The Best Burgundy Wine Critic of the World -title was awarded to Allen Meadows (www.burghound.com)
Allen Meadows was a finance executive for over 20 years holding a variety of positions including senior vice president for Great Western Financial where he spear-headed the mergers and acquisitions and specialized finance departments. In 1999 he elected to retire to author a book on the subject of Burgundy, his long-time passion and obsession. The book project evolved to become an extensive quarterly review, Burghound.com. It was initially devoted exclusively to the coverage of the wines of Burgundy and later added extensive U. S. pinot noir coverage and Champagne.
Burghound.com was the first of its kind to offer specialized, and more importantly, exhaustive coverage of a specific wine region/grape and pioneered the on-line format. This highly respected and critically acclaimed quarterly publication has subscribers in more than 64 countries and nearly all 50 states. Subscribers have access to a fully searchable database of more than 106,000 of Meadows’ tasting notes with recommended drinking windows for present day vintages all the way back to 1845. Subscribers can search by vintage, score, producer, appellation, issue number or region and there are also options to search by “Top Value” (~$50 wines mostly Bourgogne andVillages), “Don’t Miss” (best wines rated regardless of price), or Sweet Spot” (excellent value at an intermediate level ~$50-~$125) and subscribers conduct millions of searches each year. Meadows spends over five months a year in Burgundy and visits more than 300 domaines during that time.
Hailed as “the world’s foremost Burgundy expert” by acclaimed author Matt Kramer, Meadows published his first book, The Pearl of the Côte – the Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée. In this 350-page expedition through Vosne- Romanée, the legendary region aptly referred to as “the Pearl of the Côte”, Meadows guides the reader through each of the grands and premier crus. With rich and fascinating historical coverage and detail, even Burgundy lovers from novice to connoisseur will reap pivotal knowledge. This beautifully crafted masterpiece includes original and detailed maps of the vineyards as well as vividly artistic photographs that make readers feel they are walking through the vineyards alongside the author.
And now Allen, together with longtime Burgundy collector and aficionado Doug Barzelay, have published another essential reference book for Burgundy enthusiasts: Burgundy Vintages – A History from 1845. Each vintage from 1845 is not only rated and discussed in depth, but also carefully examined in the context of its era, creating a revealing narrative of the forces that created modern Burgundy and that are likely to shape its future. The book is full of new insights on the cultural, economic and technological developments that have made Burgundies among the most sought-after wines in the world. Burgundy Vintages is at once a wonderfully accessible Burgundian masterclass and a must-have reference for every wine lover, from novice to expert.
As well as rave reviews for Pearl and Vintages, they have earned the respect and admiration of readers in almost every US state and over 60 countries. Pearl is available in e-book and Vintages is available in hardcover, through www.BurghoundBooks.com.
In December 2014 Allen released the Burgundy Essentials Audio series, a nearly 10-hour, 7-part program created specifically for all wine lovers, from the casual wine enthusiast to the seasoned pro. This 3-year project-in- the-making was expressly designed to demystify what is a highly complex and even intimidating wine region yet enhance the knowledge of those already well-immersed in their Burgundy education. For more information visit http://www.burghound.com/burgundy-essentials-audio-series
Learn more about Burghound.com by visiting www.Burghound.com.
Burghound.com’s 4 quarterly issues cover red and white Burgundy, Champagne and U.S. pinot noir. Each issue has on average ~160 producers, ~1440 wine reviews, and ~210 pages. Note: Scores in a range indicate a barrel-tasted wine, noting the reality that a wine tasted from barrel is not a finished product. Finished, bottles wines are assigned a score since they are market-ready.
Domaine Denis Bachelet (Gevrey-Chambertin) [published January 2022]
Denis Bachelet described the 2020 growing season as “beginning with a very dry spring so we knew early on that we were likely to have a lot of hydric stress in the vines and that’s exactly what happened. Moreover, with the warm early season temperatures, the vegetative cycle started exceptionally early so we also knew that absent a really cool summer that we would have an early start to the harvest. This in the end is exactly what happened as we chose to begin picking on the 27th of August and harvested through to the 31st. The fruit was clean, ripe and required very little sorting. Yields though were again quite low if not quite so low as the derisory volumes we realized in 2021. The persistent low yields is becoming a serious problem and unfortunately, it’s not just that Mother Nature is being difficult. It’s also because of the serious decline in viable rootstocks and the fact that so many my neighbors, me included, have chosen those that are too easily susceptible to heat stress only compounds the problem. On the plus side, both potential alcohols, which came in around 13%, and total acidities were very good. I like the 2020s a lot and it’s the kind of vintage that will age for decades but also should be reasonably accessible young.” Bachelet has once again made stunning wines though this is hardly a surprise given his virtually unblemished track record for producing wines of grace and style. Fans of the domaine should note that once again there will not be an Evocelles due to the tiny quantities.
2020 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes: (from vines averaging between 60 and 70 years of age located in Les Champs Perriers, En Derée, Sylvie, Les Jeunes Rois, La Justice, La Burie and La Platière plus, in 2020, Les Evocelles). Here the beautifully layered nose combines notes of black cherry liqueur with hints of earth, game, underbrush and humus. There is once again excellent energy and precision to the sleek and delicious medium weight flavors that possess a seductive texture before terminating in an impressively persistent and well-balanced finale. Villages-level wines rarely are as good as this and it’s one to buy if you can find it. (90-93)/2028+
Domaine Charles Audoin (Marsannay la Côte) [published January 2022]
Cyril Audoin commented that the 2020 growing season was “just one more in a series of very hot and dry vintages since 2015. As was the case with the 2019 growing season, one of the main distinguishing characteristics of 2020 though was how dry it was as it was even drier than 2018, which was already incredibly dry and especially so here in Marsannay. There was though just enough rain near the end of August that it caused maturities to explode so we scrambled to assemble our picking team to get the fruit in before the sugars became excessive as well as to preserve acidities. We began picking the whites on the 28th of August and then attacked the reds on the 1st of September. The fruit was essentially spotless and certainly quite ripe yet the highest potential alcohol we had was 13.5% with an average of 13%. Yields though were another story and at 25 hl/ha were even lower than the average of 35 hl/ha we obtained in 2019. As to the wines, they’re really fresh and vibrant, in fact other than the deep colors, you really wouldn’t necessarily think that they were the product of a hot vintage. As such, I confess to be very happy with the results.” Audoin has once again hit a home run with the quality of his 2020s and given the modest prices for which they sell, no one can credibly argue that good value can’t be found in the Côte de Nuits. Moreover, I can attest that they age splendidly well.
2020 Marsannay “Au Champ Salomon”: A beautifully spicy nose reflects top notes of a variety of floral influences on the red currant, dark cherry and soft earth wisps. The succulent, delicious and impressively concentrated flavors also exude evident minerality on the firm, serious, mouth coating and youthfully austere finale that delivers even better length. This too is excellent and one to look for. (92-94)/2032+
Domaine Bizot (Vosne-Romanée) [published January 2022]
Jean-Yves Bizot, who runs this tiny but fascinating domaine, noted that for the 2021 vintage the surface area will be a bit larger as he was able to purchase the Morey villages vineyard of Clos de la Bidaude, which is a monopole. He described 2020 as “one more in a seemingly unending series of hot and dry vintages where we again dodged frost risk. Despite the summer being very hot and dry, we did have some oidium pressure and sunburned berries. We picked from the 27th to the 29th of August and brought in pitifully low yields of only 8 hl/ha. The berries were tiny due to the extreme dryness and there was simply no juice in them. Ripeness levels were good as the potential alcohols came in between 13 to 13.5%. Acidities were good even though there was almost no malic acidity. At least the 100% whole cluster vinifications were easy and presented no problems during the total cuvaison of about 14 days. As to the wines, I have to say that I’m not wild about them but I’m not exactly sure why as there’s nothing particularly wrong. Maybe I will like them better in time as sometimes you’re just too close to things to judge them objectively. Stylistically they remind me of a richer 1996.” I would observe that sometimes winemakers are indeed to close to their work to judge them as I was sincerely knocked out by the quality, and in particular by the Echézeaux as it is outstanding in 2020. Fans of the domaine should be aware that because of the tiny quantities there will be no Vosne 1er Elise Fermouche or Les Réas.
2020 Echézeaux: (from vines situated in En Orveaux planted in 1923, 1947, 1964 and 1979 totaling .56 ha). This possesses the spiciest nose in the range with an almost kaleidoscopic array that is comprised by notes of rose petal, lavender, violet, soy, hoisin, sandalwood and jasmine tea. The suave and sappy yet quite powerful and concentrated larger-scaled flavors are supported by refined, even sophisticated, tannins on the driving, mouth coating and hugely long finish. Wow, this is quite an Echézeaux and absolutely worth a search to find. (93-96)/2032+
Philipponnat (Mareuil-sur-Aÿ) [published October 2021]
Generations of men and women have cultivated the land at Ay, the family’s home since Apvril le Philipponnat owned vines between Aÿ and Dizy in 1522. Their historic cellars date back to the 18th century. Philipponnat has owned a walled vineyard for nearly a century, Clos des Goisses. This 5.5 ha. plot with a steep incline has the region’s warmest terroir, facing due south, and this pure chalk slope receives no shade from sunrise to sunset. In total, they farm 17 ha. of vines that are all classified as grand or premier cru. They remain loyal to the technique of the solera process which consists of keeping reserve wines in oak barrels and including them in non-vintage blends (in a proportion of ¼ to 1/3) and using this blend as a reserve wine for the following blend. This progressive dilution allows every bottle to retain a trace of the previous years’ blend since the very beginning.
2014 Extra Brut – Blanc de Noirs: (100% pinot noir, disgorged May 2020, 4.5 g/L). A distinctly yeast, ripe and very fresh nose carries an assortment of spice, citrus and floral nuances. There is very good richness to the relatively generous medium-bodied flavors that are supported by a moderately firm mousse on the toasty, utterly delicious and lingering finish. The 100% pinot base is not surprising as there is very good flavor authority and for my taste, this could either be enjoyed now or held for a few more years first. For those who prefer a crisper Champagne, drink this now and over the next 2 to 3 years and for those who prefer a creamier and full-bodied style, put this away for 3 to 5 years first. 92/now+
U.S. PINOT NOIR SAMPLE:
Domaine Serene (Dayton, OR) [published October 2020]
Grace and Ken Evenstad said it was their passion for pinot noir that led them to Oregon in 1989 and founded Domaine Serene in the Dundee Hills in the North Willamette Valley. Domaine Serene owns six vineyard estates totaling 462 acres, of which 274 acres are under vine, and the remaining property has been left in its natural state. The vineyards are dry farmed and LIVE certified. In April 2015, the Evenstads purchased Château de la Crée, a Burgundy wine estate in the Côte d’Or. For further information, contact: 503.864.4600 or visit: www.domaineserene.com
2017 Pinot Noir – Grace Vineyard: (Dundee Hills, 312 cases, SRP $195, 14.4%). A more restrained if not mute nose requires aggressive swirling to reveal what is the spiciest nose in the range with its elegant mix of floral, red and black cherry and soft oak nuances. The super-sleek medium-bodied flavors possess a silky yet dense mid-palate, all wrapped in a beautifully long finish that coats the palate. I like the balance as well as the incipient complexity that will undoubtedly build over time as this too is clearly built-to-age. I would add that the tannins are dense but fine and as such this could be approached after only 5ish or so years yet reward 12 to 15. 93/2029+