Great Burgundy can be an intellectual and emotional experience, as well as a sensual one. This is because it can excite the mind as well as being a gustatory delight. Learning about this tiny yet remarkably complex wine region can be a lifetime’s work though it’s not necessary to be a gifted connoisseur to enjoy the wines. Because the region is so small and dotted with a huge number of vineyards, its wines are often the rarest of the rare, particularly when compared to regions that produce wine in massive quantities such as Bordeaux.
One key aspect to understand is that unlike the wines of Bordeaux where each château creates its wine from a proprietary blend of up to five grape varieties, in Burgundy the wines are made only from one variety. This is to say that the reds are made exclusively from Pinot Noir and the whites are based solely on the Chardonnay grape. This common grape base much more easily allows the unique differences between one vineyard and another to be appreciated as there is no additional “interference” from the presence of multiple grape varieties. Effectively what this means is that Burgundy permits you to enjoy a singular wine experience from an individual vineyard that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. The Burgundians refer to these unique vineyard differences as being a reflection of the underlying “terroir”, which is an important French wine term that can be loosely translated as microclimate.
The difficulties of making consistently high quality wine with just one grape variety (mistakes cannot be blended away) comes at a price and sometimes a very steep one where the most prestigious burgundies, known as grand crus, sell for thousands of dollars. Happily it is not necessary to shell out big bucks to obtain a great bottle as the lower level wines can also provide wonderful drinking experiences at affordable, if not cheap, prices. Additionally, Burgundies are widely regarded as some of the best food wines in the world because of their unrivaled ability to complement a wide variety of dishes from the simple to the complex.
To that end here are 15 wines priced between $30 and $100 that will provide a wonderful taste of Burgundy and its various terroirs. Enjoy!
Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg
2013 Bourgogne, $50
Tasting note: There is a lovely sense of freshness and punch to the delicious and mouth coating medium weight flavors that possess excellent depth and length for a Bourgogne.
2013 Bourgogne “Le Chapitre”, $70-86
Note: From yields of only 15 hl/ha that will produce ~900 bottles in 2013
Tasting note: A gamy yet exceptionally pretty nose offers up unusually elegant and refined aromas for a wine at this level. There is excellent detail and plenty of verve underpinning the seductively textured, rich and enveloping medium-bodied flavors that possess fine depth and length. Moreover, the low yields are in evidence as this is definitely concentrated and the overall quality is simply terrific for a regional wine.
Domaine Sylvain Pataille
2013 Bourgogne “Le Chapitre”, $57
Tasting note: This presents a very pinot nose with its aromas of pomegranate, black cherry, plum and spice hints. There is excellent intensity to the appealingly textured, detailed and punchy flavors that also display some youthful austerity on the impressively long finish. This is a terrific Bourgogne.
2013 Chambolle-Musigny, $50-75
Tasting note: There is good precision to the lacy but intense flavors that display ample minerality and a sleek muscularity, all wrapped in a firm, dusty and mildly austere finish. While technically a villages level Chambolle, this very definitely boxes at a premier cru level.
Domaine Joliet Père et Fils
2013 Fixin “Clos de la Perrière”, $92
Note: From vines that range in age from 30 to 85 years
Tasting note: This is ripe and complex plus it displays a floral character as well. There is very good mid-palate density to the mineral-driven and restrained medium-bodied flavors that deliver fine length on the dusty, long and more complex finish. I very much like the style as it’s understated and balanced.
Domaine Denis Bachelet
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, $69
Note: From vines averaging between 60 and 70 years of age
Tasting note: A discreet application of wood intertwines with notes of black cherry, earth, humus and a hint of the sauvage. This is also quite lush though with more evident muscle to the medium-bodied flavors that are shaped by firmer and more prominent tannins on the balanced and lingering finish. This too delivers excellent quality for its level and will also drink well young if desired
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, $66
Note: From a wide mix of Brochon vines planted between 1922 and 1961 that average 60+ years of age
Tasting note: Notes of oak, menthol, green tea, dark currant and plenty of earth and humus aromas introduce the concentrated and brooding medium-bodied flavors that possess an abundance of palate coating dry extract that does a fine job of buffering the firm tannic spine on the overtly rustic finale. This won’t win any awards for refinement but it’s impressive all the same.
Domaine Marc Roy
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Prieur”, $62-78
Tasting note: This has a pretty and layered nose of red cherry, herbal tea, earth and red currant. There is a cool and restrained mouth feel to the delicious and relatively refined medium-bodied flavors that possess fine mid-palate concentration before culminating in a slightly more complex and persistent finish. This is lovely stuff that should not only drink well young but reward 4 to 7 years of cellar time too.
Domaine Marc Roy
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin – Cuvée Alexandrine, $90-100
Note: Made 100% from tiny “millerandage” grapes, or shot berries which give much higher solid to liquid ratios; it is not made every vintage Tasting note: This is easily the most complex wine in the range with its mélange of earth, sauvage, humus and assorted dark berry fruit scents. There is impressive richness and intensity for the villages level Gevrey with firm yet fine and pliant supporting structure on the balanced and solidly long finish. This is well worth your attention.
Domaine Frédéric Esmonin
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin “Estournelles St. Jacques”, $40-60
Tasting note: There is just enough wood present to warrant noting though it does not impinge on the otherwise wonderfully elegant, pure and airy blue pinot fruit, violet, plum and soft earth scents. There is a lovely vibrancy and ample minerality to the intense yet seductively detailed flavors that are underpinned by moderately firm tannins on the balanced and strikingly persistent finale. This is lovely and textbook ESJ as it’s a wine of finesse and refinement.
Domaine Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Goisot
2012 Bourgogne – Côtes d'Auxerre “Gondonne”, $30
Tasting note: Though there is a trace of wood it is all but invisible which allows the fresh, cool and pure aromas of green apple and mineral reduction to shine. There is a sophisticated mouth feel to the refined middleweight flavors that manage to be both utterly delicious yet display a certain amount of restraint before finishing in an attractively dry and mildly austere finale.
Domaine Sébastien Dampt
2012 Chablis “Côte de Léchet” 1er, $32
Tasting note: An exceptionally fresh nose offers up cool and stunningly pure aromas of citrus zest, dried white flowers, mineral reduction and quinine. There is excellent intensity to the delicious and punchy flavors that are blessed with both plenty of extract and fine complexity on the balanced and lingering finish. This should be approachable after only 2 to 3 years of bottle age but reward more if you have a mind to wait.
Domaine les Temps Perdus
2012 Petit Chablis, $15-20
Tasting note: Here there is more obvious Chablis character to the cool and ripe aromas of lemon zest, tidal pool and mineral reduction nuances. There is excellent punch and detail to the racy medium weight flavors where a touch of quinine surfaces on the dry, clean and balanced finish. This delivers fine quality.
Domaine Cordier Père et Fils
2012 St. Véran “Les Crais”, $33
Tasting note: Fermentation aromas block an evaluation of the nose. There is outstanding concentration and verve to the delicious, intense and pungently stony middleweight flavors that possess an exquisite sense of balance on the very dry but not especially austere finish. This delivers very fine quality for the appellation.
Domaine Daniel & Julien Barraud
2012 St. Véran “Les Pommards” $32
Note: From vines situated in Davayé, planted in rocky, high limestone content soil which abuts the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyard of Le Pommard on the edge of Vergisson and Solutré Tasting note: A cool and very pure nose of ripe apple, spiced pear and citrus rind leads to impressively rich and again well-concentrated middleweight flavors that possess good power on the lightly mineral-inflected, intense, complex and well-balanced finish. A very powerful St. Véran.
Allen Meadows, aka Burghound, was hailed as “the world’s foremost Burgundy expert” by acclaimed author Matt Kramer. Visit burghound.com to learn about his highly respected and critically acclaimed quarterly publication with exhaustive coverage of a specific wine region/grape. Allen also published the book, The Pearl of the Côte—the Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée. Most recently, he has released a self-narrated, 10-hour audio series, Burgundy Essentials, perfect for the casual wine enthusiast to the seasoned pro.