Book Review: My Favorite Burgundies by Clive Coates

BR Coates CoverClive Coates is one of the English-speaking world’s foremost authorities on the wines of Burgundy. He has authored seminal books on the region, including The Wines of Burgundy [University of California Press, 2008] and Cote d’Or: A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy [UC Press, 1998] and published the fine wine magazine The Vine from 1984 to 2005. He is also one of the most experienced Burgundy tasters and regularly conducts tastings in Burgundy and around the world. In his new book, My Favorite Burgundies [UC Press, 2013], he leads the reader on a tour of many of these tastings, mostly done over the past two years. Burgundy lovers would give their eye teeth to have participated in these tastings that cover multiple vineyards, domaines and vintages.  Fortunately, Coates allows the reader to at least vicariously enjoy the many wonderful wines he tasted.

This is not a book for the neophyte Burgundy drinker, who is better advised to consult Coates’ previous books for an education about the geography and history of the region. No, My Favorite Burgundies is for the wine lover who already has substantial knowledge of Burgundy and its wines.  That knowledge is required to fully appreciate the many updates on the vineyards and domaines found in the volume. Similarly, the extensive tasting notes will be best appreciated by the experienced taster of fine Burgundies.

Clive Coates, MW

Clive Coates, MW

While thorough, the book does not attempt to be comprehensive in its tastings. As Coates observes, the wines he reviews are the product of the many opportunities he has enjoyed to experience some of the world’s best wines.   These tastings are organized into three categories:

[1] Tastings of multiple domaines making wines from the same vineyard.  For example, his tasting of the 2008 vintage wines from the premier cru vineyard Les Genevrières in Meursault includes 15 different domaines (of the total of 30 producers).

[2] Vertical tastings of multiple vintages from the same domaine. Here Coates reports the latest changes at the domaine and gives his assessment of the different vintages. For example, he tasted and reports on twenty vintages from 1986 to 2006 of Denis Bachelet from Charmes-Chambertin. And in the case of Domaine Ramonet, he reviews Chassagne-Montrachet vintages from 1971 to 2005, including Le Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet.

[3] Tastings of different vintages across producers and regions at different wine ages, mostly three, ten, fifteen, and twenty years after the vintage.  For Burgundy lovers who age their wine, these reviews are priceless. They not only inform how specific vintages and wines from specific vineyards are evolving, but they provide more general advice of when and how long to exercise patience in the wine cellar.

While the book is organized by these three categories, they sometimes overlap as in the case of the notes on the 11 premiers crus of Vosne-Romanée where Coates tasted examples from domaines covering vintages ranging from 2002 to as far back as 1945. Similarly, his notes on the Richebourg grand cru covers a range of domaines and vintages from 1999 back to 1947.

My Favorite Burgundies is another significant contribution to our knowledge about the world’s finest s one of Burgundy’s foremost experts.

Don Winkler

November 2013

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