From our kitchen: Burgundian fish stew

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Photograph: Joe Woodhouse
As all eyes are on Burgundy for the release of the region’s 2018s, our Head Chef Stewart Turner has rustles up a recipe for a fish stew that will sing alongside the region’s whites

January is Burgundy season and I’m a real fan of these wines. It is definitely my favourite wine region, especially for whites, with Meursault being my go-to for a special occasion. So, with all that in mind – and breaking with tradition – I’m doing a dish to go with all those fantastic Burgundian whites. These wines are often paired, and work fantastically well, with shellfish; but as Burgundy is landlocked, I thought it would be great to do something that hails from the region. This is my take on what is a classic freshwater fish stew, or Pôchouse, as it’s known to the locals.

River fish are an acquired taste and their popularity has been declining for many years, so they can be quite hard to source. I’ve stuck with trout and crayfish, as they are readily available, but you can use carp or perch, although these are mainly produced in Eastern Europe and China where they remain popular.

PôchouseServes 6
  • 3 river trout
  • 1 leek – chopped
  • 1 stick celery – chopped
  • 1 onion – peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ bunch of flat parsley – picked with stalks reserved for the stock
  • 500g small new potatoes
  • 150g crayfish tails
  • 150 g smoked eel fillets – diced
  • 100g small button mushrooms
  • 100g button onions – peeled
  • 500ml white wine
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 50g unsalted butter – diced

Fillet the fish, or ask your fishmonger to do this for you – just make sure you get the heads and bones for the stock. Remove the eyes and the gills from the fish heads. Rinse the bones well to remove any blood. Cut the fillets into large chunks.

Put the fish heads and bones in a pot. Cover with clean water (about a litre). Bring to a boil and remove the scum that will rise to the surface with a slotted spoon. Add the leek, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, bay and parsley stalks. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve and set aside. Place the wine in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to 150ml, then add the passed stock and reduce by half. While the stock is reducing, add the button onions and new potatoes. Poach for about 10 minutes until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

Add the cream and bring the mixture back to the boil. Reduce the heat and poach the trout until just cooked. While the fish is cooking, lightly sauté the button mushrooms with the diced smoked eel, and then put to one side with the onions and potatoes.

Once cooked, place the fish on a serving dish and keep warm. Return the sauce to the boil. Whisk in the diced butter and mustard, then fold in the crayfish tails. Simmer for a couple of minutes to warm through, then mix in the potatoes, onion, eel and mushroom mix. Finish with the chopped parsley, season to taste and then pour over the fish. Serve with some sprouting broccoli and crusty bread.

What to drink: You can’t go wrong with our own-label white Burgundy, but this dish would benefit from a wine that has a bit more weight and richness. Try one of Stewart’s favourites with our own-label Meursault. Of course, you could also go for a less authentic partner with Chardonnay from elsewhere – something like this superb Napa example (that also happens to be in our Sale) would work nicely.

Browse our range of Burgundy 2018 en primeur here

Category: Food & Wine

In our Sale: five of the best

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As we add a host of new bottles to our Sale, we pick five of the best bottles available

2016 Mullineux, Kloof Street Chenin Blanc, Swartland, South Africa: This old-vine Chenin Blanc comes from one of South Africa’s leading new wave producers, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines. From their Kloof Street range, it’s designed for earlier drinking than its other more age-worthy styles – but offers incredible complexity for its price. (£10.46, down from £14.95)

2016 Rosso di Toscana, Sangiovese, Scopetone, Tuscany, Italy: Scopetone is better known for its superb Brunello di Montalcino, but the estate also makes this top-class “entry-level” Sangiovese. The fruit is picked early to make a wine full of vim – vibrant red-berry fruit and amazing subtlety for its Rosso di Toscana status. (£10.15, down from £14.50)

2006 Champagne Gosset, Grand Millésime, Brut: Vintage Champagne, in a Sale: need we really say much more? Gosset isn’t the best-known Champagne House – partly because most of their wines go directly to top-end restaurants around the world thanks to their food-friendly style. This – from the 2006 vintage – is drinking beautifully now, but has much more time ahead of it too (an excellent excuse to stock up). (£52.00, down from £65.00)

2015 Frankland Estate, Olmo’s Reward, Frankland River, Australia: Frankland Estate was the first winery to set up in Frankland River – leading the way in a corner of Western Australia that is now known for its elegant cool-climate wines. While they work with a lot of Riesling and Shiraz, this is their flagship cuvée – an incredible Cabernet blend (more Franc than Sauvignon) from old vines in its Isolation Ridge Vineyard. (£34.65, down from £44.00)

2014 Ramey, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California: David Ramey may have made his name with his benchmark Chardonnays, but he’s now also working with Pinot Noir – and the wines are, unsurprisingly, just as good. This, the first vintage of his Russian River Valley Pinot, is layered with bright red fruit, and a plushness thanks to some new oak. It’s also a rare chance to pick up Californian wine with a little bottle age. (£39.96, down from £49.95)

Please note that stocks of Sale wines are, by their very nature, limited; so these wines may not be available for long.

Browse everything in our Sale here

Category: Miscellaneous

Burgundy 2018: where to find value

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

There is much more to Burgundy than its most famous plots and producers – if you know where to look. As the 2018 vintage is released en primeur, our Wine Director Mark Pardoe MW offers his insider tips on where to find serious value

Nothing in Burgundy is made in large volumes. The most famous wines are almost impossible to find, as the tiny quantities usually have to be allocated, and prices for these rarities are high. But there are ways you can get a foothold on the Burgundy ladder and find wines that give the thrill of Burgundy’s unique qualities – without having to break the bank.

Big names, “lesser” wines

The one immutable fact about Burgundy is that the name of the producer is the most important guarantor of quality. Great producers make excellent wines at all levels. While their top wines may command eye-watering prices, almost all Burgundians have a broad portfolio, running from the generic to the great. They may cost a little more than their peers, but don’t hesitate to pick up these “lesser” wines when they are made by Burgundy’s most admired producers.

Non-village village wines

A lot of Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc is created by blending across the region but, at smaller growers, some generic wines are created from vineyards situated only around the famous villages. Although less intense and to be drunk young, in the right hands these wines can capture the essence of a village’s character, be it the steely minerality of Puligny, the silky intensity of Vosne or the floral delicacy of Chambolle. There is no way of knowing from the label. Be sure to check our tasting notes, which always aim to show each wine’s provenance.

Climate change vineyards

Burgundy’s quality hierarchy is based on the empirical observation of each vineyard’s ability to ripen fully and, for centuries, those vineyards on the best soils and situated mid-slope have been identified as prime land. The converse is that vineyards that struggled to ripen, although on good soil, were not so well regarded. But as climate change brings earlier harvests, these out-lying vineyards are coming into consideration. Look at wines from villages tucked into the valleys, such as St Aubin, Pernand-Vergelesses and St Romain for whites, or higher locations, like Monthélie and Blagny for reds.

Look for old vines

As vines age, their yield reduces and the fruit gathered is more concentrated. This quality is much prized as, although the volumes produced are smaller, quality and intensity are enhanced. This is seen as a particular benefit to Burgundy’s great wines, but there is a win lower down the scale as well. Many producers still prefer to keep as many old vines as is practical, even though this is a more commercially challenging decision. Sometimes producers will label their wines as “vieilles vignes”, but there is no legal definition of an old vine, so others may not.

Halo effect villages

As demand for the great names of Burgundy increases, it pays to keep an eye on their neighbours. Santenay borders Chassagne where the soil turns more to red wine territory (for the same reason, do not underestimated Chassagne’s reds, for which it was once more famed), Auxey-Duresses has much in common with Meursault, whereas in the north, Fixin borders Gevrey-Chambertin and itself runs into Marsannay. Do not necessarily expect the finesse of the more renowned villages, but you will find very worthy and delicious wines.

Flying south

With the price of land in the Côte d’Or increasingly prohibitive, many producers are looking south to the Côte Chalonnais, Mâconnais and Beaujolais. A much greater understanding of these regions’ terroir has catalysed a resurgence in quality, led by existing domaines and now joined by increasing numbers of renowned producers from the Cote d’Or, keen to make wines that are both affordable and of quality in line with their own reputations, and thus able to offer wines with their imprimatur to their growing bands of customers.

Head for the hills

Although much of the traditional focus on Burgundy is on the precious vineyards of the Côte d’Or, there are also vineyards in the higher country to the west, behind the famous hills. There is some fine terroir here and, in centuries past, some villages were held in very high regard. The themes are well-known: a new generation of vignerons, better vineyard management, climate change, a better understanding of the market, and a quality halo effect from the famous wines; all these influences are helping to support wines that offer both value and interest.

Explore the full list of Mark’s recommendations here, or browse all Burgundy 2018 En Primeur at bbr.com/burgundy2018

Category: Burgundy Wine

Burgundy 2018: the new normal?

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

As our offering of Burgundy 2018 En Primeur goes live, our Buyer Adam Bruntlett introduces the vintage – one that offered both quality and quantity, but also posed new challenges for the region’s growers

The 2018 vintage encapsulates the future of Burgundy; a snapshot, perhaps, of the new normal. A warm and dry summer which yielded perfectly ripe and healthy grapes, picked in August and early September, giving charming and succulent wines. Gone are the days when vignerons faced an anxious wait as grapes struggled to ripen before the onset of rot, harvesting in wet and cold conditions in late September or October. Thin, green and acidic wines are no more. The practice of chaptalisation – adding sugar to the grape must to boost its alcohol – is a thing of the past (much to the dismay of the local sugar merchants). At their best, the 2018 reds are fleshy and dense, with melting tannins, while the crop of Chardonnay is both plentiful and concentrated – a rare combination.

The changing climate of the region, however, presents its own, previously unheard-of challenges. Growers now face a delicate balancing act to pick at precisely the right moment to retain acidity, keep alcohol levels in check and make sure the tannins and flavours are ripe. During the season, they have to innovate, often borrowing techniques from the New World, to ensure the fruit ripens gradually and acidity levels are retained. Now, more than ever, the hard work is done in the vineyard and the vigneron is the key factor in making quality wines. Making great wine in this new age is no easier; the challenges in doing so are simply different.

The noise surrounding the 2018s was cacophonous since before the first grapes were picked. Such a wonderful summer could only produce great wines, and in particular great reds. However, this year’s barrel tastings were surprising; the white wines are of very consistent quality, well-balanced and concentrated. The reds, while often outstanding, can vary significantly, even within the same cellar. Those who picked their Pinot Noir too late often had high alcohol, stuck fermentations and bacterial problems. We are fortunate enough to work with some of the best names in Burgundy, shielding us from the worst of the excesses, but in addition to this, we have made a particularly careful selection of growers and wines this year, rejecting anything which did not meet our high standards.

As a rule in Burgundy, it is best to follow an estate rather than a village or region, and 2018 is no exception. It is therefore difficult to make generalisations about which villages or areas came out on top. However, for white wines, the Mâconnais particularly impressed, perhaps because growers are more adept at dealing with warm summers. As for the reds, the Côte de Beaune has produced a particularly consistent set of wines and Beaune itself continues to offer exceptional value in relation to its peers. We also noted through the course of our tasting that those vineyards with deeper clay soils – typically the low-lying village vineyards and Bourgogne – really punch above their weight, with ripeness and freshness in equal measure.

In light of the changing face of Burgundy, we continue to seek out domaines which can offer value, and particularly those with vineyards in cooler appellations. To that end, we are delighted to introduce Domaine Denis Carré, run by a dynamic brother-and-sister team in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, as well as Domaine Rollin in Pernand-Vergelesses and the excellent-value Montagny wines of François Berthenet. We have also decided to broaden our en primeur offering of Chablis estates, including the exciting barrel-aged wines of Eleni and Edouard Vocoret, as well as Jean-Claude and Romain Bessin, a domaine we have followed for many years, and which is now receiving the recognition it richly deserves.

Photograph: Jason Lowe


The vintage

On a simple level, the 2018 growing season was straightforward with few challenges. After an unusually warm and very wet January, there was a welcome cold snap in February, before yet more rain in March. These substantial periods of rainfall, along with a humid spring, would prove key to sustaining the vines through the warm and dry summer which was to come. From April onwards, the temperatures were consistently one to two degrees above the average, with daily showers through the spring pushing the vines on quickly, but also bringing a serious threat of mildew. This risk was nullified just in time by an extended period of warm, dry weather with occasional light showers, beginning in mid-June and running until well after harvest. For spring and summer the number of sunshine hours was significantly above average, giving the feeling of “luminosity” that can be found in the 2018s. Frost was not a serious issue, but in July hail struck twice to the south of Nuits-St Georges, on 3rd and 15th, with damage reported by growers with vineyards in Comblanchien, Corgoloin and Premeaux-Prissey. Harvest began very early, on 20th August for the most precocious in the Côte de Beaune, with most of the Mâconnais beginning the same week. Harvest dates varied, but the vast majority of the crop had been brought in by mid-September. Conditions were dry and warm, with some rain showers on 7th September, and the fruit was near-perfect. Read a more detailed report on the vintage here.

The white wines

The fear with a large crop and a warm summer was that wines would be either dilute or heavy. In fact, the two factors have cancelled one another out, giving wines with both concentration and freshness. Stylistically they do not feel acidic, but instead have a mineral freshness, along with muscular and sinewy grip. Having tasted several times during the course of 2019, it is clear that they have gained focus with time, and I feel they will finish at a point which is not far from the excellent 2017s. The level of consistency in the white wines is impressive, and there is value from Bourgogne level upwards, with St Aubin and low-lying Meursault village sites particularly impressing.

The red wines

The best reds are beautifully ripe and fleshy, with expressive aromatics, sweet red-berry fruit, supple, melting tannins and a pleasing mineral freshness. The current trend for gentle extraction and using less new oak fits perfectly with a riper vintage such as 2018, where there is plenty of natural colour and structure in the grapes, and those who took a light-touch approach have been most successful. Comparisons have been drawn with 1959, 1990 and perhaps more recently, 2015. These are wines which, while charming and approachable now, will have very good ageing potential. As with whites, the Bourgogne wines and cooler sites such as the Hautes Côtes and Santenay offer outstanding value.

Key points

  • Generous volumes of white wines, while reds are around 10 to 20% down on 2017
  • Whites of a consistently high standard, while reds reach higher peaks
  • A perfectly ripe vintage, with ageing potential for reds in particular
  • Many regional and village vineyards have overperformed and offer excellent value
  • Generally stable prices, although there are some increases

Browse our range of Burgundy 2018 En Primeur here

Category: Burgundy Wine