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Burgundy is arguably responsible for wrecking more bank accounts and disappointing more expectations than any other wine region in the world. When you do hit upon a beauty then the joy is sublime and doubly so when it is actually reasonably priced. The reds which represent the epitomy of sexy and silky Pinot Noir are often a more risky bet than the whites which are made from Chardonnay. At the lower end of the price spectrum, generally below £12 or so, they can be thin, tart and uninspiring. However if you hit upon a winner they can be lively, elegant, sexy and uplifting. The key is to know your producer and if you come across a good one go for their regular, bog-standard Burgundy which will be labelled 'Appelation Controlee Bourgogne' and for Burgundy can be surprisingly good value for money.
While pottering around in my local wine merchant I had a revelatory experience with a red burgundy produced by Jean-Jacques Girard. It was labelled simply as 'JJ Girard Bourgogne Rouge' in classical French fashion with little other information apart from its vintage date of 2005 and the fact it was refreshingly moderate 12.5% alcohol (no where does it say it was made from Pinot Noir). I was able to sample a little of it from the tasting table at Averys of Bristol, was very taken with it and soon snaffled up a bottle at the agreeable offer price
of £8.99 (full price of £9.99). Since it is labelled as a regular Bourgogne Rouge this means the Pinot Noir grapes that it was made from could come from anywhere in the Burgundy region and are generally not sourced from any particular village commune e.g. Beaune, Santenay, Aloxe-Corton. Girard apparently uses grapes from his vineyards near a village called Savigny-Les Beaunes. Savigny is situated in an area of northern Burgundy called the Cote de Beaunes which is famous for lively and perfumed red wines full of low tannin, sveltely textured graceful red berry flavours (strawberry, red cherry etc.).
Even before tasting I could see that this red Burgundy could have a lot going for it as it has sprung forth from the magnificent 2005 vintage which was superb throughout the entirety of France. The summer of 2005 was blessed with the kind of weather in France that winemakers fantasise about. In Burgundy dry sunny days and contrastingly cool nights gave near perfect ripening conditions for the grapes that eventually gave very balanced wines which were approachable with ripe fruit concentration that enabled these wines to be enjoyed young or after some cellaring (if you've got the patience...not likely with my demanding palate !). The grapes also developed free of disease as well. Combined with the above clement weather conditions this ensured a yield of healthy grapes with the potential to blossom into some very tasty wine indeed. JJ Girard himself reduced the yield of his Pinot Noir grapes ensuring a smaller crop of higher quality grapes which would hopefully give wines with higher concentrations of typical red fruit flavours. I can confirm this was indeed the case thankfully !
The bottle of JJ Girard Bourgogne Rouge that came into my possession was cracked open early on a bright summer's afternoon in time for lunch at my parent's house. It had a vibrant and sparkling clear red colour that led through to a nose that had a delicious perfume of summery red fruits such as strawberry and redcurrant along with cranberry. This was oh so typical for a good red Burgundy from the Cote de Beaune and in my mind this lip smacking aroma had some smoky and gamey hints associated with it too. The flavours, medium body and crunchy acidity of the wine proved to be a great companion to the dish of baked vegetables topped with cheese on a rosti style base of grated onion and potato as the acidity cut through the oiliness of the cheese topping and potato base with aplomb. Those sumptuous flavours were represented by bags of elegant raspberry and strawberry fruit which were backed up and balanced well by refreshing acidity, a very silky texture typical of a good Pinot Noir and low tannin. The fruit flavours of this wine are in contrast to a lot of New World Pinot Noirs whose red fruit flavours i.e. strawberry tend to much more jammy and sweetly luscious in style with less acidity. A good way to test this contrast is to compare the flavour of good fresh strawberries with strawberry jam. Lastly the flavours lingered nicely on the palate and made you want much more than a single glass to wash down a delightful lunch with. Certainly quite a bright summery wine.
In conclusion this wine represents a very vibrant and graceful style of Pinot Noir in typical Cote de Beaune Burgundian fashion that is packed full of svelte red fruit concentration. Its acidity levels are high so it may not be for everyone but it certainly is not thin or overly tart. If you want a richer and heavier Pinot Noir then maybe it is best to look to New Zealand or California. Unfortunately this wine is only available from Averys of Bristol so you'd have to wander down to their atmospheric cellars in the centre of Bristol (really worth a visit) or order from them over the phone or online. This is also not forgetting the caveat that decent red Burgundy never comes cheap but for the money this bottle represents a great way of finding out about that unique Burgundian style of Pinot Noir. Perfect for that special occasion which demands a little French charm !