A discussion of Red Burgundy wine is rarely a calm and reasoned exchange. There are the “Burg Hounds” who will go to great lengths for the privilege to spend barrels of cash on wines that are as often strange and stinky as they are superb and sublime, and these lunatics will readily admit as much. For this crew, the radical expression of terroir and the quirks of the winemaking auteur are the main sources of the kicks rather than the quest for “perfection” is. The undertow of Burgundy is powerful indeed, and well this side of rational.
The opposing school of thought holds that Burgundy is the clearest example of a viticultural “emperor’s new clothes” ever fobbed off on the wine drinker. This contingent holds that Red Burgundy is overpriced, wildly inconsistent, only sporadically available, and more often than not, just disappointing.
Where do I stand? Well, for me, both camps have a piece of the truth. Burgundy is arguably, at its best, THE greatest wine in the world, and all too often it’s a slipshod homebrew with a bad attitude. One thing that EVERYONE can agree on regarding Burgundy is the more you know – producers, villages, vineyards, vintages, etc., and how this translates into style, the better you’re likely to drink…though much easier said than done, for sure…
So are a couple of tips from a wine guy that stands somewhere between the two extremes. First, explore the Beaune. Wines from the Cote du Beaune have a bit more blue-collared muscle and are better values than their more effete counterparts in the more prestigious northern Cote d’Or. The second tip (finally) brings us to the subject of this post: Bourgogne Passetoutgrain (pass-too-gron). Passetoutgrain, which roughly translates to “all the grapes make the cut”, is more or less a Burgundy wine free for all: larger volumes of Gamay meet smaller ones of Pinot Noir, and potentially even few splashes of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. Passetoutgrains are field blends – the odd bits- assembled in a quaffable, direct style meant to be drunk young. The better examples however, really give you the “Burgundy experience” with a higher degree of consistency, and at a price even lower than the ubiquitous Bourgogne Rouge. Embrace the leftovers.
Arnoux Pere et fils Passetoutgrain 2007 (75% Gamay, 25% Pinot Noir)
Just barely translucent purple/ruby color. Aromas of smoke, cherry, cinnamon, cocoa, sweet herbs, and barnyard. In the mouth, the wine delivers flavors of green vine leaves, deep, fresh raspberry, and crunchy sour plum fruit hung in an overall warm, round frame. It finishes with good length in an easy, elegant fade-out.