Getting to grips with Burgundy and its wines is a life’s work. But what greater quest or hobby could there be? Trainspotting? Quilting? Collecting postman’s hats? I think not.
As you know — well-versed wine-loving Spectator reader that you are — there are just two grape varieties to bother with in Burgundy: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This should make things simple. But it’s how and where said grapes are grown, vinified and aged that makes things complicated, with each village, vineyard, viticulturalist and vigneron of the Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais adding their own unique little soupçon to the mix.
I can’t think of a better way of getting to grips with the region than by finding a top-class artisanal producer and tasting as many of their wines as possible and seeing how they differ. Ask some mates over, polish your drinking boots and get cracking. Oh come on, it beats standing in the drizzle on platform 2 noting locomotive numbers.
To which end, let me introduce you to Maison Jaffelin, founded in 1816 and the smallest of the great Burgundy houses, famed for its hand-crafted wines that slumber in the great medieval cellars of Beaune’s Notre Dame Collegiate Church.
Thanks to Mr Wheeler, we have curated what I consider to be an excellent snapshot of Burgundy with a total of 18 wines from across the region. If you can’t find anything here to titillate your tastebuds, you can only be an unmitigated Cabernet Sauvignon/Sauvignon Blanc nut or — shudder — a committed teetotaller.
For everyday wines, we’ve put together a deliciously easygoing sextet, available on their own by the dozen or in the mixed Jaffelin Everyday Case. We start with the 2020 Bourgogne Chardonnay (1). Hand--harvested and aged for 11 months in old oak, it’s lively and citrusy and makes a perfect introduction to Burgundy. (£15.75 down from £16.95)
The 2020 Viré Clessé (2) boasts the same lemony vivacity but with an added layer of creaminess plus, hmmm, maybe a hint of ripe stone fruit before finishing bone dry. (£16.45 down from £17.95)
The 2019 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc (3) is rounded and satisfying with white flowers on the nose and lightly honeyed fresh peaches in the mouth. (£17.95 down from £19.95)
The 2020 Bourgogne Pinot Noir (4) is bang on song for entry-level Pinot: fresh, vibrant and enticing, with juicy fruit and a whisper of vanilla. (£15.75 down from £16.95)
The 2019 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge (5) is more focused and expressive, with luscious dark fruit and a slightly savoury finish. (£17.45 down from £18.95)
The 2017 Chorey-les-Beaune (6) is a step up, with soft, juicy, mellow hedgerow fruit, a touch of spice and excellent length. (£22.95 down from £24.95)
The Jaffelin Everyday Case (7) has two bottles each of wine 1-6.
For those who fancy wines with greater regional idiosyncrasies and increased concentration, finesse and elegance, please consider the Jaffelin Supper Party Case (8), which consists of two bottles each of the 2019 Rully Blanc, 2017 Saint-Romain Blanc, 2019 Ladoix Blanc, 2018 Auxey-Duresses ‘1er Cru Les Duresses’, 2018 Pernand-Vergelesses ‘1er Cru En Caradeux’ and 2017 Santenay ‘1er Cru Les Gravières’.
And if you want to turn things up to 11, we’ve a Swanky Six (9), packed in a wooden box. Comprising one bottle each of the 2019 Saint-Aubin ‘1er Cru Sur Gamay’, 2020 Meursault, 2020 Puligny-Montrachet, 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, 2018 Chambolle-Musigny, 2015 Beaune 1er Cru ‘Les Cent Vignes’, this is a selection to conjure with, which shows Jaffelin at the top of its game. If you like Burgundy, you will love it.
Delivery, as ever, is free.