Buy on apples, sell on cheese, so the old wine-trade adage goes. If the Himalayan mountains of cheese consumed during the frenzy of January's Burgundy 2011 week in London are anything to go by, a great deal of the region's wine has been sold en primeur before it's even been bottled and delivered. Do you need Burgundy in your cellar? No. Do you want Burgundy in your cellar? Why wouldn't you if you love wine? As Bordeaux alienates with arrogant pricing, Burgundy has grown in stature and popularity with much improved wine quality, more consistent vintages and greater availability.
Where Bordeaux is mostly red, Burgundy offers red and white in equal measure. Where Bordeaux needs a few years to come round, Burgundy is more approachable when younger. Wines from great vintages like 2005, 2009 and 2010 need time to develop, but good vintages offer delicious wines for early drinking. The latest vintage to be offered for sale, 2011, is one of those good-to-excellent vintages that favours both reds and whites, with appetisingly juicy reds and mouthwatering whites in a broad price range. It has personality – and the different personalities of the growers who've made it shine through in their wines.
There are good reasons for buying Burgundy en primeur and not just because it's so much more amenable when it's young. If Bordeaux is about location, Burgundy is about allocation. Burgundy is made in small volumes. The best gets snapped up quickly and drunk or cellared. Comparatively little sees the secondary-market light of day. I'm sensitive to wine-merchant hype, but the trade has it right when it claims that 2011 is a seductively delicious vintage worth buying. As Charles Lea of Lea & Sandeman says: "2011 does not have the concentration or mass of the kind of vintage that gets called 'great', but what it does have is energy, balance and appetising charm". A crowd-pleaser? Yes. To call it 'charming' and 'attractive' is not to damn with faint praise.
There is lower alcohol than usual in 2011, never a bad thing, along with balancing freshness and fruit. What I enjoy is the delicacy and purity of pinot noir's red-fruit flavours in the red wines. What surprises me is the sheer gorgeous fruit in so many of the white wines.
Wine merchants are saying buy, because 2012 is a very small vintage and while there's some truth in that, my view is buy because there are so many tasty wines and not all at astronomical prices. If a whole case is too much for you, why not club together with two or three like-minded friends and take the plunge.
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