Burgundy I love you but darn you are expensive
So as most of you know I am currently on the Master of Bourgogne Course. This course given by the Wine Scholar Guild is the most extensive course on the Burgundy region available online, and has knowledge at both MS and MW level. The standard is really very high, and I must admit for a region which consists of mainly two grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, wow this is complicated. Tell me the difference between a lieu-dit and a climate and you might just pass the exam. Saying that I am loving the challenge, however, when it comes to tasting Burgundy, I am lagging a bit.
There are a few issues I have encountered:
1) The number of wines - This is a huge problem since you do not just have a few Appellations but 100s. Numbers move around, however, the following are not that far off:
- 7 Regional A.O.C: ex: Bourgogne, Bourgogne Aligote, Cremant de Bourgogne
- 44 Village A.O.Cs: ex: Chablis, Irancy, Nuit-Saint-Georges
- 640 Premier Cru Climats (which come under the Village A.O.Cs ex: Mercurey 1er Cru Clos du Roy, Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume
- 32 Grand Cru A.O.Cs ex: Chambertin, Musigny and Corton
2) This is not pop-n-pour country - These wines need time in the cellar to develop, so drinking a 2015 Premier Cru should be classified as a sin. There are of course exceptions, however, expect to wait a minimum of 8-10 years for a 1er Cru and even longer for a Grand Cru!
3) Price - A good village wine will cost between $50-100, Premier Cru: $75-450 and Grand Cru: $250-$$$$. Again, there are some exceptions but this is a good guideline.
So what is my approach? Luckily 2017 is a classic vintage and most village wines should be accessible earlier than other vintages. Will they be in a perfect drinking window? No, but they should certainly provide a good expression of each Appellation.
With the prices of Burgundy increasing year after year, the challenge is finding wines at a reasonable price. Luckily with a bit of research, I believe there are a few regions that still offer fantastic value.
1) Chablis - You cannot get more pure than a Chablis. A classic Chablis has a range of tasting notes but often citrus, pear, wet stone, striking minerality, bright, clean, and lean come to mind. The Village wines can be found for around $20-30, Premier Cru from $30-60, and Grand Cru from $60-130. These are crazy prices, and most wines are accessible earlier compared to their southern cousins. My recommended producers include La Chablisienne, Droin, and Pattes Loup.
2) Mercury - Located in the Cote Chalonnaise, this majority red wine-producing Appellation produces fruity, bright, and early drinking Pinot Noir at a cost that will not break the bank. A Village Mercury will set you back around $30 and a Premier Cru around $60. My recommended producers include Domaine Faiveley and Chateau de Chamirey
3) Macon-Lugny - At the southern end of Burgundy. The Chardonnay here is easy-drinking, soft and round with tropical fruits and ripe orchard fruit notes. A good Macon costs around $25, there are no Premier Cru, but heck who needs a Premier Cru when you can get this much quality at just $25, and that's what I am drinking tonight. My recommended producers include Olivier Laflaive and Joseph Drouhin.
So Burgundy is expensive, but if you look hard you will find some phenomenal bargains.
Finally here is a 6-hour video of sheep within the Shafer Vineyards in Napa, California.
Did not see that one coming did ya?