Learning about the Wines of Burgundy – Honest Grapes:
A while ago I was invited along to a sherry tasting event by the Honest Grapes team. Not only did I come away with a bottle of rather good sherry but I also invested in a monthly subscription to the Honest Grapes Premier Crew – so I get invited to their events. And, this particular event, Discovering Burgundy, piqued my interest. As any regular reader of London-Unattached will know, I love wines. My Honest Grapes wine budget can be used to buy their special list of wines – both in bond and ready to drink now. And, best of all, Honest Grapes have a series of events like this one which manage to combine wine education with having fun. Of course, wine tasting is generally a good thing – but the Honest Grapes mix of friendly faces, relaxed environment and lighthearted talks always make their events something to look forward to.
Gentle reader, my diary can be a little frenetic and despite all my best intentions, I often find that I am unable to make even the most appealing of their events. So, I was thrilled to actually get to the Discovering Burgundy evening, the first in a series of events for 2018, led by Nathan Hill
Ten wines to taste (and a bonus bottle), all Pinot Noir or Chardonnay (with the exception of an introductory glass of Ruinart Rose) a wealth of rather fine cheeses and a crowd of enthusiastic tasters. I was in excellent company.
Getting started with the first of the wines, Nathan from Honest Grapes explained that we were drinking our way through one of his favourite wine regions – he’s a collector of Burgundy wines. We learnt the seven dimensions of Burgundy wines – grape, village, climate, level, viticulture, vintage and bottling variation and we then went on something of a journey through the five wine producing regions of Bourgogne – in the best way possible if you are not actually in France, with glass in hand.
The first Burgundy – Clos des Roc Macon-Loche ‘En Pret Foret’ 2013 is sold by Honest Grapes for £192 for a case of 12 duty paid. A fresh light chardonnay, we learnt that you could currently buy 12 bottles of the 2016 in bond for £126. Nathan explained that this particular wine would be quite drinkable on delivery in September, but would also keep for around three years without any more issues.
Our next white Burgundy, Jaeger-Defaix Rully 1er Cru ‘Les Clou’ 2015 was plumper and fuller, with a ripe melon taste. Excellent with the cheese, it would currently cost £164.40for a case of 6 duty paid – while the 2016 in bond would be £177.60 for 12 in bond. Nathan advised that this white would be better aged till around 2020…
The fourth wine, Agnes Paquet St Aubin ‘Les Perriers’ 2013, which had been deliberately chosen to show the difference in wines from this part of the Borgogne – Cote de Beaune and the Hautes Cotes de Beaune.
I’d already recognised bottle five. It was my own go-to Sunday Lunch wine for a long time – Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir ‘Les Pierres Rouge’ 2014. The cheapest of the wines we tasted, I’m slightly embarrassed that I liked my old familiar (which I used to buy from Waitrose). It costs around £77.94 for a case of 6 and Nathan explained that it was a perfectly good regional red, at that price point (£15 a bottle) – but, as he explained, most of the cost of wine up to £8 is in transport, duty and tax rather than in the quality of the wine itself. The point of providing an acceptable but lower price point was to provide a benchmark for the more expensive wines that followed.
I have to admit, perhaps seduced by the comforting taste of the Louis Jadot, I found the next wine, Agnes Paquet Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2014 too light and fruity for my own taste. At £120 for a case of 6 duty paid, it just demonstrated to me that there is no right or wrong in wine tasting, only what you personally enjoy. This would have been an extra £5 or so a bottle – which for me would not have been worth paying.
Wine number seven though was a lovely step-up for me – £35.50 a bottle is rather more than I’d normally pay but the Jean-Baptiste Lebreuil Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru ‘Au Serpentieres’ 2012 was something I really enjoyed. I’m considering buying Nathan’s 2016 pick – a Jean Guiton Sauvigny-Les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Hate Jarrons’ which at £240 for 12 bottles in bond seems like something of a bargain.
Once wines reach the point of over £240 for 6 they are somewhat out of my range and much s I love tasting them, I worry that I’m really not going to taste the difference. This kind of event is my chance to prove myself wrong. I DID love tasting the Domaine du Clos Frantin Nuits St Georges 2013 though, a wonderfully rounded mouthful of wine.
Wine nine, Taupenot Merme Chambolle Musigny 2011 is the sort of lovely wine I’d buy a single bottle of for a special occasion, but a bit like driving a Porsche or a Ferrari, I’d be too scared to turn the ignition key on a case of 6 or 12.
Wine ten for me was in a different league and while I don’t have the cash to spend, I wish I did have a spare £500 or so to pay for this stylish, beefy pinot noir.
We went on to try one wine that wasn’t one the list and would be £724.80 for 6 in bond – delicious too and a real treat. What a great end to the Discovering Burgundy event
For me, I left feeling more confident in my own palate. And, very aware of the difference between the under £10 bottles of everyday wine that I get from the supermarket and these wines. I have the same issue with chocolate. I still happily eat far too much Galaxy or Cadbury’s chocolates. But, I’d rather have Lindt or Hotel Chocolat. And, I’ll pay the extra for Pierre Marcolini when I get the chance. I’ve been buying a few half cases and cases of wine in bond – and I’m really looking forward to treating myself and my friends.
Where Honest Grapes comes in for me is that there’s no pressure and no sense that you are not valued as a customer even your price point is towards the bottom end of their list like mine. They do only sell very good wines – and they have helped me start to understand the point of buying wine in bond as a personal investment. It has become my favourite little luxury – I don’t spend a lot of money on cars, clothes or expensive holidays – but I do enjoy treating me and my friends to a good bottle of wine from time to time.
I like being a Premier Crew member, it means I have my own personal wine advisor, I get invites to tastings and I earn ‘pips’ on anything I buy or on referring friends. There isn’t a membership fee, but it does mean that what is pretty much my monthly wine budget (£50) goes straight to Honest Grapes. That works well for me because I appreciate the advice I am given and enjoy buying through them. But, anyone can buy through Honest Grapes!
Many of the events are also open to everyone. There are plenty coming up in the next few months, from a rather special dinner with winemaker Clemens Busch in late February through to what I see as the ‘twin’ event to the Discovering Burgundy evening I enjoyed – Discovering Bordeaux in April.
Find out more about Honest Grapes through their website – or better still come along to one of their events.