I have a few Jean Thévenet wines in my cellar and they always provide a completely different view of white Burgundy from pretty much anything else. This wine, from the Mâconnais, is startlingly young for its age and shows the distinctive, botrytis-tinged character that I’ve come to enjoy from Thévenet.
I experienced not-entirely-irrational anxiety as I was opening this wine, based partly on a ridiculously oxidised 2005 white Burgundy I was excited, then disappointed, about last week. This wine’s cork, on extraction, proved to be long and of an apparently high quality. Colour in the glass is beautifully golden, with not a hint of the distressing brown hue that I had feared. So far so good.
What’s really enjoyable about this wine is how it flips between the mineral-driven austerity of tighter Chardonnay styles and the opulence granted it by a hint of residual sugar and botrytis. The palate is grippy and textural, combining with a grapefruit-accented flavour profile to give the impression of pith and pips. So it moves between modes, tight then loose, acid and slight bitterness an intriguing foil to notes of marmalade and richer, riper fruit. If there’s something missing here, it relates to intensity of both aroma and flavour. This isn’t a blockbuster as its 14% ABV and slightly hot finish might suggest. Instead, the wine’s demeanour is laid back, and I suspect what it loses in impact it makes up for in food friendliness.
Cleverly made and provocative in style. Given its freshness, I might taste this again in a few years’ time.
Domaine de la Bongran
Price: $35 (ish)
A humble Village Burgundy from the also-ran Mâconnais region of Burgundy. What makes this a bit interesting is its link to vigneron Jean Thévenet, who tends to employ unconventional techniques in the growing and vinification of his wines, including the occasional oddball inclusion of a portion of botrytised fruit.
This is the very opposite of a showstopper. It’s tendency towards self-effacement almost had me writing it off when I first smelled it. It’s not a matter of blandness, or lack of presence, but rather that its aroma and flavour profiles sink immediately into the kind of deeply comfortable place I associate with home cooking. For a cheap Burgundy from 2004, this still has plenty of fruit swirling around in its aroma, alongside some prickly honey and other evidence of the time it has spent in bottle. It’s round and gently inviting, possessing just enough freshness to present an edge alongside its plushness.
The palate is, as with the nose, surprisingly youthful. The entry is fruit-sweet and almost prickly in mouthfeel, playful if a bit simple. Intensity builds towards the middle palate, where complexity becomes greater and overall presence is more impressive. This really is a good wine given its age and price point. There’s a full spectrum of flavours, from intensely sweet to oddly savoury, all expressed with a relaxation that gently ushers the palate along. There’s too little light and shade as the line moves through the after palate and finish, although the flavour profile tilts more towards savouriness the further it moves along. Structure remains firm and drags satisfying texture across the tongue.
This wine could be plenty more — more intense, more complex, more varied — but its confident relaxation is very appealing and belies its lowly provenance.
Domaine de Roally