Bill Nanson is a man I believe to be under the radar. His website, The Burgundy Report is one of the best fonts of knowledge on the promised land that is Burgundy, one that I refer to on a regular basis. He is also the world’s leading authority on “ladybird taint”, something that I’d dismiss without a thought were it not Bill making the issue. Tim Atkin may be the master at detecting faults (not much fun, if you ask me) but Bill’s description and explanation of one is as good as I’ve experienced.
Bill isn’t a critic or wine journo by trade, which is a shame. Read the Burgundy Report and you’ll see what I mean.
I thank Bill for his answers, and I’ve resisted my urge to edit out the plugs for my former employers…
1) What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?
I guess that there was no ‘one special bottle’, rather a slow, gradual immersion. Wine was a very occasional accompaniment to meals in my family home in Yorkshire; it was much more likely something to augment the beer and gin, etcetera, at parties. Until my early twenties I actually drank very little, beer included, as I was either out running or driving my car – despite grey hair, I seem to have retained the role of chauffeur! I’d always liked the taste of wine though, so began buying a weekly bottle after getting married; graduating first to £6.99 and eventually £10.99 when my wife wasn’t looking! A bottle would easily last us a whole weekend, as I (the ‘non-drinker’) would be cross-eyed after 1/3 of a bottle! After a few years I moved, due to work, to the Reading area, and it turned out that a certain wine-merchant to the Queen had a sales office/warehouse, just 10 miles down the road in Basingstoke. Of-course (shopping alone) the £10.99 barrier had long-since been forgotten, and I was dropping by every Friday evening, and buying about 3 bottles per week – wine from all regions. Eventually business trips to France put me into different wine contexts and, in particular, we were in Burgundy two or three times per year which allowed me to visit all those trashy tourist traps to taste. More and more, I found that my purchases became geographically predictable – it seemed I had a preference for Burgundy.
2) What was the first wine/bottle that took you closer to your maker?
I guess the bottle that made the biggest impression on me, was picked up at the aforementioned wine-merchant to the Queen; pulled from the bin-ends was a 1988 Romanée Saint-Vivant from Thomas-Moillard – the sticker price was (a not inconsiderable) £28 or-so, though it was discounted from £47, or similar. That would have been about 1996/97. I’d already visited Burgundy by then and was a regular wine buyer, but wines to drink, I had no pretensions to having a ‘cellar’ – how could you in a modern house in Reading? But this bottle just demanded that I tried to replicate the experience – it is, of-course, a rare experience but one very-much worth chasing! The following year I bought two cases (not Romanée Saint-Vivant!) from the merchant’s very first Burgundy en-primeur offer (96 vintage) and the die was cast.
3) What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year? – OK, the past twelve months.
The best wine I’ve tasted this year is a wine that I don’t suppose I’ll get many opportunities to drink, but it is a wine that underlines that, whilst there may be some guidelines to drinking Burgundy, there are no hard rules. It was a grand cru from 2005 – a vintage where many wines are very tightly wound and unforgiving, it was also from a magnum, and finally it was from a producer that really doesn’t spare the oak – and I can be very oak-averse. But it was unquestionably a wine apart; ethereal yet intense, complex and unbelievably dynamic. Simply exceptional, even in the context of that over-achieving vintage. It was Clos de Tart. Of-course, given today’s pricing, Clos de Tart is an aspirational wine, but adding the context of price, I can offer a second choice: also from 2005 and drunk only last month, a Bourgogne Rouge that could wear a 1er Cru label in any other vintage – simply fantastic – and made by the charming, smiling Ghislaine Barthod.