The holidays are a time for food, family and, of course, French wines. Not surprisingly, during this season of giving I can often find myself a bit cash-strapped. For this month, I therefore wanted to choose a wine that was not only palate pleasing but also wallet friendly: Bouchard Père et Fils Réserve Bourgogne Rouge 2011. Short of dropping Gaspard Ulliel down your chimney in a Père Noël suit with a box from Tiffany’s, I can think of no better holiday cadeau.
Founded in 1731, Bouchard Père et Fils is one of Burgundy’s oldest wine estates. Though the Bouchards began purchasing vineyards in 1791, the domaine was historically considered a négociant rather than a producer of wine. In the past, négociants such as Bouchard, Faiveley and Drouhin were buyers of bulk wines who matured them in their own cellars and then bottled them under their own label. Wine cognoscenti typically considered their wines less desirable compared with those of smaller grower-producers.
Over the past few decades, however, there has been a vast change in the quality and, therefore, the perception of négociant wines. These days, négociants typically purchase grapes rather than finished wines and vinify them alongside grapes from their own vineyards. Bouchard is no exception. In the expert hands of winemaker Philippe Prost, and with the finances of the champagne house Henriot (owners of the domaine since 1995) behind them, Bouchard Père et Fils produces a wide spectrum of Burgundian wines, from north to south, red and white, and grands crus down to regional wines.
This month’s wine, the Réserve Bourgogne Rouge 2011, is the Toyota Camry of wines: reliable, pleasing and affordable. The palate is pure red fruit with a hint of sweet Christmas spices; initial flavors of cranberries and strawberries give way to a candied-apple finish. Delicate enough to be paired with a vegetarian entrée such as mushroom risotto or mushroom pâté, the pinot noir is earthy enough to hold its own with a pork or chicken dish as well.
Bouchard Père et Fils should not be confused with wines from Bouchard Aîné, the domaine founded in 1789 when the oldest Bouchard son split from his father. Look for the Bouchard crest on the label—two wolves’ heads and a red shield—as well as for the logo of the stately Château de Beaune, still the headquarters of Bouchard Père et Fils. Widely available, well-priced and charmingly pleasing to the palate, the Bouchard Bourgogne Réserve will be welcome on anyone’s holiday table.