When I grow up, I want to have lots of money, lots of free time, and a vast cellar that I can fill to bursting with the wines of Burgundy. Is this patchwork of minutely differentiated terrains the greatest vine-bearing spot on earth? That's a debate for another occasion. But one thing is certain: to grapple with Burgundy, ample supplies of free time and disposable income are de rigueur. Another certainty: drinking good Burgundy is like getting a glimpse of God.

When I grow up, I want to have lots of money, lots of free time, and a vast cellar that I can fill to bursting with the wines of Burgundy. Is this patchwork of minutely differentiated terrains the greatest vine-bearing spot on earth? That's a debate for another occasion. But one thing is certain: to grapple with Burgundy, ample supplies of free time and disposable income are de rigueur. Another certainty: drinking good Burgundy is like getting a glimpse of God.

Burgundy needs special dedication because of the microscopic fragmentation of the appellations. In Clos de Vougeot, for example, 80 producers divide 50 hectares among them. There are dozens of wines with this name, some dull, but all expensive. You need to know the producer's name and often the vineyard name.

The big news from Burgundy is the 1999 vintage. Quality is high, especially for reds; quantities are ample, as fine weather made for higher yields. And prices are in some cases lower than the year before.

Enticing? Then read Anthony Hanson's Burgundy (Faber, £25) and make friends with merchants possessing in-depth knowledge. These tend to be independents, since the wines you want to get cosy with are generally made in modest-to-minuscule quantities. You could start with Bibendum (020 7916 7706), Howard Ripley (020 8877 3065), Justerini & Brooks (020 7493 8721), Haynes Hanson & Clarke (020 7259 0102), Morris & Verdin (0207 357 8866).

For wine-scribes, keeping up with Burgundy means going to a densely packed cluster of tastings chez the merchants who offer the wines before release - at prices that usually include duty but not VAT. Annoying commitments prevented me from doing the full run, but one reliable palate that did do it belongs to Michael Schuster, whose Essential Winetasting (Mitchell Beazley, £20) is a peerless introduction to the subject. He says that 'there looks like being a relative abundance of ripe, user-friendly lesser red Burgundy to drink early on. The cream will make for deliciously grand bottles in the medium term, but are likely to keep and age well, too.'

I did get to a slimmed-down tasting at Morris & Verdin, where good things of both colours were in evidence. Basic Bourgogne Rouge 1999 from Patrice Rion (£84 a case plus VAT) bears the hallmark of earthy, farmyard flavours. Savigny-les-Beaune can breed fairly mean wines, but Philippe Girard's grab you and give you a great big kiss: try his Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru 'Les Peuillets' (£110), with winning, full-throated cherries and smoky oak. For the truly grown up, René Engel's Echézaux 1999 (£260) is a Burgundian blockbuster: ripely ample tannins, big fruit, big concentration.

If you're thinking of buying, act fast: these wines don't hang around. I'm contemplating a modest purchase, but I won't wait for adulthood. That would take far too long.

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