As winemaker at Burgundy’s Jean-Claude Boisset, Grégory Patriat oversees an extensive portfolio of grand and premier cru wines that are coveted by collectors and connoisseurs around the world. The one he prides himself on, however, is Les Ursulines, the largest production of chardonnays and pinot noirs coming out of the winery within the walls of the former Ursulines convent in Nuits-Saint-George.
They establish the style of the winery, he explains. As the wines that travel the furthest and are tasted by the most people, they become the quality signature for everything he makes.
How exciting then to taste the ripe and expressive Les Ursulines Bourgogne Pinot Noir from the challenging 2021 vintage. Patriat and winemaking counterparts throughout Burgundy faced a growing season where spring frosts in April reduced production by more than half – particularly damaging the earlier-budding chardonnay vines – followed by a cool and damp summer and rainy conditions in September that delayed ripening in the grapes that remained.
The Boisset company’s report on the 2021 vintage in Burgundy explains, “The region has rarely experienced such harsh conditions, even the older generations can only recall the vintage of 1951 as being so extreme.”
As a result, quantities are severely limited. The prices associated have increased because of the scarcity. There will be sticker shock for wine lovers used to seeing $25 price tags on bottles of Bourgogne Pinot Noir. Collectors, meanwhile, who are successful at securing premier and grand cru wines are spending unprecedented amounts for the pleasure.
The good news is that Burgundy was blessed with a large crop of quality grapes in the 2022 harvest, which will see inventories return to normal this time next year.
Boisset’s surprising 2021 pinot noir is recommended this week alongside other classic bottles from Europe and beyond.
Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2017 (Italy), $58.95
This expressive and earthy red wine shows the structure and complexity you’d expect from top-quality Brunello, with maturing tobacco and leather notes over sweet-sour cherry flavours. The style is approachable and charming now. Decant and enjoy. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price, $64.99 in British Columbia ($59.99 until March 4), various prices in Alberta, $63.25 in Quebec.
Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (New Zealand), $26.95
Astrolabe offers a dry and dialled-in expression of sauvignon blanc, with tremendous fragrance and harmony. This is benchmark Marlborough with nicely layered tropical fruit and herbal flavours and an elegant character. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $26.99 in British Columbia (2021 vintage), various prices in Alberta, $30.99 in New Brunswick, $37 in Nova Scotia (2021 vintage).
Brancaia Tre 2020 (Italy), $24.95
Tre refers to the three grapes varieties, sangiovese, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and three vineyard sites in Tuscany, Maremma, Castellina and Radda in Chianti, used to create this engaging red wine. Sangiovese represents 70 per cent of the blend, with equal parts merlot and cabernet, which makes for a dry and distinctive taste with an appealing mix of ripe dark fruit and spicy flavours. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $31.99 in Saskatchewan, $38 in Nova Scotia.
Brotte La Fiole Reserve Côtes du Rhone Villages 2018 (France), $29.99
The distorted shape of the bottles used for Brotte’s La Fiole range makes these Rhône Valley wines stand out on the shelves. A ripe and appealing red blend of grenache and syrah, this reserve also makes an impression with its succulent fruit and spicy character. Its round and generous style is easy to appreciate. Drink now to 2025. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursulines Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2021 (France), $33.95
Les Ursulines is the entry level label of the Boisset range. It is produced from pinot noir grown in the Côte du Nuits and aged in French oak for 12 months, which contributes to the concentration and complexity. A pinot noir with vitality and an engaging mix of sweet fruit and savoury notes, this offers much more than one would expect from a basic Bourgogne rouge. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.99 in Manitoba, $25.45 in Quebec, $35.99 in Manitoba, $36.98 in Newfoundland.
Jean-Pierre Moueix Bordeaux 2018 (France), $19.95
This is a complex and fragrant red wine made by one of Bordeaux’s foremost winemaking families. The mix of floral, earthy and savoury notes add interest to the plummy and cherry fruit flavours. Smooth and nicely integrated, this is a dry red that is best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia.
Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2015 (Spain), $19.95
There’s a lot to appreciate about this well-made, approachable red wine from Rioja, from the warm, inviting fragrance to the alluring dark fruit and savoury flavours. There’s richness and concentration, with nice structure and a lingering aftertaste. Crowd-pleasing as well as complex, this is a worthy introduction to the tempranillo-based wines of Rioja for the uninitiated. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price ($16.95 until Feb. 26), various prices in Alberta, $23.62 in Manitoba, $18.95 in Quebec, $26.29 in New Brunswick, $26.49 in Nova Scotia, $22.51 in Newfoundland, $26.19 in Prince Edward Island.
Vilmart et Cie Grande Réserve 1er Cru Champagne (France), $73.95
Grand Réserve is made from estate grown grapes from the village of Rilly-La-Montagne. A blend of pinot noir (70 per cent) and chardonnay from the 2019, 2018 and 2017 vintages contributes to its rich and fruity style. Nicely polished and harmonious, this is a terrific grower-estate producer that has been making Champagne since 1890. Available in Ontario at the above price, $68 in Quebec.
Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Australia), $24.95
A harmonious blend of shiraz and cabernet from the Barossa and Eden valleys, this offers a fresh and layered take on Australia’s signature red blend. Made in a full-bodied yet vibrant style, this offers pleasing red fruit with some cedar and chocolate notes. The polished character is ready to drink but promises to mature gracefully. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
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