It’s that dreamy time of year again. The leaves are turning red and yellow, the air is crisp, it’s football season, and an array of pumpkin and apple desserts grace fall menus. With the change in seasons our wine choices should change too. Seasonal drinking is an art form. We’re not quite ready for a bold December red yet, but the light Vinho Verde of summer won’t cut it either. The solution: White Burgundy; there’s no better white wine for the fall weather transition.
White Burgundy is the pinnacle of French Chardonnay. It is the standard by which all other Chardonnay wines are measured. The French concept of terroir is the defining factor that sets Burgundy apart; the idea that wines express a sense of place. Terroir is the holistic combination of climate, land, soils, vineyard aspect, and traditions that define the wine in your glass. Chardonnay from Burgundy makes wines that are desired by serious collectors and sommeliers and are never duplicated anywhere else in the world. In fact, it’s fair to say that Burgundy produces the greatest white wines in the world, especially those from the Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards of the Côte de Beaune. These wines also fetch some of the highest price tags in the world. There are four main labeling categories of white Burgundy: Côte de Beaune, Mâconnais, Chablis, and Bourgogne Blanc.
The Côte de Beaune region is home to the best white wine villages of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne. Fermented and aged in small oak barrels, these wines are full-bodied, concentrated, and complex. At their peak, they show off bold intensity, minerality and honeyed nuttiness. Unlike their California Chardonnay counterparts, white Burgundy is mineral-driven and austere rather than oaky, buttery, and fat with sweet fruit character.
Wines labeled as Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet, are called “village wines” because they are made from grapes grown in less-renowned vineyard sites of the best villages. These wines are more affordable then the Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines and still offer a clear look into the luxurious world of white Burgundy, showcasing the outstanding quality.
The southern growing regions of the Mâconnais (including Pouilly-Fuissé and Mâcon-Villages) and the Côte Chalonnaise, offer great value for money. They have limestone soils similar to those found in the illustrious villages and cost a fraction of the price.
Chablis chardonnays are unoaked and therefore are characterized by zippy acidity, tangy lemon and lime citrus, along with tart green apple and pear fruit. Stoney minerality and salinity are present. There are three tiers in Chablis, village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. The village wines are known for their leanness and light-to-medium-bodied intensity. significant exposure to the sun, and higher presence of limestone soil define the Premier Cru vineyard sites. The Grand Cru vineyards are located across the Serein River, and have a southern aspect that allows the grapes to fully ripen. The Grand Cru slope has Kimmeridgian clay soils containing rich layers of seashells. Generally speaking, the wines are defined by intense tropical fruit.
With all of these growing regions and quality classifications, we can’t forget that even at the lowest village level, these wines still come from the best region in the world and are worth exploring and savoring no matter what price-point you choose.
Top Five White Burgundy for Fall Sipping:
- 2016 Tripoz Macon Blanc Prestige des Tournons, $17.99
This stunning Chardonnay from the Mâcon Clos des Tournons growing area located in southern Burgundy’s Mâconnais, is grown on chalky clay soils, made from vines planted more than 50 years ago. Lively acidity with honeyed aromas of candied fruit, ripe apples, and prickly pear brings about a rich mouth-feel. Hints of vanilla shine on the long finish. This delightful wine expertly pairs with shellfish and seafood stews.
- 2015 Albert Bichot Saint-Veran, $19.99
Produced from the Saint-Veran growing area located in the Mâconnais region, this Chardonnay offers a refreshing and bright style. Racy acidity, crunchy green apple, juicy bitter-lemon, cantaloupe, fleshy pear, and flinty minerality burst from the glass.
- 2016 Albert Bichot Chablis Domaine Long-Depaquit, $27.99
Racy and lean with tart lime citrus, good length, and complexity.
- 2015 Domaine Dublere Bourgogne Blanc Les Millerands, $29.99
Bourgogne Les Millerands comes from a single vineyard in Meursault. Aromas and flavors of hazelnut, honey, ripe apple, and pear. Affordable luxury at its best.
- 2013 Domaine Dublere Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chaumées, $79.99
A wine built for aging, this Chassagne-Montrachet is elegant, silky, and polished. Golden color, concentrated tropical fruit aromas with bright acidity makes it a show-stopper.
Visit Elyse at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill (300 Massachusetts Ave NE) to discover wines you’ll love.