Burgundy is probably in the bottom five of the "good value" and "price-to-quality" scales that those of us who care about the price of wine use in our wine buying strategies. The dollar's collapse against the euro, some decent to excellent recent vintages and general price inflation have conspired to push the price of many premiere crus from the more popular villages close to or above $100 a bottle and have priced almost all grand crus in the mid $100 and beyond range. For wines that have a lot of moving parts, indiscernable village designation, identifiable but confusing vineyards, indigenous producer/owner/family heir? vs. local negociant vs. mega-negociant, buying Burgundy, especially red Burgundy can be very frustrating and, ultimately, disappointing. While it seems quixotic to keep searching for "value" red Burgundies of real quality when $25 to $40 will buy a very good to excellent California or, dare I say? (Dare, Dare!) Oregon, pinot I guess the ephemeral, nearly orgasmic allure of a fine red Burgundy keeps saps like me forever questing. The Roumier 1996 Bonne Mares (a gift and obviously not inexpensive if you're buying) that we took to a dinner at Grace in LA a few years back was sublime and truly memorable, further whetting my appetite for more, albeit less expensive, Burgundy.
Anyway, having signed up for too many emails from retailers around the country, all of which I feel compelled to open just to "look," the folks at Crush Wine and Spirits on 57th Street in Manhattan sent out an offering of the wines from Vincent Girardin, vineyard owner and small negociant out of Meusault, extolling his collection of 2003s, blah, blah, blah. The prices seemed reasonable so, without knee-jerking I did a bit or research, read a few testimonials (Andrew Jefford, columnist at Decanter and profligate wine writer, gave Girardin positive press), and then I stuck my toe in the red Burgundy waters and ordered a mixed case of Girardin's juice, fingers crossed. OK a case is more like a leg than a toe, but I did receive the full case discount, which covered cross country shipping. Actually, I'm pleased with the quality of all the wines and with the diversity that it brings when we get together with my boozer neighbors and relatives, who treat bottles of red Burgundy with a greater degree of reverence than they would give to an otherwise superior California pinot.
So I had a bottle of Domaine Vincent Girardin 2003 Santenay 1er Cru "Les Gravieres," Vielles Vignes standing up in my cellar for a week or so, getting all nice and settled and, notwithstanding all the pinot that I've downed recently, I decided to give it a run. I have heard of Santenay before, know that it's a lesser Burgundy village in the south Cote d'Or but probably could not find it on a map. I paid just over $30 a bottle for the wine and see it on Wine-Searcher pro for about that price. It was imported by Daniel Haas and has 13.5% alcohol.
Tasting Notes: Gorgeous red ruby, nose of gravel, black plum and mint, a little chewy mid-palate, tightly wound, earthy, dark fruit with a slightly chalky finish. After about an hour, the wine opens and becomes more elegant, with notes of charcoal, blackberry, mushrooms and freshly turned soil. A fine quite drinkable wine that we'll finish tonight, but it's missing mystery, complexity and seduction. The impossible dream continues.