Wines from Burgundy are expensive, to say the least. Bottles from this prestigious French region seem to get more expensive every year, as the world’s collectors prove willing to pay thousands of dollars for a single bottle.
But there are ways to enjoy Burgundy without going bankrupt.
“There are value wines produced throughout the region,” says Charles Curtis, a Master of Wine and wine educator who wrote the books ”The Original Grand Crus of Burgundy” and “Vintage Champagne 1899 – 2019.”
You just need to know where to look.
A class for all wine
The heart of Burgundy’s wine production is the Côte d’Or, which is divided into two parts: Côte de Nuits, known mainly for Pinot Noir, and Côte de Beaune, known for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Other notable regions include Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, and Chablis.
Like most French wine regions, Burgundy has its own classification system; however, the most prestigious vineyards produce the least amount of wine. Those from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards in Burgundy only account for less than 20% of the region’s output.
Burgundy finds its value in the village wines, the third tier of wines within the region’s classification system.
“The villages of the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais offer some of the best values,” says Curtis. “Even in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, there are very good places for value.”
Look for bottles from Côte Chalonnaise areas like Rully and Montagny, where rich, mineral-driven white wines rule. Meanwhile, Mercurey is known for producing wines with concentrated fruit and tannic structure, while bottles of Pinot Noir from Givry are plump and fruity. Curtis also recommends the bang-for-your-buck bottles of village wines from Marsannay, Fixin, and Nuits-Saint-Georges. And in the Côtes de Beaune, appellations like Monthélie, Saint-Romain, and Saint-Aubin produce village wines that are approachable and enjoyable at affordable price points.
Then there are the regional wines of Burgundy, often labeled Bourgogne Côte d’Or or simply Bourgogne Blanc or Bourgogne Rouge, which are the simplest interpretations of Burgundy. Grapes used for these wines can come from anywhere within the region’s 74,260 acres of land dedicated to grape growing.
Although having such a vast area to pick fruit from can result in wines of less quality if the fruit is not up to par, some Bourgogne-labeled wines are great for drinking right away.
“My best advice is to buy some high-quality Bourgogne Rouge, Bourgogne Blanc, and Aligoté to drink while you are waiting for your more collectible wines to mature,” says Curtis.
Speaking of Aligoté
The top grapes of Burgundy are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In fact, wines labeled Grand or Premier Cru can only be made with these grapes; the entire region of Chablis is dedicated to the production of Chardonnay.
Producers in other parts of Burgundy, however, are free to use the white grape Aligoté. Inexpensive bottles of simple Aligoté are easily found under the basic Bourgogne Aligoté appellation. Marsannay, in particular, is known for its stellar bottles of high acid, dry white wine that displays floral and herbal notes.
Bouzeron, another village of the Côte Chalonnaise, is increasingly popular with drinkers who appreciate Aligoté, thanks to Domaine de Villaine, a winery founded by Aubert de Villaine, who is the proprietor of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, responsible for Burgundy’s most prized wines. Some offerings of Bouzeron Aligoté can go for as little as $44.
Finding great value Burgundy isn’t easy — but it’s worth the hunt.
Bottles to try:
Domaine Sylvain Pataille Marsannay 2019 (~$46)
This Pinot Noir is produced in Marsannay by winemaker Sylvain Pataille. The wine displays ripe aromas of plum fruit and florals that extend to the palate. The minerality is noticeable, and the wine’s texture is velvety with fine tannins and a lingering finish.
Domaine Maison Jessiaume Santenay 1er Cru 2019 (~$48)
Located in Santenay, in the Côte de Beaune, is Domaine Jessiaume, a winery that has produced wines of Burgundy since the 1850s. This intensely aromatic and complex wine is made with Pinot Noir grapes and features red fruit and purple plum characteristics backed by a dense structure and grippy tannins.
Domaine Berthaut-Gerbet - Denis Berthaut Fixin 2020 (~$50)
From the Fixin village of Côte de Nuits comes this medium-bodied Pinot Noir. Fragrances of red berry and earthiness lead the aroma while the palate is bright and crunchy with red fruit flavors. Fresh acidity balances the wine through the lengthy finish that ends with a tart note of cherry.
Domaine des Héritiers du Comte Lafon Pouilly-Fuissé 2020 (~$52)
Dominique Lafon founded Héritiers du Comte Lafon in Mâconnais in 1999 and has been credited as being one of the main producers that helped shift the region’s penchant for volume-driven wines to a more quality-based practices. Ripe with complex tropical fruit aromas and flavors, this Chardonnay features dashing minerality that rounds out the fruit, along with slight oak that provides a spicy backbone and decadent texture.
Benjamin Leroux Meursault 2020 (~$84)
A Chardonnay from the Meursault region of the Côte de Beaune, this wine is made with a blend of grapes across Benjamin Leroux’s vineyards. The final result is a lush, acid-driven wine that displays alluring honey, orchard, and stone fruit nuances with a silky and refined texture.