WHY IS BURGUNDY SO SPECIAL?
Good burgundy, both red and white is supremely classy and I confess, I love these wines – they are the truest definition of 'terroir' driven wines, by that I mean their greatness comes from the soil and the climate, not from wine makers. In fact, the great wine makers of burgundy view themselves as just custodians; simply allowing the grapes to ripen and naturally ferment to showcase the prestige of the vineyards. It’s why they are some of the finest (and most expensive) wines in the world.
WHY IS GOOD BURGUNDY SO EXPENSIVE?
With burgundy producing less than 0.5% of the worlds wine and demand for fine wine increasing all the time, it’s no wonder that prices have steadily been rising. Add to this the frosts Burgundy has suffered in 2020 and 2021 where almost 50% of their production was ruined in both years … the pressure on prices isn’t going anywhere.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN WELL MADE BURGUNDY?
Two grape varieties make up the greatest wines of Burgundy – Chardonnay for the whites and Pinot Noir for the reds. They produce subtle differences in every appellation they’re grown but, largely speaking, the good whites balance richness and elegance perfectly, producing wines of generosity and persistence. The reds are often described as an iron fist in a velvet glove – supremely fine, elegant and light in appearance and on first taste but with a length and depth that defies the senses. Burgundy does indeed do something to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that it seems no other region in the world can match.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO PAY?
The reality is that you can’t buy a decent bottle of Burgundy for less than £15. When you’re at £15 you can expect a vibrant bottle of Chablis, a light but juicy regional Pinot Noir red or a ‘first rung on the ladder’ Saint Veran style from the Maconnais, substituting the racy, mineral, green apple notes found in Chablis with slightly riper, citrus and buttery notes more akin to the more expensive wines of the Cote d’Or (Meursault and the Montrachets to be precise) …. but to get a real flavour for how good these can be, you’ve really got to be spending £20 plus, and that goes for the reds too …. which isn’t too much considering Burgundy produces 4 of the 5 most expensive wines in the world. At £20 you should be getting real varietal and regional character in the wines combined with an extra degree of complexity and persistence. And the best way to shop is to go for the minor appellations grown by the better wine growers. It’s expensive but worth it and sadly, it’s getting more expensive all the time.
BEST BURGUNDY ALTERNATIVES:
With Burgundy being such a popular wine style and product, it’s no wonder that virtually every wine maker in the world, wherever they are, try to craft delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the good news is that many are making great wines. If you want that reminder of Burgundy though you’ve got to head to the cooler parts of the world that will retain that freshness whilst balancing it with that wonderful ripeness of fruit. Too cool and you’ll get wines that taste more akin to a Sauvignon Blanc and too hot and you’ll get wines that most of us would liken to Viognier … so, if you’re looking for Burgundy style wines that are often every bit as good, if not better than Burgundy, at the £15 to £30 mark the countries to go to are:
Chardonnay – New Zealand, South Africa, Oregon (USA)
Pinot Noir – Italy, Germany, New Zealand
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE BUYING?
And here below are my top tips for best value burgundy. Note that I put our money where my mouth is and ship the good value ones so included in the below are some of our wines that I rate extremely highly (together with some brilliant wines from Waitrose):
BEST BURGUNDIES UNDER £30
Bourgogne ‘Cote d’Or’ Chardonnay 2020, Domaine Guy Bocard
Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume @ £23.99 (Waitrose)
Pernand-Vergelesses Les Belles Filles, Domaine Jean-Jacques Girard @ £23.00 (Waitrose)
Santenay Les Champs Claude, Jean-Marc Pillot @ £28.00 (Waitrose)
Savigny-Les-Beaune 2018, Domaine Jean Jacques Girard
Mercurey Rouge, Chateau de Chamirey
St Romain Vieilles Vignes Rouge, Girardin Pere et Fils @ £23.99 (Waitrose)
BEST NEW WORLD LOOK A LIKES UNDER £30
Hahn Family Chardonnay 2018, Monterey, California
De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay
Neudorf Tiritiri Chardonnay, Nelson, New Zealand @ £17.50 (Waitrose)
Rupert & Rothschild Baroness Nadine Chardonnay, South Africa @ £24.99 (Waitrose)
Hahn Family Pinot Noir (half bottle)
Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand @ £27.99 (Waitrose)
Karl H. Johner Enselberg Pinot Noir, Baden, Germany @ £18.99 (Waitrose)
So please go experimenting and let us know what you try and what you enjoy. A word of warning though, like all great sports, the more you get in to enjoying Burgundy the more expensive it becomes. The graph does have a direct correlation to happiness though so there’s no apologies from me for that.