A peek at the 2006 white Burgundies

image And they’re not bad. They’re probably not as good as the 2002 vintage, which was the best in at least a decade. In fact, tasting the 2006s Monday at a Louis Latour event in Dallas reminded me of just how terrific the 2002s were, and I’m going see if I can still find some.

The 2006s are probably closer to the 2005s in quality, and all we know for certain about 2005 is that the wines are drinking well despite being very young. This is not all that common for the best white Burgundy, which really needs to age for at least 5 to 8 years before it starts showing how good it is.

Ordinarily, wine that needs age is tight when it is young — think of a grapefruit that isn’t quite ready, when it isn’t sweet enough or acidic enough, but just sort of in between. You can tell, if you’ve eaten enough grapefruit, just how good it will be when it is ripe.

In fact, the 2006s were very approachable, and that surprised the four of us who were sitting together at the tasting — a fellow from a Dallas retailer and two buyers from a suburban Dallas steakhouse. Approachable, in this case, means that they weren’t tight. The flavors that were supposed to be there were there; again, something that isn’t all that common.

This may not been caused entirely by the vintage. Latour, an important French negoicant, produces wines that are more accessible and that need less age. Another factor was that 2006 was warmer than usual, which produced riper grapes with lower acid levels. That is also uncommon for Burgundy, and especially for Chablis — where the harvest started in the middle of September, something that is almost unprecedented.

And let’s not overlook that fact that we’re talking about white Burgundy, which is some of the best-made wine in the world even in a crappy vintage. The difference in quality among vintages is between Citizen Kane and Casablanca, and not Citizen Kane and Dumb and Dumber.

This is also the time to note that the Wine Curmudgeon’s great weakness, for all of hjs passion and devotion to $10 wine, is white Burgundy. It’s the only wine that I buy to put down, and I will defend Burgundy’s greatness (red and white) against all comers, be they Bordeaux, Napa or Tuscany. In fact, for all of the skill and cunning of so many Napa winemakers, the chardonnay they produce is, to use another movie analogy, like Sandra Bullock. White Burgundy is Susan Sarandon.

One other note: Prices are up, and Latour is among the most inexpensive producers. Expect to pay a minimum of around $35 for the most basic still wines. Louis-Fabrice Latour, who attended the tasting, told me: “I wish and pray every day for a weaker Euro.”

Here are some of the most interesting wines at the tasting:

? Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne Pinot Noir NV ($22). I have become a big fan of Burgundian sparkling wine (Louis Bouillot, for one), which offers value and quality. This wine is whit, but with pinot noir flavors and wonderful Champagne-like bubbliness.

? Simonnet-Febvre Vaillons Chablis Premier Cru 2006 ($35). Not as acidic as typical Chablis, but with telltale fruit. It may not age well, but is worth drinking now.

? Simonnet-Febvre Les Preuses Chablis Grand Cru 2006 ($70). Still very approachable, but much more sophisticated than the Vaillons, with green apple fruit.

? Louis Latour Meursault 2006 ($25). Still a little tight, but drinkable. Not a bad wine to hold for a couple of years, especially at this price. This was about the only value among the still wines.

? Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres 2006 ($120). The great conundrum of white Burgundy. This is fine wine that will age well. But for $120, it should.

? Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2006 ($150). The most impressive wine of the tasting. It’s ready to drink now, with an intriguing, almost heavy, spiciness. But let this sit 10 years, or even longer, and it will be a revelation. I’ll buy this to put down.

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