Everyone loves Burgundy. Even people who don’t know yet that they love Burgundy, love Burgundy. Many friends, particularly in Asia, have asked about the identity of my favourite Burgundy wine, writes Charles Curtis in the current issue of Sommelier India. The answer, he says, is and must be, “It depends”. The category is very broad, with different grapes, different styles, and different colours clamouring for attention.
There is also significant variation from year to year, and then there are enormous differences in price. I may be very enthusiastic about a wine that costs US$ 20, and equally vocal about a wine that costs US$ 20,000. Good value? Well, it depends. Certainly rarity is part of the equation, but these prices are undeniably a
good value for a sufficient number of people to maintain a price at that level.
With all the focus on the top wines of Burgundy (and their corresponding top prices) one can sometimes forget that there are extraordinary bargains to be had. Those who believe, however, that there is no value left in Burgundy are sorely mistaken. My list includes a dozen delicious wines, suitable for drinking tonight or for midterm ageing.
The list covers all the regions of greater Burgundy, with a particular focus on its prestigious heart, the Côte d’Or. The prices of these wines may not conform to everyone’s idea of “cheap”, but that’s not the point. My contention is that each
of these wines, in their appellation, is extraordinary value for money in a region where prices can be stratospheric at times.
Prices at the time of writing run from $20 to $90 per bottle on the international market, and are quoted as the average retail price expressed in US dollars across all retail offers
globally. You will notice that I do not indicate a particular vintage. In my view all are top producers and will outperform their peers in any given vintage. This being said, one will of course pay more for a top year.
Listed below are Charles Curtis’s “Dozen Top Bargains”
1. Domaine François Raveneau Chablis ($80)
Ignore Chablis at your peril. This region produces some of the greatest white burgundy at very reasonable prices, and Domaine François Raveneau is at the top of his game. The village wine here is a perfect primer to classis Chablis style.
2. Domaine Pierre Gelin Fixin « Clos Napoleon » ($50)
Fixin is north of Gevrey Chambertin – a region once renowned and now rather neglected. This bottling by the up-and-coming Pierre Gelin estate is a premier cru for the price of a village wine (or Bourgogne rouge) from many other producers.
3. Domaine Dujac Morey-St-Denis Blanc ($70)
This offer is intriguing on many levels. First because it is a white wine from the Côte de Nuits – fairly rare – and secondly because it is from the top estate Domaine Dujac, whose top wines can run into thousands of dollars per bottle.
4. Domaine J-F Mugnier Nuits St Georges « Clos de la Maréchale » ($90)
This is the most expensive wine on the list, and richly worth it. Freddy Mugnier is one of the stars of the Côte de Nuits and his bottling from the premier cru Clos de la Maréchale (of which he is the sole proprietor) is an extraordinary value.
5. Domaine Comte Armand Pommard Premier Cru ($70)
Comte Armand is a traditional estate in Pommard, but the winemaking is handled by the rising star of Benjamin Leroux, who also directs his eponymous négociant house in Beaune. A domaine to watch!
6. Domaine Sylvain Cathiard Bourgogne Rouge ($50)
Sylvain Cathiard is one of the top producers in Vosne-Romanée, and his Bourgogne Rouge provides an excellent introduction to his serious, concentrated style. A wonderfully reliable bottling.
7. Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay ($50)
Freddy Lafarge today runs the estate founded by his family, who have been winegrowers in Volnay for centuries. Their holdings are the envy of many, and their village Volnay is one of the truest expressions of this great wine.
8. Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc ($30)
Domaine Etienne Sauzet is one of the top domaines of Puligny Montrachet, today directed by Gérard Boudot. Monsieur Boudot creates a marvelous expression of classic Puligny, even in his well-priced Bourgogne Blanc.
9. Jean-Noël Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet « Morgeot » ($60)
Chassagne is white flowers to the citrusy minerality of Puligny. Jean-Noël Gagnard, whose wines are made by daughter Caroline Lestimé, is a precise, beautiful expression of the village, and this premier cru Morgeot is at the top of the class.
10. Domaine A et P de Villaine Bouzeron ($27)
With Bouzeron, we leave the Côte d’Or for regions further south. Bouzeron is one of the most notable villages in the Côte Chalonnaise, the section of Burgundy surrounding Chalons-sur-Saône. The proprietor of Domaine A et P de Villaine is none other than Aubert de Villaine, the director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, who settled in Bouzeron with his wife Pamela. Their family estate is today directed by his nephew, Pierre de Benoist. They produce a variety of wines, but none is more typical than the Bouzeron, produced from the Aligoté grape in the only village where it is accorded the status of a commune-level appellation.
11. Heritiers des Comtes Lafon Macon-Milly-Lamartine « Clos du Four » ($30)
Continuing our southward trajectory, we arrive in the Maconnais. This region, known above all for its Chardonnay, is home to some hidden gems. Here we have the estate established by Dominique Lafon, one of the rock stars of Meursault. The white Macon here is a consistent value.
12. Louis-Claude Desvignes Morgon « Côtes du Py » ($20)
Beaujolais historically is part of greater Burgundy, although as a wine region it is definitely apart. The divide is caused first and foremost by the Gamay grape, which (like the Aligoté in Bouzeron) is normally accorded second-class status at best. This lovely Beaujolais cru gives the lie to that view, as it provides a joyously exuberant celebration of the vine at a bargain price. A perfect wine to pair with rustic country French food.
Read Charles Curtis’s Essential Bordeaux Bargains in the next edition of Sommelier India out in early August.