Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 02/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/19/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST


Top-of-the-line burgundies are both scarce and prohibitively pricey in the U.S. these days. A bottle of La Tâche, for example, from a year as undistinguished as 1986, sells for about $195. These two tapes will show you what you're missing and offer suggestions should the mood strike to splurge.

Written and directed by Jane Crawford, whose credits include The Wines of Bordeaux: A Video Guide, released in 1987, this four-hour production takes viewers to Burgundy's Côte d'Or, or golden slope, a 30-mile stretch of land in eastern France where vines thrive in rich soil.

The first tape offers a tour of the northern half of the celebrated region, known as the Côte de Nuits, home of noble reds with names like Musigny, Chambertin and Romanée-Conti. Part II concentrates on the Côte de Beaune, origin of such fine white burgundies as Montrachet, as well as classic reds like Pommard and Volnay. Along the way there are interviews with wine makers and shippers, maps that often bewilder and more than enough footage of medieval villages, oak casks and cobwebbed cellars.

While the narrative is garnished with bits of history, none of it is controversial. There is, for example, no mention of the area's past scandals, when some producers were accused of adulterating their wares.

These very specialized videos should appeal to lovers of burgundy who want to expand their knowledge and stock their cellars. Segments conclude with names of recommended growers and merchants. There are tips on how to decipher a label and where to find a bargain as well as an array of tastings with experts who sniff, sip, slurp and spit before embarking on evermore-florid descriptions of what they are experiencing on the palate.

More than once the flavors are characterized as: flowery, fruity, buttery, beefy or creamy. They are also fat, sexy, plummy, smoky and toasty. The grand prize for mystifying wordplay goes to bow-tied Brit Clive Coates, publisher of the Vine, who describes a '78 Pommard as: "mulberries, with an underneath chocolatey, sort of almost leather element." Hmmm. Do you mean something along the lines of a bag of M&Ms and a boiled boot, Clive? (Abbeville Press; $100 per set, 800-227-7210; in New York City, 212-888-1969)

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