Tasting Events

So You Think You Know Burgundy?

Well let me be the first to put my hand up and say that I don’t know Burgundy – though I’m trying!  Given the sizeable tomes that are published seemingly every year, Burgundy is a complicated wine area that gets a lot of attention – it certainly takes up the most space in on my book shelves.

Though fairly simple in terms of grape varieties – as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir make up the vast proportion of plantings – Burgundy is a complex wine region in terms of appellations – there were 83 at the last count*. In an attempt to simplify the story for the average wine drinker, Burgundy is often broken down into the main sub-regions – see Phil My Glass’s Beginners’ Guide to Burgundy article.

Some commentators focus on the most celebrated Burgundy wines – those from the Côte d’Or – and pass over Chablis, the Côte Chalonnaise and the Maconnais. Of course the elephant in the room is Beaujolais and its Gamay reds, which are part of Burgundy according to some criteria, but are usually considered distinct from the rest.

Here are some wines from less-celebrated appellations within Burgundy – mostly generously donated by Nomad Wine Importers apart from the Saint-Bris which was kindly brought direct from the vineyard by Tony & Liz of DNS Wineclub.

Basse-Bourgogne (Yonne)

Most wine drinkers have, of course, heard of Chablis, but far less well known is the larger area within which Chablis is situated – the Basse-Bourgogne. There are some reds up here – Irancy is an AOC producing light, delicate Pinot Noir (try M&S’s Irancy as an example of the style) – but white grapes are the majority, and apart from a few rows of Sacy that means Chardonnay and Sauvignon!

In 1850 there were 40,000 hectares of vineyards compared with around 7,500 in 2015 – there’s lots more potential in the area!

Credit: DalGobboM

Domaine Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre 2015 (13.0%, RRP €22 from: Blackrock Cellar and SIYPS)

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Auxerre is the largest town in the Yonne, with Chablis very close.  Grapes from the hills around Auxerre qualify for their own appellation, which still (helpfully) has Bourgogne at the beginning for easier recognition by more casual drinkers.  As with Chablis, the wines are 100% Chardonnay.

Based in Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Guilhem (son) and Jean-Hugues (father) Boisot are known as the “Popes of Saint-Bris” for their outstanding local wines.  They are certified organic and biodynamic, believing that high quality wines are only possible with meticulous care in the vineyard.

This Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre is flinty, smoky and fresh – it would stand up against pretty much any AOC Chablis I have tasted.

Domaine Sorin DeFrance Saint-Bris Sauvignon 2014 (12.0%, bought at winery)

Sorin DeFrance

After promotion up from VDQS status in 2003, this is the only Sauvignon (Blanc and Gris) based AOC / AOP within Burgundy, based around the town of Saint-Bris-le-Vineaux.

Domaine Sorin DeFrance is the result of the marriage of Henry Sorin and Madeleine DeFrance, though the Sorin family have been making wine since 1577.  Their Saint-Bris is 100% Sauvignon – I presume Sauvignon Blanc, though you never know.  It is far more expressive than many French Sauvignons, showing notes of grass, nettles, elderflower, lychees and garden mint.

Domaine Goisot Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 (12.5%, RRP €20 from: Blackrock Cellar, Jus de Vine, Lilac Wines, Redmonds, Mortons and SIYPS)

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Although a traditional grape of Burgundy, as it has long been considered second class to Chardonnay, Aligoté was relegated to inferior sites (just like Barbera in Piedmont and Sylvaner in Alsace), and became something of a bulk wine where yields were more important than quality.  Acidity was so fierce in those wines that local crème de cassis was often added to tame it, and thus the kir cocktail was invented.

The search for something new (even if old) and authenticity has reawakened interest in Aligoté – especially when they are simply superb wines such as this one from Domaine Goisot.  Although Bourgogne Aligoté can be made all over Burgundy, Goisot’s vines are in the Yonne.  It has floral aromas and spicy pear flavours, all delivered with refreshing – but not austere – acidity.

Côte d’Or – Côte de Beaune

A simple rule of thumb is that many of the best red Burgundies come from the Côte de Nuits and the best whites are often found in the Côte de Beaune.  Together they make up the Côte d’Or and have all but one of Burgundy’s Grand Cru AOCs.  But to the west of the posh addresses of Beaune and on the top of the the main Côte d’Or escarpment is the appellation Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune.

Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune La Justice 2014 (12.5%, €21 at Redmonds, Donnybrook Fair and SIYPS)

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The Billards (not Billiards!) are based in Rochepot close to Beaune and have 17 hectares spread over 12 different appellations, both red and white.  This wine is from the lieu-dit (or named vineyard) La Justice and is both fermented and matured in oak barrels, though the latter is mainly older oak.  It is very approachable and drinkable now but has the structure and texture to develop over the coming five to ten years. 

Beaujolais Blanc

The Beaujolais wine area was legally attached to the Burgundy wine area though a civil case in 1930, reinforced by the decree in 1937 which created the Burgundy AOC.  While arguments for an against continue, I’ll just concentrate on the wine – in particular the rare whites.  Chardonnay is the principal white variety with small amounts of Aligoté, Melon (de Bourgogne, the Muscadet grape) and Pinot Gris also planted.

Domaine des Nugues Beaujolais-Villages Blanc 2015 (13.0%, RRP €18 at Blackrock Cellar, Jus de Vine, Martin’s Off licence and SIYPS)

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In the northern marches of Beaujolais there has always been some overlap with the most southerly villages of the Maconnais, the most southerly region of Burgundy “proper”, but this is bona fide real-deal Beaujolais-Villages Blanc.  Of course the -Villages part means that it is above standard Beaujolais but not made in one of the Cru communes.

Gérard Gelin took over the domaine from his father in 1976, and now runs it as a joint venture with his son Gilles.  They have 36 ha in total of which over 20 is in Beaujolais-Villages.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay from young vines, with some lees ageing to add character and texture.  It’s quite floral on the nose then mainly citrus on the palate.


* excluding Beaujolais!

Tasting Events

DNS Wine Club *FUN* Tasting

After a show of hands at the previous meet, the theme of the most recent DNS Wine Club tasting was FUN! Wine can be a very technical and complicated subject, and as something of a geek that often appeals to me, but at the end of the day the main point of wine is pleasure.

So how do you make a tasting more fun? Play games! But which games? I divided the DNS gang into two teams, opened some fizz and gave them their first task.

{All the wines tasted over the evening are reviewed in the articles Le Tour de France and Around The World in Eighty Sips on TheTaste.ie}

ROUND 1 – Match the Critic

John Wilson
John Wilson, scholar and gentleman

I reviewed John Wilson’s book “Wilson On Wine 2015 – The Wines To Drink This Year” here and refer to it frequently. For each wine reviewed there are lots of details, especially on the background of the wine, along with a fairly short tasting note. As tasting is such a subjective thing (and taste too, but that’s for another day) I wondered how easy it would be to identify wines from their tasting note alone…

Example of a wine featured
Example of a wine featured in the book

Each team was given a sheet with two columns; the first had ten wine names and the second had ten tasting notes taken from John’s book. Two wines were sparkling, four white and four red. Each column was in alphabetical order and the objective was to match the tasting notes to the correct wine.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Bernhard Ott Fass4 Grüner Veltliner 2013 A A superb, light, elegant wine, with piquant dark cherry and blueberry fruits.
2 Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Extra Brut NV B Almond blossoms on the nose; light, elegant, sophisticated crisp green fruits with excellent Minerality. A perennial favourite.
3 Coca y Fito DO Terra Alta Jaspi Blanc 2012 C An exuberant, fresh wine bursting with pineapples and tropical fruits.
4 Jeio Prosecco DOCG Valdobiadenne Spumante Brut NV D Bracing and herby with an inviting texture and a snappy dry finish.
5 Kasarí Zorah Areni Noir 2012 E Delectably light and tangy but with rosehips and fresh, piquant red fruits. Great with food.
6 Moric Burgenland Blaufränkish 2012 F Fresh pear and peach fruits with a good lively citrus edge
7 Pieropan Soave Classico 2013 G Intriguing, lifted fragrant black cherries with good acidity and a light earthiness, finishing on a smooth note. Different and delicious wine.
8 Quinta Milú Ribera del Duero 2013 H Pure piquant damson fruits, good acidity and a lightly tannic finish. Delicious.
9 Santa Rita Medalla Real Leyda Valley Chardonnay 2011 I Restrained peach and apple fruits with subtle toasted nuts and a core of citrus acidity.
10 Thymiopolous Naoussa Xinomavro 2013 J Succulent ripe fruits cut through with a delicious minerality and great length.

You might want to try this at home.  Bear the following hints in mind that were given on the night:

  • As both columns are in alphabetical order it is possible that a wine may still be lined up opposite its true tasting note, though most aren’t.
  • The longest tasting note belongs to (probably) the most expensive white wine.
  • The Prosecco note should be very easy to identify as it nearly always tastes of one particular fruit.
  • One of the wines includes a colour in its name (though not in English) which is included in the corresponding tasting note (in English).

Yes, most of these hints are fairly esoteric / tenuous / difficult – but that’s how I roll!

ROUND 2 – Call My (Wine) Bluff

For those know aren’t familiar with it, Call My Bluff is a long-running UK game show where celebrity contestants on a team take it in turn to give three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then tries to choose the correct definition and discard the bluffs.

The wine version has a similar structure, but instead of word definitions the guessing team has to divine which of three tasting notes they are given match the wine in their glass and their mouth!

For five white wines and three red wines, these are the choices which were proffered:

White 1
(A) Famille Bougrier Les Hautes Lieux Vin de France Sauvignon Blanc 2013
(B) José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

White 2
(A) Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014

White 3
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014
(C) Trimbach Cuvé Frédéric Emile Alsace Riesling 2004

White 4
(A) Dog Point Section 94 2008
(B) Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013
(C) Greywacke Marlborough Wild Sauvignon 2012

White 5
(A) Frantz Saumon Minérale+ Montlouis 2012
(B) Les Auzines Fleur Blanches Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014
(C) Marqués de Riscal Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Red 1
(A) Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011
(B) Château Bouscassé Madiran 2007
(C) El Castro de Valtuille Bierzo 2013

Red 2
(A) Aldi Lot 01 Uco Valley Malbec-Cabernet 2013
(B) Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012
(C) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011

Red 3
(A) Château Milhau-Lacugue “Les Truffières” Saint Chinian 2010
(B) Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011
(C) Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2008

For the guessing team, some of the choices were more difficult if there was a similarity between the choices, e.g. for White 1 there were 2 regions and 2 grapes over 3 wines.

It was actually easiest to bluff when the reader didn’t know if they were giving the note for the correct wine or not! I suppose it is good to know that most people aren’t good liars, even if it’s just for fun.

ROUND 3 – Match the Critic (Encore)

A Book, A Bottle, A Glass
A Book, A Bottle, A Glass

Now the kicker to see if everyone had been paying attention! A double list – similar to that handed out in Round 1 – was given to each team, this time with eight wine names and tasting notes. But these weren’t just any wines taken from John’s book – they were the eight that everyone had tasted in Round 2! So of course, this final round had double points awarded.

Wine Name   Tasting Note
1 Atlantico Sur Reserve Tannat 2011 A A delicious modern style of Bordeaux with light creamy cassis fruits and a smooth easy finish.
2 Château Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Supérieur 2012 B A subtle and delectable blend of citrus and green fruits with a touch of honey
3 Domaine La Sarabande Faugères 2011 C Exhilarating precise acidity with pristine green fruits.  Inspiring, thrilling wine.
4 Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2013 D Fresh, tangy, lemon and grapefruit, balanced out by clean green fruits, and a dry finish.
5 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay 2014 E Good, deeply satisfying wine with firm, dark ripe fruits and a dry finish.
6 José Pareinte Rueda Verdejo 2013 F Light toasted nut aromas, fresh textured pineapples fruits and excellent length. Great wine at a very reasonable price.
7 Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches G Lightly toasted notes combined with peaches, almonds and honey.  Unusual and perfectly formed.
8 Tahbilk Victoria Marsanne 2014 H Succulent and ripe, filled with dark cherry fruits dusted with spices


Blind tasting, even single blind, is difficult. Tasting notes are subjective, and, unsurprisingly, it’s much easier to understand someone else’s when you’re tasting the same wine they had. Context is very important so knowing the background to a wine can give you a lot of clues about why it tastes a certain way and where it’s headed.

Above all, it’s a fun journey!