ALTHOUGH drinkable white Burgundy for about £6 may sound like one of Del Boy’s dodgy deals, that is the target of the latest Spectrum Seal of Approval quest.
Remember, to gain that accolade a wine must be of above average quality for the money, typical of its style and readily available in the high street.
The aristocrats among white Burgundy offer soft and velvety wine usually with a basis of peach, orange or other tropical fruit but given an edge of citrus-based acidity and, at the top end, minerality too.
Up in the north of the region, chablis tends to be lighter, flintier and more acidic but with less influence of oak. All styles work with fish but a racy and delicate chablis is unsurpassable with shellfish.
Once you leave the top rungs of the price ladder, however, winemakers – especially in the co-operatives – are less able to control the exact quality of the grapes and the regimes under which they are grown. Smoothness and balance can suffer accordingly, sometimes resulting in wines with harshness, an unattractive earthiness or just too much acidity.
Success stories, however, do exist – but often come from the periphery (rather than epicentre) of the great appellations. Take, for example, the best priced Seal of Approval wine, 2012 Macon Villages Blanc (£5.29, Tesco). This is from the southern extremity of the region but successfully replicates the smoothness and freshness of more expensive versions – albeit in a lighter style with merely a hint of tropical ripeness beneath its tangy orchard fruit and tangerine acidity.
The other keenly priced winner is 2012 Macon Villages (£6.99, Lidl) which is more deeply coloured with riper peach and orange fruit but still matches the softness of the Tesco version. It also has a touch of savoury minerality and, as a nifty contrast, concluding grapefruit and lemon grass acidity.
Lifting the price to the £7-£10 category gives access to greater sophistication and I was particularly impressed by 2012 Macon Villages Chardonnay (£7.49, Co-op) from the co-operative at Lugny. It builds on a delightfully clean, minty opening to deliver soft apple and grapefruit flavours, lively acidity and a skilfully balanced savoury edge.
Moving from co-operatives to family-based wine companies, Louis Jadot is a good source of stylish, well-made Burgundy at fair prices – such as 2012 Macon Villages Les Roches Blanches, Louis Jadot (down to £7.99 at Majestic until 2 December). This is a soft and mellow white with clear minerality to underpin its peach and ripe pear fruit which is then perfectly off-set by zesty, lemon-centred acidity.
Switching to chablis, do seek out the firm apple and lime acidity that earns extra marks for 2012 Finest Chablis Grande Cuvée (£8.99, Tesco). Amid those traditional sharp and clean elements, there is also considerable depth and softness and a fruity elegance reminiscent of wines from warmer climates.
Rather more of the region’s classic flinty bite surfaces in 2012 The Co-operative Chablis (£9.99, Co-op) but, here, it is deftly harmonised with very smooth apple and orange flavours that lead, initially, into gentle citrus influences and, eventually, an even more emphatic fresh finish.
Although white Burgundy will seldom be “everyday drinking”, these Spectrum Seal of Approval selections do offer tasty, reliable and, above all, inexpensive illustrations of why the style is so widely praised.
2012 Elki Pedro Ximenez Elqui Valley, Chile, 13 per cent
Unlike its very sweet Spanish namesake, South American pedro ximenez often produces fresh dry and savoury whites like this. However, there is also enough textured orange and lemon fruit to underpin the main herby, fennel flavours with attractive citric acidity. £7.75, Bon Vivant’s Companion, Thistle Street, Edinburgh
2011 Bouton Larroze Braucol Côtes du Tarn, France, 13.5 per cent
A beautifully polished red (using a little known indigenous grape – braucol) with intense black cherry and mulberry flavours, shrewdly judged tannin and rounded undercurrents of vanilla and other spices. £8.99, Abbey Wines, Melrose