Domaine Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne La Tufera 2017
Domaine Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne La Tufera 2017, Burgundy, France
(£21.70 per bottle, J&B (£190 in bond per 12 bottle case). Also at Liberty Wine)
Burgundy has been one of many things on our minds at the start of this year following the January en primeurtastings of the 2017 vintage in London.
The problem that we’ve been wrestling with is what to offer you in terms of information and advice. This is largely due to the value, or potential lack of it, that this region now offers when compared with other top notch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producing regions around the world.
Before we get to that though, let’s first take a look at the 2017 vintage.
When it comes to wines from a classic region like Burgundy, it’s always good to have a handle on the vintage and 2017 is great, though not stellar.
A very cold winter was followed by an early spring, with things warming up quickly. Although there was a frost scare at the end of April (spookily on precisely the same day as in 2016), growers managed conditions well by lighting bales of damp straw and creating a smoke cloud to shield their frozen berries from the burning sun.
Chablis was the unfortunate exception and estimates suggest that around 50% of the harvest was lost.
The rest of the season was largely warm and dry, with rain arriving just as it was needed. The harvest was early and took place in near perfect conditions.
The result of all this was the first plentiful Burgundy harvest in almost a decade, and lots of beautifully ripe fruit.
In general the 2017s are approachable wines for the medium term and are actually enjoyable to drink right now.
The whites are generally considered to be slightly better than the reds and at the top level I would agree with that. The best examples offer a combination of rich, ripe fruit, almost a glazed lemon/orange exoticism, with balancing acidity and incredible energy, complexity and tension. Overall they aren’t quite as stunning or long-lived as the 2014s, but they are extremely stylish. At the lower and mid level there are also some very good wines but also some less successful ones which, although often immediately appealing on the nose, lack acidity and grip.
Although in Chablis yields were reduced by the frost, some terrific wines were made at all levels, and I was particularly impressed by those I tasted.
The reds tend to be brightly fruity with supple tannins and at the top end wonderful intensity of flavour.
Would we suggest you buy the 2017s..?
Given the fact that the very cheapest wine we tasted during en primeur week would cost you just over £13 per bottle (incl duty and VAT), we have to conclude that buying Burgundy en primeur is unlikely to be for everyone, and certainly not the majority of the UK’s wine-drinking public who are probably looking to spend around £10 on a decent bottle. (The average price paid for a bottle of wine in the UK is just over £5.50).
This doesn’t change our opinion that Burgundy produces some of the finest wines on the planet and if we could afford to drink Grand Cru Burgundy every day we certainly would. One of my favourite wines last week was a white Grand Cru at well over £500 per bottle.
Where we feel the problem lies is in the middle ground of wine buying, those occasions when you’re looking to spend £15-£30 on a bottle of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to serve with a special dinner or to give to friends. Frankly, at that level, there is simply more flavour, complexity, finesse and excitement to be found in places like Australia and New Zealand than almost anywhere in Burgundy.
So our current advice to fellow lovers of these two fabulous grapes is to experiment; yes continue to buy from Burgundy if and when you can, but also try out other countries to see how they compare in terms of quality, value and the sheer pleasure they give.
We’ll be posting more top tips on these in due course. In the meantime, this top tip comes from our January Burgundy tastings.
It’s Etienne Sauzet’s entry level wine and it really does offer value for money in the 2017 vintage. It is more expressive at this early stage than you might expect from a producer known for restrained, long-lived wines, but it is also supremely elegant. Intense savoury and mealy flavours are matched by delightful freshness and energy in what is a serious, yet highly engaging wine.
(8/10 Susie, Jan 2019)