Wine - Roger Scruton revisits white Burgundy

Easter, the season of renewal, is the perfect time to revisit white Burgundy

Easter is approaching, the time of renewal. That which should be renewed before all things is praise. So I return to the paean to white Burgundy with which, two years ago, this column began. From the fleshy Macons to the ambrosial Montrachets, white Burgundy consistently outclasses the New World substitutes that are edging it from the market. Not that I object to those substitutes: without their competition the original would be unaffordable. Now that they have done their work, however, it is time to set them aside, and to revisit the greatest Chardonnay-growing region of all, one too imbued with local history to be named after something so global as a grape. The four wines on offer from Corney & Barrow have been selected by Olivier Leflaive, a man who cares more about quality than quantity, and more about pride than profit. All are from the excellent 2000 vintage, and - with the possible exception of the Montagny - all will benefit from keeping.

Montagny and Rully lie on the Cote Chalonnaise, but Rully is so close to the Cote de Beaune as to belong with the lesser products of that greater place. This particular premier cru is probably the most affordable version of the authentic white Burgundy taste that you are likely to find. Grown on the same calcareous clay and limestone that dominate the white-wine vineyards to the north, and matured in oak, the wine is beginning to acquire the golden colour and hazelnut allure of Meursault. Incidentally, the Ls in "Rully" are hard: it agrees with les couilles but it doesn't rhyme with them.

I divide white Burgundies into two fundamental kinds: the green and the golden, the first with mineral bite and taut structure, the second with the burpy buttery finish that resounds in the very name of Meursault. Montagny is the finest of the "green" Burgundies. At its cheapest barely distinguishable from an ordinary Macon, it attains, in the premiers crus, a remarkable fullness of fruit that detracts not at all from its classical limestone profile.

The "golden" wines of Puligny, Chassagne, Meursault and Aloxe-Corton are affordable only to friends of Lord Irvine, the

Lord Chancellor. But those villages are bordered by others whose

wines sell for half the price. The best two are represented in this offer - Auxey, which has appended the vineyard of Les Duresses to its name, and Pernand, which has done the same with Les Vergelesses. The first shares a slope with Meursault, the second a boundary with Corton. Both strive to adopt the standards set by their neighbours and show why Aristotle was right to insist that virtue is acquired by imitation. The Auxey-Duresses should be bought now - you'll not get it cheaper - and kept for two years. Needless to say, none of this offer found its way to Sam the horse.

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and countryside campaigner as well as an author and broadcaster. Widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading right wing thinkers, his publications include the Meaning of Conservatism. He has also written on fox hunting.

This article first appeared in the 14 April 2003 issue of the New Statesman, A crime against humanity