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September 6, 2023
The White Knight of Burgundy (and Arsenal)
Wine Correspondent, Vin de Plume
With the nights starting to draw in and a fascinating footballing season in full flow, I’m kicking off my HVV wine column with a chivalrous shout out to billionaire Arsenal FC owner and wine baller Stan Kroenke, and his iconic white Burgundy Grand Cru, Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne.
This summer, Mrs Vin De Plume and I visited the forest topped hill of Aloxe-Corton as part of a somewhat bacchanalian tour of Burgundy where we discovered several superb ‘under the radar’ village wines, enough in fact, to form a White Burgundy Village Football Team. It seemed appropriate to appoint as Manager the unicorn wine Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne.
Legend has it that our ability to enjoy the usually wondrous Bonneau du Martray today is due to the 8th century Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne’s favourite wife Hildegard who would nag him incessantly about his red wine stained white beard and tabard. I hear his pain. The solution though was simple – Charlie shrewdly grubbed up his red wine pinot noir and gamay vines and replanted them with white chardonnay vines. By deftly switching to drinking white wine, the staining and the nagging (but not the wife!) were histoire.
Fast forward to 2017 when Kroenke took over this elite Burgundy estate as a fitting addition to his elite Californian wine portfolio which includes the eye wateringly priced Screaming Eagle, a single bottle of which is £3,940 from Hedonism Wines in Mayfair.
Stan’s deep pockets auger extremely well.. if you’re an Arsenal fan!
Meet The Team – region by region – north to south
Chablis and Auxerre – geographically nearer to the eastern Loire Valley (and their stunning Sancerres) than the bulk of Burgundy further south.
2020 Domaine Hamelin Petit Chablis (12.5%) Chardonnay, Sandhams £14.99. Lean, youthful and deliciously delicate. A refreshing aperitif which pairs perfectly with Prawn Marie Rose sandwiches – not remotely Roy Keene friendly.
2020 Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne-Aligoté (12.5%) Aligoté, Sip Wines £18.14. This organic and biodynamic, lesser known Aligoté grape is from a fabulous wine estate established in the 14th century. Superb typicity – Golden Poire William, white geraniums and a delicate touch of smoothly ground white pepper.
Côtes de Nuits
2018 Decelle-Villa Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Les Champlains Blanc (13%) Chardonnay, Perfect Cellar £24.76. A surprising organic banger. 2018 was a legendary vintage for Burgundy, arguably even more so for the more marginal ‘plateau’ wines. A lush, finely integrated mineral driven wine which pushes some more supine village wines onto the transfer list.
Côtes de Beaune – the main squad
2021 Domaine Loïs Dufouleur Beaune Clos Du Dessus Des Marconnets Blanc (12.5%) Chardonnay, Harmony Wines £35.00. One of few white village wines to be found at the top of the slope north west of Beaune. Juvenile – with more bottle age this fine mineral driven wine will further integrate to combine elegant brioche notes with subtle citrusy butteriness.
2018 Henri et Gilles Buisson Saint-Romain La Perrière (13%) Chardonnay, Swig £55.00. The Buisson family were viticulturists from the 11th century and with moderate climate change the elevated position of Saint-Romain has created this pure, organic, chalky, green apple and lemon zest delight.
2018 Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Meix (13%) Chardonnay, Hic! £56.00. Nestled just beneath the Premier Cru vineyard of Les Pucelles, Les Meix delivers exquisite ballet-like poise with a flinty, lemony, acacia, sunny core. The ever smiling Son Heung-Ming of the bunch!
2018 Agnès Paquet Chassagne-Montrachet Battaudes (13%) Chardonnay, The Sampler £69.00. Showing butter, oak, apricot and melon with longer legs than Peter Crouch.
2018 Michel Bouzereau et Fils Meursault Les Grands Charrons (13.5%) Chardonnay, The Wine Reserve £69.99. A fantastic food wine; really came alive with Salmon en Croute. Classic, classy, bold and finely structured with notes of hazelnut, honey and peach.
2018 Domaine Rois Mages Rully Plante Moraine (12.5%) Chardonnay, Oddbins £32.00. As recommended by savvy Tom at Hampstead’s very own indispensable Oddbins. Golden coloured with a beguiling nose of mandarin and mango – delivers exotic precise tropicality much like Gilberto Silva in his heyday.
2020 Aline Beauné Chardonnay Bourgogne (14%) Chardonnay, Vinagogo £26.50. Not a village wine per se but a beautifully blended wine from Aline’s parents’ vineyards in the Montagny area. Powerful yet subtly structured with citrus, vanilla, slight salinity and a wonderfully clean, long finish.
2018 Château des Rontets Pouilly-Fuissé Clos Varambon (13%) Chardonnay, The Wine Society £26.00. Mouthwatering gem from Britain’s oldest wine club – lime zest, crisp red apple, ripe banana and a delicate touch of oak melding beautifully with a buttery, nutty, fine mineral finish.
2000 Grand Cru Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne (13.5%) Chardonnay, Cépage £225.00. Expectation was high that this would knock the village wines out of the park but, as is often the case in football, the bottle I tasted did not deliver. The wine had sadly oxidised and become salty and sherry-like losing the much anticipated fruitiness. Thankfully since Kroenke’s acquisition of this Domaine in 2017, premature oxidation due to poor quality corks is now as ancient history as Charlemagne himself.