LALEURE-PIOT BOURGOGNE--GREAT-TASTING RED & WHITE BURGUNDIES WITHIN REACH
Very recently, Randy brought in a stack of old articles and write ups from newsletters that I had written years ago. I scanned a piece I wrote about Mother’s Day, and another where I was on a tear about factory-made Champagnes being overpriced and lacking in quality, or something of that nature.
After dropping that single sheet of paper atop the previous scanned ones, I came to a thicker stack that was stapled together: it was my travel log from my very first trip to France back in 2003. I was no longer flipping and glossing over, I was riveted and pulsing as I heard my own voice, through written word, share the stories, my ups and downs, of traveling through France for 25 days.
One of the things that struck me most, was how little I talked about my time in Burgundy! I rolled into the city of Beaune with zero knowledge, I mean, other than sampling a little back in the store, and even less expectation, climbed back into our little travelling van six days later feeling like I was leaving the most thrilling lover I had ever encountered. Tired, ignited, nibbled upon, utterly intimidated and achingly thirsty for more.
I know all wine can be intimidating, and European wines especially, with their wines named for regions rather than varieties, and in languages most of us don’t speak, but outside of limited availability, and often price, Burgundy is actually one of the easiest regions to tackle, as we are basically dealing with just two varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (There are little pockets that grow other varieties, or where blending is permitted, but for the most part when speaking about Burgundy, red is almost always Pinot Noir and white is just about always Chardonnay.)
To expect those wines to resemble those you might be more familiar with, that might be a bit of a stretch. The Pinot Noirs from Burgundy are often far less fruity than their domestic brethren, and expecting white Burgundy to taste ripe and full of oak and butter, well, that’s not happening either, especially in our French department.
We want to celebrate and share classic examples of wines from specific areas; if my Chablis tastes like Kistler, then something has gone amuck.
I recently sat in a tasting with an importer of French wines, and he poured for me two perfect examples of classic red and white Burgundy, at surprisingly affordable prices. I actually wrote in my tastings notes, “Would be a perfect introduction to red and white Burgundy for our customers.” Then I poured both wines for the staff, and all agreed that these were wines we needed to nab a few cases of, and get them into people’s carts.
I’ve encountered some truly remarkable Burgundies since that trip back in 2003, but it is always the charm of wines like this that keeps me interested and coming back for more.
Laleure-Piot has been in existence for 150 years, one of hundreds of small family estates tending vines, selling their fruit to negociants. When it was sold to Champy in 2010, improvements in the winery accelerated the quality of the wines to an amazing degree. Champy knew then, as we were about to discover, that the grapes in these vineyards—even from young vines—are exceptional.
The fruit for this wine comes from pretty prestigious villages, names like Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault and Rully, areas that fetch far higher prices when bottled separately. But seeing as the vines in this cuvée are young, Laleure-Piot, like many quality producers, will blend the lot together and sell it as Bourgogne, which is the case with this delightful offering from Laleure-Piot.
The aromatics here are elegantly restrained. Hints of white flowers, pears and fall spice. You can actually feel the Meursault texture and weight on the palate, and right behind that comes a blast of chalky stones and minerals, like the flavors you find in Puligny-Montrachet. Round, mouth filling, but still very classic in style. Such a bargain.
$21.99 per bottle
Much like the white Bourgogne, the fruit for this value-driven Pinot Noir comes from much more esteemed villages like Santenay, Ladoix and Volnay, but from younger vines, so it is all labeled under Bourgogne. We were all captivated by the aromas in this over-achieving wine, which is how Burgundy seduces, through finesse, grace, and sultry aromas. Red fruit, smoky, spiced and incredibly charming. Often while teaching a customer or group about wine I will say, “It’s pretty easy to walk into a room and spot the most attractive person, not as easy as spotting the most interesting.” Red burgundy is never really flashy, but when it does what this one is doing, it is utterly irresistible.
$21.99 per bottle