How To Buy (Relatively) Affordable Burgundy Wines | Food
VSthe comparisons between the two French regions most famous for still wines tend towards the binary. In the southwest corner is Bordeaux, billed as the distinguished playground for arrogant chateau owners – a world of grand estates in the hands of old or newer money, plus corporate money. In the other corner, to the east, we have Burgundy, where the winemakers are supposed to be small farmers rather than businessmen – “real people” in touch with the land but all at sea in one suite. sales and marketing.
While the truth is bound to be more complicated, there has always been enough of the cartoon to make it ring true. Burgundy really had what Jasper Morris, the British merchant-turned-writer based in Burgundy, calls a different spirit. His obsession with making wines that “express the difference between one site and another” has at times seemed more important than lower mercantile ambitions found elsewhere.
Is this still the case? In his introduction to the recently published second edition of his definitive guide to the region, Inside Burgundy, Morris expresses some of the concern he has felt about recent developments, which arguably have made him closer to the stereotype of his former rivals in Bordeaux. The problem is the seemingly endless rise in prices commanded by Burgundy’s most famous wines. To take just one example from the wine-searcher.com price comparison site: five years ago, the average price of Domaine Leroy Musigny was already £ 4,033 per bottle; in June of this year it was costing £ 24,178 a bottle.
The problem is not only that Burgundy wines are now sold to beyond everyone, but to the smallest percentage of wine lovers. There was a ripple effect on land prices. According to figures published by the French real estate agency Safer in 2019, the price of the best-rated land in the region had doubled in the space of a decade, making a single hectare of “grand cru” land an average value of € 14.5 million. This in turn drove many ambitious young producers from the hottest addresses and led to the arrival of big companies, such as luxury goods company LVMH.
All of this helps to explain why so many Burgundy enthusiasts have become disillusioned with the region. But that’s far from bad news. As Morris puts it, the one thing that has prevented “a pullback against the dearth of affordable wines” has been the rise of “fine wines” from the less fashionable regions and varietals of Burgundy. This could mean Pinot Noir and Chardonnay produced by a major producer working in the largest interregional appellation in Burgundy, or by a dynamic young winegrower crisscrossing the vineyards of Mâcon, in the south; or it could mean one of the increasingly fine wines made from the much-maligned Aligoté grape.
In other words, the spirit of Burgundy lives on. You may have to search a little harder to find it.
Six (relatively) affordable Burgundy wines
Waitrose Blueprint White Bordeaux
France 2019 (£ 9.49, Waitrose)
With more than 400 winegrower members, the vast Cave de Lugny cooperative is a far cry from the romantic idea of a small Burgundy estate. But it makes excellent value for money chardonnay, including this example of soft, slightly creamy peach.
Adnams Burgundy Red
Burgundy, France 2018 (£ 13.99, Adnams.co.uk)
East Anglian merchant Adnams has been exceptionally successful in sourcing a good quality Burgundy Pinot Noir under £ 15 – very cheap prices for this region. It is lively, refreshing, with fluid red fruits and light (12.5%) in alcohol.
Domaine Caroline Bellavoine Bourgogne Aligoté
Burgundy, France 2020 (£ 14.50, thewinesociety.com)
In a region where chardonnay reigns, aligoté, the other white grape variety of Burgundy, has always been rather despised. Lately, however, it’s been experiencing a revival, producing wonderfully racy, super dry and bright dry whites like this one.
Domaine Jean Chartron Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée Eugénie Dupard
Burgundy, France 2019 (£ 20.35, privatecellar.co.uk)
The majority of this magnificent, resonant, multi-layered Chardonnay comes from a small vineyard in the famous village of Puligny. As it is mixed with a little fruit from elsewhere, it only qualifies for the less (and significantly cheaper) Burgundy appellation.
Domaine Douhairet-Porcheret Monthélie Rouge Cuvée Miss Armande Vieilles Vignes
Burgundy, France 2018 (£ 24.88, howardripley.com)
Another wine that benefits from being produced in one of the lesser known villages of Burgundy, Monthélie in the Côtes de Beaune. It is very good value for money in the regional context and a simply delicious expression of the fragrant, silky and elegant side of Pinot Noir.
Frédéric Cossard Bourgogne Rouge Bedeau
Burgundy, France 2019 (£ 40, bbr.com)
The red Burgundy with the whimsical label of Fréderic Cossard is full of charm. A two-plot pinot noir blend that sings and dances positively with pretty red berry fruit and fresh cherry acidity, but is anchored by the classic forest floor flavor.