For literally hundreds of years the estimable company of Berry Bros. & Rudd has shipped and bottled fine French wines under its own label. Many visitors to wine-pages will be familiar with "Berry's Good Ordinary Claret" for example.
This was a tasting of three rather more upmarket Burgundies, made by some of the regions top producers for Berry Bros. Jane MacQuitty amongst others has noted the quality of these wines in her London Times column recently,
so I was interested to see what the own-label wines from such well-known names as Patrice Rion, Nicolas Potel and Jean-Louis Chavy would be like.
Though producing some of the world's most intriguing wines, Burgundy is often described as a 'minefield', where the consumer has to know a lot about the producers, vineyards and vintages to buy the best. Berry's policy of having top growers make wines for their own 'Special Selection' label is meant to give a source of excellent quality wines that are also reliable and good value. On this evidence, they have succeeded.
Quality here is excellent. Not only do these wine drink extremely well, but the prices are very fair for wines offering fine expressions of their terroirs. Having tasted this impressive trio I asked Berry Bros if
a mixed case of these wines could be offered to wine-pages visitors, but enjoying the full case discount of £24.00.
Berry Bros have come up trumps and done that (plus a little bit of extra discount) exclusively for wine-pages visitors: four bottles each of the three wines reviewed below, offered at the discount price normally available only on unmixed cases. With free delivery, this turns a fairly-priced mixed dozen into a truly excellent deal for some classic Burgundies. See bottom of page for details.
The tasting was not blind. Prices in pounds sterling (£10 = $18US = €15).
Berry's Selection (France) Puligny-Montrachet 2003
Made by Jean-Louis Chavy. This Puligny-Montrachet is classic in style, despite coming from an extremely warm vintage, which resulted in greater ripeness of fruit than is typical for this region. The wine has a pale lemon-green colour, and the nose displays plenty of quality new oak, with notes of honeysuckle and hazelnut, and a lightly toasted character. But it is refined too, with a delicate pear and melon fruit quality, and a little note of salty minerality. On the palate there is plenty of fruit here, with succulent pear and apple that is dry and racy, with a lemon edge running through the core. The oatmeally quality of the oak just adds support, and whilst this probably lacks the extra edge of acidity for extended cellaring, it is quite delicious and offers very stylish drinking now. £19.95, or £17.95 by the case.
Berry's Selection (France) Nuits St Georges 2001
Made by Nicolas Potel. After an initial tasting in which this was quite closed, I decanted it for a couple of hours and the transformation was notable, suggesting this wine should cellar well. The nose is filled with a crushed raspberry and redcurrant fruit, with plenty of spicy notes and just a suggestion of riper, weighty plum and luscious strawberry. The oak is reserved, adding a savoury, cedary note. On the palate this is mouthfilling and rich, with plenty of spice and earthy grip, a fine core of sweet, ripe berry fruit, but some real structure and backbone too, with firm tannins and good acidity adding a serious, savoury edge. An absolutely classic expression of Nuits St Georges, and a delightful wine. £19.95, or £17.95 by the case.
Berry's Selection (France) Chambolle-Musigny 2001
Made by Patrice Rion. This wine has a beautifully haunting fragrance that is more seductive than the Nuits St George, and more instantly accessible. There are really lovely floral notes and little nuances of rose hips and summer hedgerows, with fine cherry fruit and hints of red liquorice. On the palate there is a silky, vanillin overlay to some crushed raspberry and cranberry fruit, with that tang of cherry and plum fruit skins and acidity. The oak warms and fills the finish with a cedary, leafy elegance, and the acidity is perfectly balanced in this fine wine. It is lovely to contrast this more feminine Burgundy with the Nuits St George above. £19.95, or £17.95 by the case.