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White Burgundy Value
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Oct 11, 2016
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Joseph Drouhin, Burgundy, Pouilly-Vinzelles 2015 (Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., $20):  It’s a perennial topic in wine writing:  Finding good-value wines from France’s lauded Burgundy region.  Contrary to many expectations, the region that produces some of the world’s most treasured wines -- the region that made Chardonnay and Pinot Noir famous -- also makes wines that are everyday-affordable.  What’s more, as prices of Burgundy’s elite wines climb sky high, prices of the region’s least expensive wines seem to remain quite steady.

Part of the secret in finding affordable white Burgundies is to look in the geographic extremities of the region, north of the Côte d’Or heartland to the Chablis district, and especially south to the Mâconnais district.  Both areas produce numerous white wines, made entirely from Chardonnay.  Often the wines are unoaked, which makes them less costly to produce and is one factor of their lower prices. 

When I recently tasted a group of affordable white Burgundies produced by the Joseph Drouhin winery, all of the wines hailed from these two areas of Burgundy.  They also were all from 2014, a vintage that produced fresh, flavorful whites with moderate alcohol levels and a strong backbone of acidity.  The wines ranged in price from $13.50 for Mâcon-Villages to $40 for the Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru. 

The discovery of the tasting, to my palate, was the 2014 Joseph Drouhin Pouilly-Vinzelles. While the Chablis Premier Cru showed the highest quality of the group -- an intense, citrus-and-herb-scented, vivacious beauty that is still quite young -- its $40 price can be considered affordable in the context of cru-level Chablis, but less so in the absolute.  In contrast, the Pouilly-Vinzelles boasted impressive quality at a surprisingly affordable price.
Pouilly-Vinzelles is one of five village-level appellations in the Mâconnais, the district’s highest appellation level.  Named after the village of Vinzelles, it is a tiny area of just 126 acres of vines on a steep, east-facing slope; the vines for the Drouhin wine grow at an elevation of 820 feet.

The 2014 Joseph Drouhin Pouilly-Vinzelles has a seductive aroma of peach and floral notes and flavors that suggest peach, lemon, and almond.  It’s dry and medium-bodied, with crisp acidity and soft, mellifluous texture -- contrasting elements that actually harmonize in this case.  Although the flavors are vibrant, they are not exaggerated; together with the harmonious structure, this understatement lends a polish and sophistication to the wine.

I also very much liked the 2014 Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran ($19), and some tasters might prefer it because it is more overtly flavorful and rich.  While the Saint-Veran fermented and aged in stainless steel, the Pouilly-Vinzelles aged partly in oak barrels; the use of oak is a factor in the wine’s understated expression.

Of course, if price is your key consideration, Joseph Drouhin’s 2014 Mâcon-Villages -- medium-bodied, dry, unoaked, with firm acidity and straightforward lemon and apple aromatics -- is a great buy at $13.50. 

Pouilly-Vinzelles, 90 Points