Hautes-Côtes de Bargain

I forget what guy said it, I forget if he remembered what restaurant he ate at, I forget if he remembered the girl he was with, but I do remember he drank Montrachet.  I have never drunk any Montrachet, I doubt I ever will, the little that is out there is really expensive.  Much like a lot of Burgundy, it is pricey, Burgundy is maddening and Burgundy happens to be one of the most fascinating wine regions in the whole wine world.

2000 years ago some monks along with some grape growers began playing around in some dirt and noticed subtle differences in how soil types and subtle climate conditions affected grape growing.  These differences varied from village to village, from vineyard to vineyard, even varied within vineyards themselves.  These mapped out areas lead to thousands of different sites, each one expressing a unique personality upon two noble Burgundian grape varieties that were planted there.  The immense mapping of vineyards  made it necessary for a complicated labeling system.  It is easy for a wine drinker to be confused when buying Burgundy, all the labels kind of look the same and you need a geography lesson to know what you’re getting.

Burgundy can be the most rewarding and disappointing wine you will ever come across.  You have to consider the place it was grown, who grew it, who bottled it, what vintage?  Some Burgundy takes years to mature before it becomes magical, some Burgundy is meant to be drunk young.   Most Burgundy is expensive and some of it is stupid, outrageously expensive!  One thing all Burgundies have in common is it fragile.  It does not like to travel.  It needs to be kept in constant cool storage to keep its delicate bouquet.

It is no wonder many Richmond restaurants stay away from the special, vast, yet complicated wines of Burgundy and tend to offer only the simplified, mass produced, easy to recognize brands.

Not all Burgundy wines are expensive.  There are many  honest, hand made examples to be found that are grown by people intent on carrying on tradition and expressing a true sense of place.  It can still be complicated though.

Domaine Billard based in la Rochepot produces wine from 12.5 hectares of vineyards located in Saint Aubin, Saint Romain, Auxey Duresses and Beaune.  Their biggest production comes from sites within the Hautes-Côtes, a hilly plateau above the Côte de Beaune.  ‘Haute’ means high.

The Green areas map out the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune.  Billard has a lot of prestigious area neighbors.  That red area parallel to Saint Aubin is the Montrachet vineyard.

Jérôme Billard is the fifth generation to run the Domaine. When he took over he began the conversion to organic farming and began estate bottling the entire production.  Before he inherited the place his father sold all the grapes to the local wine cooperative.

2009 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge.  Jérôme still uses his feet to lightly press this low yield Pinot Noir.  The wine is matured for ten months in barrel and is completely unpretentious and pure.  Great for everyday drinking alongside pigeon stew or a delicately seasoned poached chicken.  And it is only $17!

2009 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc “La Justice”.  Named after a 3 hectare vineyard made up of chalk heavy soils this barrel fermented Chardonnay matures on its lees (dead yeast cells) for 10 months before bottling giving it a rich and robust, creamy body.  Drink this elegant and ballsy wine with shellfish, truite au bleu or Reblochon and Epoisses cheeses.  And it is only $17.

I’m not suggesting this wine is a stand in for Montrachet or even a ghetto ass Puligny.  It is its own thing and a great representation of how diverse Burgundy is and hopefully it will make you curious to what all those different town names and vineyard sites can deliver.

imported by Wine Traditions.

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