandels.
One thing is certain: Each biweekly issue of this new subscription-only publication will bring you my best objective, consumer-oriented advice about wines that significantly exceed their price point. When you're in the market for an up-market wine for a special occasion, I'll be there to point you toward wines in the $30 to $50 range that can compare favorably with competitors at twice those prices.
If you think the cost of a single bottle of good wine is a reasonable investment for a full year of plain-talk advice that will help you shop with confidence when you're spending a little more - plus abundant background information about the wines, foods to go with them and how to find them - then our Premium Edition might be just right for you. For more information, or to become a charter subscriber, visit
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Friday, Feb. 13, 2004