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An Insider’s Guide to Buying Burgundy Wines

There are still delicious, affordable wines to be found — if you know where to look

Vicki Denig By February 17, 2022
landscape photo with red wine being poured into glass
Photo of Dijon (Capital of Burgundy, France) by Photomario/Shutterstock. Red wine photo by fcafotodigital/iStock.

Home to some of the world’s most fetishized growing sites, Burgundy is undeniably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, destination for finding bottles to lay down and age. However, with great prestige comes exuberant prices — that is, unless you know where to look. 

Contrary to popular belief, there’s plenty of value to be found in Burgundy, age-worthy wines included. Although the majority of its bigger names are basically out of reach in terms of availability and price, there are up-and-coming producers worth seeking out and adding to the cellar. Fair warning: These bottles likely won’t be widely available in just a few short years. 

Quick Facts

  • Location: Central/Eastern France.
  • Size: more than 73,000 acres under vine.
  • Main Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Aligoté.
  • Benchmark Producers: These are region-specific. See below for more information.

Where is Burgundy?

Burgundy is located on the central-eastern side of France. The region spans from Auxerre in the north to Mâcon in the south. Some will argue that the region of Beaujolais is technically part of Burgundy, which would make the region’s terminus Lyon, though the two regions are becoming viewed as their own entities more and more.

What kind of wine is made in Burgundy?

Burgundy is best known for its still red and white wines, though very small amounts of rosé and sparkling crémant are also produced. 

What are the main grape varieties of Burgundy?

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main grapes of Burgundy and account for the majority of its production. However, small amounts of Aligoté and Gamay are also cultivated within the region. 

What are the key appellations of Burgundy?

The easiest way to break down Burgundy’s numerous appellations is by region. From north to south, Burgundy’s main regions are Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâconnais. Together, the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune — which produce Burgundy’s best wines — are often referred to as the Côte d’Or

What is the difference between the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune?

Generally speaking, the Côte de Nuits is known for its Pinot Noir production, whereas Beaune is more regarded for its Chardonnay-based wines. However, it’s important to note that world-class, cellar-worthy wines of both colors are produced in both regions.

How is wine from Burgundy classified?

  • Regional appellations, such as Bourgogne Rouge.
  • Village-level appellations, such as Volnay.
  • Premier Cru, such as Les Champans, a Premier Cru in Volnay.
  • Grand Cru, such as Bonne-Mares, a Grand Cru in Morey-Saint-Denis.

Who are Burgundy’s benchmark producers? 

  • Chablis: Dauvissat, Raveneau. 
  • Côte de Nuits: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Dujac, Domaine Leroy, Christophe Roumier, Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair.
  • Côte de Beaune: Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Michel Lafarge.
  • Côte Chalonnaise: Domaine de Villaine, Domaine Joblot.
  • Mâconnais: Bret Brothers, Domaine Barraud.

4 Burgundy producers to buy now:

Catharina Sadde, Les Horées

Natural wine from Burgundy with the ability to withstand time in the cellar? Of course. When it comes to age-worthy natural bottles, Chapel Hill sommelier Paula De Pano recommends Les Horées.

Catharina’s life resonates with my own — starting her love of gastronomy through the kitchens before transitioning into the — more fun! — world of wine,” she says.

De Pano notes that Catharina follows biodynamic principles in her own vineyards, and vinifies wines that are simultaneously nuanced and evocative. “Her wines capture the delicate essence of the region all the while bottling them with a sustainable mindset to preserve Burgundy’s future.” 

 

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bottle of Les Horées Bourgogne Rouge Le Vieux Sage 2019

Les Horées Bourgogne Rouge Le Vieux Sage 2019

De Pano explains that Bourgogne Rouge wines tend to be made from younger vines or vines planted from the outskirts of the best areas; however, such is not the case at Les Horées. “Catharina’s Le Vieux Sage is made from vines planted in the ’50s and located in between Pommard and Beaune,” she explains. “That intoxicating earthy-spicy perfume that is solely Burgundy’s? She has that in spades in her entry-level wine.”

bottle of Les Horées Bourgogne Aligoté en Coulezain 2019

Les Horées Bourgogne Aligoté en Coulezain 2019

De Pano reveals that she personally can’t get enough of Burgundy’s lesser-known white grape, Aligoté, and for those looking to explore the variety’s potential, Les Horée’s expression is a great place to start. “Half of the grapes undergo skin contact and then are blended together after malo, giving the final wine a textural grip alongside extra richness and energy,” De Pano explains. “Faced with a Bourgogne Blanc or even some village-level wines, I’d pick well-made, unique Aligotés all day.”

Domaine Fanny Sabre, Pommard

“As with Catharina’s wines, I am hesitant to recommend these wines because they are all produced in tiny quantities even though the domaine makes over a dozen cuvées from parcels all over the Côte de Beaune,” says De Pano. According to De Pano, Sabre’s mentality is that wine shouldn’t be overthought, and that drinking delicious bottles should always be a pleasurable experience. “Her wines reflect this through the recent change of her wine labels — its playfulness belies the seriousness and depth of the wine in the bottle,” De Pano explains.  

 

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bottle of Domaine Fanny Sabre Clos de Renards Beaune Blanc 2019

Domaine Fanny Sabre Clos de Renardes Beaune Blanc 2019 (~$59)

Like many, De Pano prefers white Burgundies that don’t carry their oak treatment like a yoke. “This bottling is ripe and creamy with a smoky background perfect with grilled seafood, plus the rouge version of this wine is what most people want, so there’s a higher chance that this is more available in the market,” she says.

bottle of Domaine Fanny Sabre Anatole Sainte Marie La Blanche IGP 2019

Domaine Fanny Sabre Anatole Sainte Marie La Blanche IGP 2019

De Pano describes this bottle as fun and easy-drinking very much in line with Fanny’s spontaneous attitude toward wine consumption: Drink because it pleases you, drink because it is meant to be shared. “Made with 100% Pinot Noir, the location of the vines for this cuvée has the same iron-rich soils of Pommard, along with some clay and sand, thus giving the wine sanguine and saline flavors with a silkier texture,” she says.

Domaine René Lequin-Colin, Santenay

To find great value in Burgundy, Ken Fredrickson MS recommends steering clear of the more flashy Côte d’Or villages.

“At the very bottom of the region is the small village of Santenay. Perhaps overlooked by star chasers, it’s chock full of great value and in the case of Francois Lequin, it has arrived at world-class quality and incredible value combined,” he says.

Fredrickson notes that all of Lequin’s vines are farmed organically and see only micro-additions of sulfur dioxide. “These wines are transparent and terroir-driven, from village level to Grand Cru,” he explains.

bottle of Domaine René Lequin-Colin Santenay 1er Cru La Comme 2019

Domaine René Lequin-Colin Santenay 1er Cru La Comme 2019 (~$28)

This wine is a great gateway to Burgundy, says Fredrickson. “It is grown in clay soils, which provide muscle and opulence to Pinot fruit.” Fredrickson notes that the wine will easily last five to seven years in the cellar — “unless it’s in my cellar, then we will never know, because I drink it all pretty much upon release.”

bottle of René Lequin-Colin Retour aux Racines Bourgogne Blanc 2017

Domaine René Lequin-Colin Retour aux Racines Bourgogne Blanc 2017

Like the Santenay, fruit for this wine is grown in chalky soil and only sees 10% new oak in the cellar, where Lequin “keeps it clean and transparent, and also ages the wine for an extended time on the fine lees to provide depth and texture,” Fredrickson explains. He describes the bottle as “crunchy wine from Burgundy that is almost cheap by comparison to other Burgundies of similar quality.”

Domaine de la Cras, Dijon

According to Fredrickson, Marc Soyard has every serious Burgundy collector swooning.

“How can this guy make this wine in the Coteaux de Dijon — and where is the Coteaux de Dijon, anyways?”

Fredrickson says that Soyard’s winery is located just beyond the city limits of Dijon, which for a long time, had been known by collectors as a simple stop on the TGV fast train — that is, until Marc Soyard won the bid to make wine there. “Today, he produces arguably the greatest value Pinot Noir from the region of Burgundy. It’s a serious and delicious wine for next to nothing.” All fruit at Domaine de la Cras is certified organic and uses biodynamic practices.

bottle of Domaine de la Cras Bourgogne Pinot Noir Coteaux de Dijon Monopole 2016

Domaine de la Cras Bourgogne Pinot Noir Coteaux de Dijon Monopole 2016

Fredrickson explains that typically, seeing the word monopole in the name of a wine means spending $150 or more per bottle, but not in this case of Soyard. “This is a 100% whole-cluster, single-site Pinot Noir that retails for [next to nothing]. It’s insane.” Note: Alternatively, Soyard also makes a non-monopole Pinot Noir from the Coteaux de Dijon.

bottle of Domaine de la Cras Coteaux de Dijon Bourgogne Blanc 2018

Domaine de la Cras Coteaux de Dijon Bourgogne Blanc 2018 (~$45)

“To me, this is the magic of Marc Soyard,” says Fredrickson. Prior to Domaine de la Cras, Soyard trained at Domaine Bizot, and today, uses said experience to craft delicious and budget-friendly Chardonnay. “I have used this wine as my cellar defender for a few years, meaning that it’s an incredible wine that punches above its weight, but protects the Raveneau and Coche in the cellar from drunken stupors or greedy sommeliers,” says Fredrickson. Fruit for this wine comes from a tiny, south-facing parcel of clay and limestone soils planted in 1985 and is vinified with native yeasts and minimal sulfur dioxide.