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A Rescued Vintage: 2013 Burgundy Highlights from La Paulée

The world of wine offers no end of fantasies. One of mine is the chance to have the money and time to visit Burgundy every year and sample the latest vintage of some of the world’s greatest wines. That dream may have to wait for retirement or some unexpected windfall. In the meantime, on rare occasion, however, you don’t have to go Burgundy. Burgundy instead comes to you.

La Pauléve, an event put on each year, alternating between New York and San Francisco, represents the best of such opportunities. Created by superstar sommelier Daniel Johnnes and modeled on the yearly event of the same name that occurs in the Burgundy commune of Meursault, this series of tastings, dinners, and seminars offers a modicum of Burgundy’s glories for about the cost of a plane ticket and a few hotel nights in Beaune.

Of course some of us can’t afford either with regularity. But most Burgundy lovers (or aspiring ones) can afford a ticket to the Grand Tasting event, a walk around tasting featuring scores of top Burgundy producers pouring their latest vintage. The great thing about this tasting, apart from the wines themselves, comes in the form of the producers, many of whom Johnnes manages to coax across the Atlantic for the weekend.

I greatly enjoy attending this tasting every two years when the event comes to California, and the glimpse it affords me into a vintage a Burgundy vintage, albeit through the slightly distorted lens of a handpicked selection of Burgundy’s top domaines. As my part-time boss Jancis Robinson likes to say, this is something like judging the quality of food in France by dining only at three-star Michelin restaurants, but well, at least it’s a hell of a good time.

So I wouldn’t pretend that what follows below represents anything even approaching a definitive judgement on the vintage, but as a survey it offers some optimism in the face of what was another in a string of tough vintages in the region. That optimism on my part, however, may easily be a thinly veiled approbation of the adage that great producers manage to produce good wines even in the most challenging of vintages.

2013, like the three years before it, featured many of the difficulties that have led to what is no less than a global shortage of Burgundy wines in the face of ever-increasing demand.

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The growers faced down everything from floods, to hail, to the cool August weather that strikes fear into the heart of a region that traditionally relies on a last dose of warmth to cross the threshold from marginal to manageable. August did eventually deliver a little bump in heat, but not enough to fully ameliorate what was already a much delayed ripening. Then when more rain and humidity arrived in September, any hopes for a reasonable harvest evaporated.

The resulting vintage features lower alcohols than usual, as well as a much increased use of chaptalization (the addition of sugar to fermentations in order to increase alcohol levels to acceptable levels). Other commentators have warned of extremely high acidity levels in the wines as a result, but this acid freak didn’t taste a lot of wine that strayed across the line into shrill imbalance.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this all sounds pretty dire, but you must remember that Burgundy is a region used to dealing with the most marginal of conditions. Sure, after four years of the same, the producers must be getting pretty tired of losing half (or more) of their crops, not to mention feeling the financial pressure that must come with such realities. But Burgundians are nothing if not hardy and hardworking. My tasting of the (again, highly selective) lineup at this year’s La Paulée de San Francisco revealed a number of gems, including some wines that delivered exceptional quality at less than stratospheric prices.

In particular I was completely taken by the Beaujolais wines (yes, Gamay at La Paulée! whooda thunk!?) of Jean-Louis Dutraive, whose Domaine de la Grand’Cour were stunning expressions of place. In addition, the village of Saint Aubin seemingly continues to be one of The Côthe de Beaune’s best kept secrets, and the wines of Hubert Lamy are a great example of how to get some pretty killer, ageable Chardonnay without paying $150 a bottle for Meursault Premier Cru.

Finally, while I’m not in the habit of paying $100 a bottle for wines, it must be said that the wines of Domaine Paul Pillot punch way above their weight at tariffs around that price in a field where the competition ring in easily at twice that price.

Here’s the best of what I tasted, with links to buy the top wines that I could find available online. I’ve also included the abbreviated notes I made at the moment of tasting, in addition to scoring the wines.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2013 Domaine Roulot 1er Cru “Clos des Bouchères” Meursault, Côte de BeaunePhenomenal lemon oil — juicy, long, fantastic. $350.

2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey 1er Cru “Caillerets” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de BeauneGorgeous, resinous. $160.

2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey 1er Cru “Genevrières” Meursault, Côte de BeauneSaline, floral, fine. $145.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2013 Benjamin Leroux Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet, Côte de BeauneSweet lemonade, mineral, and bright. $445.
2013 Domaine des Comtes Lafon “Clos de la Barre” Meursault, Côte de BeauneGorgeous delicate. $150.
2013 Domaine des Comtes Lafon 1er Cru “Charmes” Meursault, Côte de BeauneSmoky, resinous, and utterly fantastic. $235.
2013 Domaine Paul Pillot 1er Cru “Les Grandes Ruchottes” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de BeauneRich but balanced, resinous, grapefruit. $90.
2013 Domaine Paul Pillot 1er Cru “La Romanée” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de BeauneJuicy, bright, yummy $120.
2013 Domaine Roulot “Meix Chavaux” Meursault, Côte de BeauneLean lemony burst with piney/resinous, mineral flavors and a long finish. $160.
2013 Domaine William Fèvre Grand Cru “Les Clos”, ChablisJuicy, saline, with a hint of richness. $115.
2014 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey 1er Cru “Chatenière” Saint-Aubin, Côte de BeauneSaline and utterly delicious. $66.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2013 Domaine Antoine Jobard 1er Cru “Blagny” Meursault, Côte de BeauneTight, lean, SweetTart. $160.
2013 Domaine Ballot-Millot 1er Cru “Charmes” Meursault, Côte de BeauneJuicy, bright, and lean. Crystalline. $90.
2013 Domaine Ballot-Millot 1er Cru “Perrières” Meursault, Côte de BeauneBright, lemony, neon, yummy. $245.
2014 Domaine Charles van Canneyt 1er Cru “Charmes” Meursault, Côte de Beaune $340.
2013 Domaine de Montille Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne, Côte de BeauneGorgeous, tangy, juicy lemon. $180.
2013 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault, Côte de BeauneSmoky. $120.
2013 Domaine Hubert Lamy 1er Cru “Clos de la Chatenière” Saint-Aubin, Côte de BeauneVery floral, softer. $65.
2013 Domaine Hubert Lamy 1er Cru “Les Frionnes” Saint-Aubin, Côte de BeauneGreat minerality. $50.
2013 Domaine Hubert Lamy 1er Cru “Derrière Chez Edouard” Saint-Aubin, Côte de BeaunePithy grapefruit. Delicious. $60.
2013 Domaine Paul Pillot 1er Cru “Clos Saint Jean” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de BeauneMineral, pithy. $75.
2013 Domaine Paul Pillot 1er Cru “Les Caillerets” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de BeauneStony as hell!! $85.
2013 Domaine Roulot, Bourgogne BlancJuicy, lemon, and resinous $55.
2013 Domaine Roulot “Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir” Meursault, Côte de BeauneMetallic, stony, pithy, with intense grapefruit flavors $225.
2013 Domaine William Fèvre 1er Cru “Vaulorent”, ChablisWet chalkboard craziness. $65.
2013 Domaine William Fèvre Grand Cru “Bougros – Côte Bouguerots”, ChablisSaline. $90.
2014 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon “Clos de la Crochette” Mâcon-Chardonnay, MâconnaisJuicy, lean, mineral. $35.
2014 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Saint-Véran, MâconnaisLemonade! $42.
2013 Maison Camille Giroud 1er Cru “Les Vergers” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de BeaunePithy, juicy, yummy. $76.
2013 Maison Joseph Drouhin Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune $475.
2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey “Ancegnières” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune $80.

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2013 Benjamin Leroux 1er Cru “Porusot” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Chandon de Briailles Grand Cru Corton, Côte de Beaune
2013 Château de la Tour “Domaine Pierre Labet – Les Tillets” Beaune, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Antoine Jobard 1er Cru “Poruzots” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Antoine Jobard 1er Cru “Genevrières” Meursault, Côte de Beaune – Tight, lean.
2013 Domaine Ballot-Millot “Narvaux” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Ballot-Millot 1er Cru “Genevrières” Meursault, Côte de Beaune – Narrow, lean.
2013 Domaine Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Bernard Moreau ” 1er Cru Les Chenevottes” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Bernard Moreau 1er Cru “Maltroie” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Bernard Moreau 1er Cru “Les Grandes Ruchottes” Chassagne-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine de Montille “Château de Puligny-Montrachet – 1er Cru Les Folatières” Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune – Lean, tight
2013 Domaine de Montille 1er Cru “Aux Thorey” Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Nuits – Tight, forest floor.
2013 Domaine François Mikulski 1er Cru “Poruzots” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine François Mikulski 1er Cru “Charmes” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard 1er Cru “Vaulorent”, Chablis
2013 Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Grand Cru “Bougros”, Chablis
2013 Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard Grand Cru “Les Clos”, Chablis
2013 Domaine Matrot 1er Cru “Charmes” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Matrot 1er Cru “Les Chalumeaux” Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine William Fèvre 1er Cru “Montmains”, Chablis – Limey.
2014 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Viré-Clessé, Mâconnais – Tight, wet chalkboard. Almost tannic.
2013 Maison Joseph Drouhin Grand Cru “Les Clos” Chablis, Côte de Beaune
2013 Maison Louis Jadot 1er Cru Les Referts Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune
2013 Maison Louis Jadot 1er Cru “Les Folatières” Puligny-Montrachet, Côte de Beaune

WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2013 Domaine Antoine Jobard “En la Barre” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine François Mikulski Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine François Mikulski 1er Cru “Goutte d’Or” Meursault, Côte de Beaune – Very tight.
2013 Domaine Hubert Lamy 1er Cru “En Remilly” Saint-Aubin, Côte de Beaune
2013 Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard 1er Cru “Vau de Vey”, Chablis
2013 Domaine Matrot 1er Cru “Blagny” Meursault, Côte de Beaune
2014 Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, Mâconnais

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RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2013 Domaine Dujac Grand Cru Clos de la Roche, Côte de NuitsMeaty, mushroom, raspberry and forest floor. Long. Gorgeous. $495.

2013 Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat Grand Cru Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Côte de NuitsPowerful, bright, strucyred. Fine tannins, floral, berry, yum!!! $550.

2013 Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier 1er Cru “Clos Saint Jacques” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de NuitsSmooth, juicy, sour cherry, redcurrant, with a very long finish. $500.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2013 Benjamin Leroux Grand Cru “Clos-Saint-Denis” Morey-Saint-Denis, Côte de NuitsGorgeous floral, berry and forest floor. $325.
2014 Domaine de la Grand’Cour/Jean-Louis Dutraive “Clos de la Grand’Cour” Fleurie, BeaujolaisPale, delicate, dried flowers, mineral. Ethereal. $30.
2014 Domaine de la Grand’Cour/Jean-Louis Dutraive “Lieu-dit Champagne” Fleurie, Beaujolais – Gamey, floral, juicy, funky, delicate but muscular nonetheless. $48.
2013 Domaine Dujac 1er Cru Morey-Saint-Denis, Côte de NuitsFantastic forest floor, raspberry, fine tannins, great acid. $147.
2013 Domaine Dujac 1er Cru “Aux Combottes” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de NuitsEarthy, tight, great structure, bright, tight tannins, wonderful structure. $250.
2013 Domaine Grivot 1er Cru “Les Beaux Monts” Vosne-Romanée, Côte de NuitsHint of animal musk, gorgeous. $230. click to buy.
2013 Domaine Grivot 1er Cru “Aux Boudots” Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de NuitsMineral, bright. $200.
2013 Domaine Grivot Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot, Côte de NuitsDeeply mineral, fantastic and bright. $300.
2013 Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat 1er Cru “Les Murgers” Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Nuits $135.
2013 Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat 1er Cru “Les Suchots” Vosne-Romanée, Côte de NuitsSilky, fine, forest floor. $145.
2013 Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier 1er Cru “Cherbaudes” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de NuitsIncredibly bright, lean, mineral and juicy. $165.
2013 Domaine Mortet 1er Cru “Lavaux-Saint-Jacques” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de NuitsJuicy, great acid, sour cherry and raspberry neon. $260.
2013 Maison Camille Giroud 1er Cru “Aux Boudots” Nuits-Saint-Georges, Côte de Nuits – Gamey, juicy, berry, fine tannins. Delicious. $75.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2013 Domaine Pierre Labet “Aux Coucherais” Beaune, Côte de Beaune – Meaty, deep. $90.
2013 Château de la Tour Grand Cru “Clos Vougeot – Vieilles Vignes” Clos Vougeot, Côte de Nuits – Tannic as hell, but tasty. $245.
2014 Domaine de la Grand’Cour/Jean-Louis Dutraive “Chapelle des Bois” Fleurie, Beaujolais – Juicy, floral, light, yum! $33.
2013 Domaine des Comtes Lafon 1er Cru “Santenots du Milieu” Volnay, Côte de Beaune – Berry, juicy, smooth, and earthy. $160.
2013 Domaine Dujac Morey-Saint-Denis, Côte de Nuits – Earthy, mushroom and raspberry. Great. $92.
2013 Domaine Grivot Vosne-Romanée, Côte de Nuits – Berry, smooth. $60.
2013 Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat Vosne-Romanée, Côte de Nuits – Tight. $130.
2013 Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier “Vieilles Vignes” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits – Floral, bright, tight. Pale, powdery. $135.
2013 Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier 1er Cru “Les Gruenchers” Chambolle-Musigny, Côte de Nuits – Tart sour cherry, great acid, very fine. $190.
2013 Domaine Mortet “Mes 5 Terroirs” Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits – Redcurrant and tight tannins. Great acidity and minerality. $100.
2013 Domaine Mortet 1er Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuits – Sour cherry and redcurrant, SweetTart tanginess. $250.
2013 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol 1er Cru “Clos des Angles” Volnay, Côte de BeauneFloral, supple. $95.
2013 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol 1er Cru “Cailleret” Volnay, Côte de BeauneBright redcurrant. $150.
2013 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol 1er Cru “Santenots” Volnay, Côte de BeauneSmooth, deep, powerful, and long raspberry and redcurrant. $110.
2013 Maison Camille Giroud 1er Cru “Les Santenots” Volnay, Côte de BeauneEarthy, floral. $75.
2013 Maison Camille Giroud Grand Cru Clos Vougeot, Côte de NuitsJuicy, mineral, tasty, clean. $180.
2013 Maison Joseph Drouhin 1er Cru Chambolle-Musigny, Côte de Nuits $75.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2013 Benjamin Leroux 1er Cru “Clos de la Cave des Ducs” Volnay, Côte de Beaune
2013 Chandon de Briailles Grand Cru “Corton-Bressandes” Corton, Côte de Beaune – Whole cluster, massively tannic.
2013 Château de la Tour Grand Cru “Classique” Clos Vougeot, Côte de Nuits
2014 Domaine de la Grand’Cour/Jean-Louis Dutraive “Vieilles Vignes” Brouilly, Beaujolais – Smoky, juicy, berry.
2013 Domaine de Montille Grand Cru “Clos du Roi” Corton, Côte de Beaune – Rustic and earthy, with leathery tannins.
2013 Domaine Mortet “Vieilles Vignes” Fixin, Côte de Nuits – Juicy, bright. Yummy.
2013 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol 1er Cru “Chevret” Volnay, Côte de Beaune – Earthy, tight, a bit rustic
2013 Maison Louis Jadot 1er Cru “Clos des Ursules” Beaune, Côte de Beaune – Juicy, tight, berry.
2013 Maison Louis Jadot Grand Cru “Corton-Pougets” Corton, Côte de Beaune – Tight, lean.

RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2013 Chandon de Briailles 1er Cru “Les Vergelesses” Pernand-Vergelesses, Côte de Beaune
2013 Chandon de Briailles 1er Cru “Ile des Vergelesses” Pernand-Vergelesses, Côte de Beaune – Peppery.