Suck it and see

WINE The best way to judge the pros and cons of en primeur burgundy is to go along to a tasting and make up your own mind Illustration by Spike Gerrell

When Que Choisir (France's Which?) reported recently that there were some "scandalous products" on the market with the appellation controlee label, the wine authorities in Bordeaux and Burgundy tried to gag it.

Perhaps the deepest wound to French amour-propre was the confusion of some of the fanciest French burgundies with New World wines, in a blind tasting organised by the magazine. Nowhere is there a more quasi-mystical, age-old attachment to the earth than in Burgundy. The tasters who thought their grand cru chablis and clos de vougeot were New World chardonnay and pinot noir respectively will no doubt be strung up if they set foot in Burgundy again.

The foundation stone of the appellation edifice is the belief that terroir, the combination of soil, site and climate, is more important than grape variety. But gone is the idea that this is an exclusively French preserve: distinctive New World wines are continually emerging.

Ironically, since 1990 Burgundy has had a fortunate run of vintages. It produced some superlative white wines in 1992, and in 1993 some of the most elegant expressions of pinot noir. The 1994 vintage is currently being touted as a vintage to buy en primeur - to buy now, that is, wines that will be shipped during 1996 and 1997 for laying down. Buying en primeur allows one to snap up the wines of small domaines whose supplies rarely reach the saleroom. But is it worth it?

Three independent burgundy specialists, Justerini & Brooks (0171-493 8721), Morris & Verdin (0171-722 5577) and Bibendum (0171-357 8866), were quick off the mark with tastings of growers' 1994 burgundies in London last month. Many were still only cask samples, but they offered a useful snapshot of the vintage. "The keys to success in 1994 were a sharp pair of secateurs in the vineyard, nerves of steel in picking late, and sang-froid in the winery," says Hew Blair of Justerini & Brooks. More bullishly, Bibendum announced that "1994 has already gained the reputation of being a white one... the best growers have produced excellent wines, both red and white."

Reading between the lines, and tasting along the tables, 1994 is a vintage to be selective about. There was a record harvest, but the vintage itself was dogged by rain and the grapes were prone to rot.

Despite weaknesses, the specialists were able to salvage some winners in 1994 - not all at ludicrous prices. Among the whites, enjoyable now but not for laying down for any great length of time, Justerini & Brooks showed a fine Chablis Beauroy 1er cru from Domaine Laurent Tribut (pounds 108 per case), a rich and steely Chablis Forest 1er cru from Dauvissat- Camus (pounds 117), an attractive white Auxey-Duresses from Michel Prunier (pounds 96), an intense Hautes Cotes de Nuits from Jayer-Gilles (pounds 120), a characterful Pernand-Vergelesses, le de Vergelesses 1er cru from Remi Rollin (pounds 141), and a fine Meursault from Albert Grivault (pounds 129).

Morris & Verdin's floral, spicy Hautes Cotes de Nuits Blanc from Jean- Yves Devevey (pounds 92) showed star quality, while at Bibendum, Henri Goyard's super-ripe and richly honeyed Macon Montbellet (pounds 95) was good, but its slightly cloying nature suggests that a whole case might pall. You will need at least five numbers and the bonus ball to opt for the likes of Jean-Noel Gagnard's sublime Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot 1er cru, Grivault's Meursault Clos des Perrieres 1er cru or Etienne Sauzet's Puligny-Montrachet Les Garennes 1er cru, at, respectively pounds 237, pounds 282 and pounds 279.

As for 1994 reds, the best are fragrant expressions of the red fruits character of pinot noir. But dilution has resulted in some lean wines without the fruit to support the stringy, toughish tannins. There are exceptions, but you have to pay for them. At Bibendum, there were the supple, fragrant qualities of Denis Mortet's Gevrey-Chambertin "En Champs" Vieilles Vignes (pounds 210) and his sumptuous Gevrey Chambertin 1er cru Lavaux St Jacques (pounds 260). At J & B, Robert Chevillon has produced a perfumed Nuits Saint Georges, Les Cailles (pounds 189) and Bruno Clair a Savigny Dominode 1er cru (pounds 150), probably his finest red. More modestly, Henri Prudhon's St-Aubin Les Frionnes 1er cru (pounds 84), and, at Morris & Verdin, Patrice Rion's Bourgogne Rouge Bons Batons pounds 78, show promise.

The best way to judge en primeur burgundy is to go to a tasting and make up your own mind. Morris & Verdin will be holding their "grand burgundy tasting" on 7 March, and Corney & Barrow, The Wine Society, Lay & Wheeler, Laytons, Haynes Hanson & Clark and Tanners, are likely to make offers of 1994 during the year. Note that prices for the wines are in bond, ie without duty and VAT, which are added on delivery

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

    Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

    £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

    Secondary teachers needed for supply roles in Sudbury

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

    Head of Technology

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Head of Technology needed for a Outsta...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits