With the insatiable demand for Pinot Noir from Burgundy continuing to grow, and with it the stratospheric pricing, we are now seeing the ‘humble’ Bourgogne wines pushing their way up towards $100.
This takes them well beyond a ‘humble’ wine to open casually and leaves many seeking alternative wines that may offer a similar level of quality but without the hefty price tag. While Beaujolais has been a great beneficiary of this trickle-down process, there is still an appellation worth exploring that actually straddles both Burgundy and Beaujolais offering wines with immediate appeal; combining the playfulness of Gamay and the majesty of Pinot Noir.
A wine labelled as Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains may come from vineyards anywhere in the Burgundy (Bourgogne) appellation, meaning they can come from as far north as around Chablis and Auxerre, and right down to Beaujolais. It must contain at least 30 per cent Pinot Noir, 15 per cent Gamay and have no more than a total of 15 per cent of other permitted grape varieties in the blend.
As the name loosely translates to ‘all grapes allowed’ which in a sense can downplay the wine as being the off-cuts or declassified materials, other growers choose to translate it as referring to the co-plantation of both Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes within the same vineyards. This is how the wine was created traditionally, by picking entire blocks including both Gamay and Pinot Noir before co-fermenting them to produce the wine.
In more recent times however, many producers have started to use fruit from different sources and then either co-fermenting or blending the separate wines at a later date. This is particularly so today given sites planted to Pinot Noir typically have the potential to fetch higher prices and many growers in the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune are pulling up any plantings of Gamay to replace with Pinot Noir for this reason.
The producers within the lauded areas who do still have Gamay planted and are committed to Passetoutgrains are by and large those considered ‘traditional’ producers who have been established in the region for generations and rarely budge in their philosophies to cater to the current market, thus they are more committed to the styles they produce than chasing expanded profit margins.
It wasn’t until Bourgogne wines started touching on $100 and topflight Beaujolais began making its run in a similar direction that much thought was given to Passetoutgrains, but with a vintage like 2019 starting to hit our shores the plethora of good quality examples are starting to filter into the market and, while they may not last long, they will give plenty of drinking pleasure if you happen to see them. They deliver the bright immediate appeal of a juicy Gamay without any pretensions to becoming a wine for the cellar as many Cru Beaujolais are now built. They also carry enough of a firm focused and silky structure from Pinot Noir to give them shape and length.
Domaine Rougeot Bourgogne Passetoutgrains ‘Vercherres’ 2019 – $59
The no-sulphur bottling of Domaine Rougeot is absolutely delicious from the moment it is first poured. The aromatics are moderately intense with cherry, strawberry and subtle exotic spices. The fruit is lively and attractive to taste, dominated by juicy red fruits supported by some earth and spice notes of licorice and minerals. The texture is light and silky with a well-judged balance of acid and tannin to give it a clean focused finish and encourage another glass. $59 may not be amazing value in absolute terms, but if you are searching for an ‘affordable’ burgundy or simply a delicious, high quality summer red than it definitely delivers for the price.