Hallgarten tasked French buyer Beverly Tabbron MW last year to come up with a new approach to Burgundy – seeking out restaurant-friendly wines that deliver on value and price. Chris Wilson met her at Hallgarten’s annual portfolio tasting and tasted through the range of lesser-known wines from largely unfashionable sites, being most impressed in the process.
From an ‘orange style’ Aligote to an outside-the-box Macon-Villages this is genuinely off-the-beaten-track Burgundy.
First it was South Africa, then Australia and Italy and now Spain and Burgundy – Hallgarten has shaken up its portfolio in stages across the past few years, adding new wines and producers country-by-country, region-by-region.
At last week’s annual portfolio tasting it drew the curtain up on its new-look Spanish and Burgundian ranges, as well as showcasing over 800 wines from its on-trade focussed list. Roger Jones tackled Spain and I got the enviable task of road-testing the new Burgundy wines.
To walk me through many of the 32 new wines – from seven new producers as well as long-time collaborators – was French buyer Beverly Tabbron MW who was tasked last year with reimagining the Burgundy list and uncovering some restaurant-friendly wines that deliver on both quality and price.
“We have focused on some of the smaller, less well known appellations in the region and on those that are responsible for putting Burgundy on the map. Each wine we have introduced has been selected on its merits and is intended to really stand out on a wine list,” says Tabbron
We start our tour of these lesser-known appellations at Domaine Gouffier who own just over five hectares of vineyard in the villages of Fontaines and Mercurey. The first two wines we taste are made from the Aligote grape, which is refreshing in every sense. The Bourgogne Aligote ‘Cuvee Aquaviva’ 2016 is a skin-contact wine made in an ‘orange-style’ and is simply delicious – clean, linear, light and tight with pear and bruised apple fruit and a long, mineral finish. Almost like a Koshu. The Bouzeron ‘Les Corcelles’ 2016 is richer with the same mineral finish but slightly more tropical fruit and more mouth-weight.
The Rully 1er Cru ‘Rabource’ 2016 from the same producer is fuller and creamy with pear and creme caramel, apple and toast. It’s packed with character and a delightful pithy finish. A serious Chardonnay at a very keen list price of £27.50 (DPD).
Worlds apart (but just as interesting and tremendous value-for-money at £15.67 ) is the Macon-Villages 2016 from Domaine Guillot-Broux, which was the first Burgundy domaine to be organically farmed in the early 1950s. It’s a slightly cloudy, un-inoculated wine with an oxidative edge and cider apple tang, “an outside of the box Macon,” says Tabbron, that’s value really shows as a by-the-glass offering.
From the same producer comes the Macon-Cruzille Les Genievrieres 2016, a barrel-fermented wine that’s really quite different – chewy, full, salty with lime and honey characters and a brilliant label.
A producer that has been on Hallgarten’s books for some time is Domiane Ferrand, a mother and daughter team who own 10 and a bit hectares of vineyard in Solutre Pouilly in the heart of the Pouilly Fuisse appellation. New from them is the mineral, spritzy Saint-Veran 2016 which is packed with stone fruit and a punchy freshness.
Tabbron oozes passion and knowledge as she talks through the wines and is keen to point out that many of the new wines are not from the most fashionable or indeed sought-after spots of Burgundy… and that she says is what makes Hallgarten’s offering different, that willingness to challenge and seek out innovative styles and producers who make wine off-the-beaten-track.
A case in point is Domaine Antoine Olivier who have six wines on show, including three white Santenays from a primarily red appellation. The pick of the bunch is the spiky and alive Santenay Les Coteaux sous le Roche 2015 which is flushed with grapefruit acidity, green spice and fleshy, plump structure.
Next stop is the in Pinot Noir-dominant Mercurey appellation at Château de Chamilly. Winemaker Arnaud explains his ‘less is more’ philosophy and we taste the Mercurey Clos la Perriere 2015 and the Mercurey 1er Cru Les Puillets 2015; the first is supple and long with fleshy sweetness and a remarkable purity of fruit, the second equally as precise but with more of a black pepper kick and an abundance of cranberry fruit.
Staying on the reds the Gevrey-Chambertain 2015 from Domaine Bidault’s single hectare vineyard in the Côte de Nuits is elegant and structured with pure summer fruit and racy tannins, while Château de Cîteaux’s Auxey-Duresses 1er Crus Les Duresses 2015 is easy drinking and crisp with great depth of fruit and balance.
The final newcomer on show is Domaine Sylvain Loichet, a young winemaker plying his trade at some of the less-fashionable sites such as Ladoix and Pernand Vergelesses, as well as Nuits-Saint-Georges, where he focusses on low yields, organic winemaking and hand-picked biodynamic principles. His Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Grandes Vignes 2014 is minty and focussed with black and redcurrant fruit and a well-executed lick of oak.
These producers and others in the Burgundy portfolio, demonstrate an ambitious move by Hallgarten to re-boot the way it thinks about and sells Burgundy to the trade. Many of these wines will need explaining, hand-selling, and Hallgarten’s sales teams will be expected to do more than rely on the reputations of well-known appellations to make things work.
It’s a tough ask, but the wines certainly more than pull their weight, and it will be exciting to see how some of these lesser-known wines from un-fashionable sites work their way onto lists and blackboards. Watch this space.