Saturday, November 04, 2006

Barrels of Fun

Winemonkey and I attended a Christie's tasting of recent Burgundy vintages (1999 - 2004) which was a curtain raiser to the 145th Hospices de Beaune wine auction.

Hospices de Beaune Background

The Hospices de Beaune was founded in Burgundy, France in the 1400s as a hospital for the poor. I often wondered what this had to do with wine until I was told that most French hospitals own farms, forests or other buildings in the community. The Hospices Civils de Beaune happens to own a wine estate with more than 150 acres of vines. The original vineyards were a gift and the estate endures through donations and inheritances and, of course, the annual wine auction. Key to the auction's success is that most of the vineyards are first growths and great growths, the most prestigious of appellations in Burgundy.

The wine auction, which takes place on November 19th and 20th and is part of an annual festival in Burgundy, celebrates the first tasting of the new vintage. Wines are always auctioned by the barrel (24 cases) and are named after the Hospices benefactors.

Visions of White Burgundy Barrels Dance in our Heads

Although I hope that I can say a barrel of White Burgundy is in our future (can you say Batard-Montrachet?) it's not in the cards right now. In the meantime it is nice to keep up with the wines and the vintages and taste something other than Cabernet once in awhile. Although both Winemonkey and I have lost our taste for Red Burgundy somewhat, the white wines of Beaune are among the best -- if not the best -- white wines in the world. Don't get me wrong, if I could afford Clos de la Roche on a regular basis (The '02 Cuvee Georges Kritter is earthy and fruity with a silky texture) I would be drinking Red Burg everyday and twice on Sundays. The basic problem with Red Burgundy is the inconsistency -- there is quite a lot of disappointment involved.

We discovered some inspiring whites at the tasting, though. Our two favorites were the 2000 Batard-Montrachet-Cuvee Dames de Flanders (rich and intense) and the 2004 Meursault-Charmes Cuvee Albert Grivault (beautifully perfumed nose, nice minerality.) Having been impressed with 2004 White Burgs from the start, and particularly enjoying the Meursault at the tasting, we purchased a 2004 Girardin Meursault Les Charmes-Dessus at Morrell afterwards. Vincent Girardin is a consistently good producers and this is a lovely bottle of wine with good weight, nice minerality, and an abundance of citrus and tropical fruits.

Buy a Barrel
If you love Burgundy -- and happen to have the capital -- the Hospices de Beaune auction is a great opportunity to purchase a barrel. Even if your assets are running a little short, you can buddy up and bid as a group. Two hundred and eighty-eight bottles is enough to go around, right?!

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