May 21, 2008

Bouchard is not Bouchard

It's a rookie mistake, one I've made in that past. But I'm not a wine rookie anymore, right? I guess not. Maybe that would explain how I bought one producer's wine thinking I was buying another producer's.

Did you know there are two Bouchards in Burgundy? Even just writing that makes a voice in my heard scream, well, duh. If nothing else, France is legendary for having multiple wine producers with the same name.

I should know. I was a good 16 years ago that I found Mouton Cadet. Hmm, what's this? Mouton? For $7? Of course, I knew is wasn't really Chateau Mouton Rothschild. But maybe it was a close sibling, something of quality well above its price.

Well, no, that wasn't the case then and still isn't. Mouton Cadet may still be close enough to that same $7 price, but it's also still about as far from the first growth Bordeaux that it's named for as it ever was. If you look up the word "plonk" in the dictionary, you see Mouton Cadet. If you look up the word "fool," perhaps on that day you'd have seen my face.

Wish I could say that isn't true today.

I should know better than to assume one Latour is the same as another Latour, or that one Chave is just like the other Chave, and so on. Or that one Bouchard -- that's Bouchard Aine & Fils -- is the same as Bouchard Pere & Fils.

Now I didn't question the "Aine" vs. the "Pere," which of course is my mistake. A simple web search will show you that the two are quite different. One, that's Pere, is among of the larger producers of fine Burgundy out there. The other, Aine, is infamous for lackluster wines.

Of course, it was Aine that caught my eye when shopping for inexpensive Burgundy (probably the other mistake, but I'm afraid I'll never learn that lesson). So I ended up with a few bottles of what Burg geeks would undoubtedly turn their noses up at. At least they were indeed cheap. And what do you know, what I've tried hasn't been half bad. Maybe not worth my time, or at least my liver, but not completely void of pleasure and, well, education.

I reported recently on the decent if unspectacular 2000 Bouchard Aine & Fils Pommard "Signature." Tonight I opened a 2001 Bourchard Aine & Fils Nuits Saint Georges "Les Chaboeufs" 1er Cru. It's not a great year and not a great vineyard, but still it's in a nice neighborhood in a fine village.

And what do you know? The wine is alright. Not great, but not horrible. Maybe worth the $20 I paid but not at all the bargain I hoped I had found. The color is translucent ruby, the aroma pretty and perfumed, with cherries and classic Burgundian forest floor notes. It's certainly more youthful than that Pommard.

But in the mouth...let's just say this is a wine that Burg haters would really hate. It's acidic, even tart, with decent flavors but a short finish. It's the kind of wine that gets you thinking of what's NOT wrong about it. Not too extracted, not alcoholic, but also not so great without food. This is just the kind of wine that people call "elegant" to be kind, which is too bad because the greatest wines are truly elegant, not simply lean and needing food, but gorgeous in a simple yet profound way.

This wine is not elegant. It's simply decent Burgundy but nothing better. Certainly nothing worth its premier cru status, but that only leads to the greatest Burgundy lesson of them all. Don't buy vintage. Don't buy vineyard. Do buy producer. Although these Bouchard Aine wines could be a lot worse, don't buy them. You can do much better for less, and I guess that's a lesson I'll probably continue to have to learn again and again...and again...and...again.

No comments: