2012 Burgundy Tasting Notes From an Amateur (Read at Your Own Risk)

Just like any good wine lover, when I hear the word Burgundy, my ears perk up, my eyes widen and my tongue may even start to salivate. Its reputation, its history, the delicate winemaking and strict rules it must adhere to – it has all the romance and passion that’s wrapped into the story of wine.

So when I received an invitation to try a line-up of 2012 Burgundies from MacArthur Beverages, it didn’t take long for me to agree – especially since I’ve had limited exposure to it. Not just this vintage, but Burgundy in general. (And yes, I warned them I was an extreme amateur before accepting the invitation!)

The tasting – which took place in the back corner of the store with the bottles resting on a shelf held up by wine barrels – was on a Monday night and very casual. Phil poured from six wines, ranging in price from $22 to $220. But it wasn’t the tasting of different price points which excited me. It was the opportunity to comparatively taste all the traditional classifications of the AOC against each other: From regional, to village, to Premier Cru, and up to a bottle of Grand Cru. (And yes, I realize the wines will most likely go up in price depending on its classification – but that’s not the point of my excitement here.)

The lineup of wines poured at MacArthur Beverages on April 20, 2015 | Photo by itswinebyme.

Here’s my takeaway: All six wines were beautiful in their own right. There was nothing offensive about them and I’d be happy sharing any of these bottles with anyone. (But then again, I’m sure they were chosen because they were fine examples of the vintage and terroir.) I’m not well versed in vintage variations, so I can’t say how these compares to other years. It was interesting (to me) that I didn’t get that typical “Burgundy funk” on the nose until I reached the last two wines (we tasted in order of classification, but for fun – I then tasted in reverse order as a way to revisit some of the pours). This won’t be a traditional review – I’ll leave that to the other more experienced palates who were there.

These are the wines we tasted (the photo above is this order from left to right):

* 2012 Joseph Faiveley, Bourgogne ($22): A beautiful, bright floral, fruit-forward nose. As a California girl, it reminded me a bit of Sonoma Coast’s Littorai (and while I realize that Littorai emulates Burgundy – not the other way around, it’s where my wine journey started, so inhaling this wine took me to that experience). At $22, it’s a wine that’s easy to share with anyone – whether they understand wine or not.

* 2012 Joseph Drouhin, Cote de Nuits – Villages ($25): My very limited note taking during the tasting has the words “meaty” and “pepper” written down, next to this wine. Unlike the first wine, there was a bit more structure. Of all the wines, this was the least memorable to me. I didn’t taste this a second time like I did the others. Is that saying something about this wine? Maybe.

* 2012 Domaine Joblot, Clos du Cellier aux Moines, Givry Premier Cru ($45): This appeared to be a crowd pleaser, or maybe just everyone was curious enough to keep going back to it. For my inexperienced Burgundy palate, this was the first wine that seemed more like traditional Burgundies I’ve tasted before. The wine appealed to my love for earthy qualities, and it was significantly deeper than the first two.

* 2012 Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Beaune Les Greves Premier Cru ($50): Compared to the Joblot, I didn’t taste much of a difference. When Phil asked my impressions, the first thing I blurted out was “chewy tannins,” which overtook much of the fruit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And it’s one of those wines, I’d love to put in  a decanter and sip over the course of the evening to watch it evolve. (Remember, if you’re itching for more traditional reviews from the same tasting, go here and here.)

* 2012 Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini, Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champonnets Premier Cru ($100): Finesse. At this point in the tasting, I had pretty much resigned myself to only jotting down one word per wine to help me remember it. As I put my nose in my swirled glass, that Burgundy funk reared itself for the first time. But when I took a sip, despite lots of bursting complexity, I took a deep breathe and realized the difference with this wine was it had a very elegant melding of its flavors. About 10 minutes later, I overheard Phil also describe the wine with the word finesse while talking to someone else – so don’t just take my word* on it. (*Note: I’m 95 percent sure he was referencing this same wine. Either way, I’ll stand by my impression.)

* 2012 Domaine Faiveley, Corton Clos de Cortons Faiveley Grand Cru ($220): Phil was quick to point out that this is the only Premier Cru that includes its Domaine’s name on the wine. Is it a sign of confidence? Is this wine that special or different? Is it a marketing ploy? I failed to ask those questions. As the only Grand Cru in this lineup, it’s rich complexity was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was the wine tasted backwards on my palate. On first sip, it seemed slightly flat, but then the backend literally bursted in my mouth and the finish went on and on and on. I knew I was tasting something special, I only wish I had the experience to know how this wine would evolve with age.

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