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2002 Burgundy Wine Tasting



"About the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker - samples submitted to publications are doctored constantly. If you think you're buying the wines reviewed, you're wrong. Go to tastings and decide for yourself. Take all reviews with a gigantic grain of salt."
-- John Miller

John Miller is the Director of Training and Education for the Boston Wine Company, and has been with the company for 10 years. John held a tasting of 2002 Burgundies in central Massachusetts, free to the public, with the aim to educate all both about the wonders of good Burgundy wines and to show them how to believe in their own palates. The quotes in this review belong to John.

I am an enthusiastic proponent of people tasting for themselves, and deciding for themselves what to like. The Burgundy tasting was a fantastic event for all who attended. Be sure to attend tastings in your own area, to learn for yourself what wines best suit your palate! In the meantime, read through these notes to get ideas and to learn about wines.

For those new to Burgundy wines, Burgundy is a region of France that only grows two grapes - Chardonnay (white) and Pinot Noir (red). This region has grown these wines for hundreds of years. The 2002 harvest was an extraordinary vintage, producing great wines both in the lower priced and higher priced ranges. The year was great for both red and white wines.

John pointed out that "There is no area where you can spend more money and get worse wine than Burgundy. But when you hit a great one, it's just magic". He explained that part of the issue is with size of production. "The problem with Burgundy is that production there is microscopic." A given winery might only make 3 barrels of wine - i.e. 75 cases for the entire world. The wineries are often tiny plots of land. "One can drive north to south in the Cote d'or in 1 hour. Most wineries really don't make that much money." You tend to pay more for Burgundy because the wine is so scarce and is hard to make.

John spoke for a while about tasting wines in general. He suggested that newcomers to wine "buy a great producer's cheapest wine" since those wines are made with the same skill and quality as the higher end wines. He also added, "If you eat different foods every night of the week, you should drink a different wine every night of the week" because a wine should pair well with the food it is drunk with. John has no one favorite wine - it depends on the food being eaten, the heat or cold, the weather, and other situations. When visiting a wine region, John suggested for visitors to "go to restaurants and ask what the best wines of the area are". The restaurant owners will typically know which are the best and recommend those.

John talked frequently about how each person's palate is quite unique. "We're dealing with a totally subjective area like music and art", he pointed out. "If you like it, you like it." No one taster - no matter how experienced - can speak for others. "If you dislike it, there's probably someone who likes this characteristic of it."

John spoke about how for example some people are very sensitive to corked wines, but some are not. While some of a person's tasting ability is genetic, much of a person's palate depends on where that person lives! As you spend months in a given location, your nose gets used to the local smells and starts to ignore them. Since most of a wine's flavor comes from its aroma, what you sense in a wine can depend on what aromas your nose is typically "used to" in your home climate. There are other factors in tasting, too. For example, women have more taste buds then men. In the end, many things determine what a given person likes and dislikes. It's important for each of us to determine for ourselves what wines we enjoy the most.

Now, on to the tastings!

2002 Burgundies - Whites
2002 Burgundies - Reds

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