What better way to unleash this thing with a wine that, by conventional wisdom, courts disaster on several fronts: 2003 white Burgundy. First, 2003 was a blazing hot vintage that was kind to almost nobody, but the traditionally richer yet more intricate, multi-faceted white Burgundies like Meursault took it especially hard. Then you’ve got the premox problem, which should be in full evidence by this wine’s tenth birthday. The topper is that this particular bottle has seen what could be charitably termed a variety of storage conditions.
Not only is Meursault, a richer wine from one of Burgundy’s less affordable neighborhoods (this was around $80 if memory serves), not immune to such dangers, it’s been in my experience the most likely white Burgundy to turf out by its tenth birthday. In a house running low on drinkable white wine, though, this was sitting in the cellar not likely getting any better, thus its number was up.
By this point you’ve probably surmised that it was very, very good. More important than that, it was classic Meursault: Wet stone, cream and pear aromas were so strong they bordered on crude. Those stormed a full-bodied palate with nutty, warm-spiced, more expansive burnished yellow fruit like middle-aged lapsed hipsters still grasping for cultural relevance storm their local music shop on Record Store Day. A fine but mean acid streak kept things moving along by playing up the complex mineral-fruit interplay toward a long, stony, creamy and entirely cohesive finish. It was refreshing yet satisfying and even haunting in the way only good and, unfortunately, fairly expensive white Burgundy can be (though a few California producers come damn close). Like I said, pretty good.
The reason this wine beat the odds goes back to a wine adage too old to not be more prevalent, so I’m going to say it again (and likely again): Buy producers, not vintages. That’s easy to say with a bottle of upper-tier Pierre Morey in my hand, made by a guy who used to make wine at Domaine Leflaive, who’ve manage to make a decent bottle every once in a while. It is a saying more likely to prove true at the upper end of the market because that’s where the stakes get high due to vintage hype; think Southern Rhône in 2007, Tuscany in 2006, Burgundy in 2005 or Bordeaux at least every five vintages, where plenty of top-dollar producers made outright garbage that was either too ripe in the first place or so powerful that the wines will probably never mature to anything enjoyable, but, hey, the scores were good, right?
That doesn’t mean we all have to moonlight at Greyhound station bathrooms to get the scratch to buy reliable, even age-worthy producers. If anything, the low to mid-range – say, $12 to $36 – offers more options for those who want exceptional value wine from a particular vintage-sensitive region regardless of what the press says about the quality of the vintage. Given the vagaries of distribution, pricing and import conditions, not to mention the sheer scope of what it would entail, there’s no use in giving a list of such producers here (although I’m happy to suggest some if you comment or e-mail me). This is where your trusted wine pusher comes in. Find someone in a good wine shop (provided you have one of those where you are) who nails your taste pretty much every time and ask to be turned on to one of these kinds of producers. They’re sometimes tough to get since more than a few of them can be very tightly allocated and sought after. That said, if you’re patronizing an even remotely acceptable place to buy wine, they’ve got stuff like this hanging out somewhere just waiting for someone like you to ask for it.