Grand cru designated wines from Burgundy are among the most expensive wines in the world, and even the premier cru, village-level wines and “lesser” appellations render few bargains.
Why is Burgundy so expensive? Let’s start with demand. It’s a relatively small region in France and the terroirs of Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne and the grand crus of Chablis have many fans who have cash to spend. To quote Sylvie Cazes, one of the movers and shakers from Bordeaux, “Overpriced is when you set a price and it doesn’t work.” But guess what? There are folks out there who are willing to pay $500 for a bottle of wine.
Taking it down a notch to premier cru, in spite of today’s economy, many Burgundy drinkers don’t bat an eye at $75 wines. Not all wines at this level are quite so high priced, but those that are still have enough of a following. If we keep going down the Burgundy price ladder, there is less quality to choose from — a daunting task, but not an impossible one.
Granted, you must adjust your expectations if you are hoping to find Puligny-Montrachet or even Pouilly-Fuissé quality for $15 or less, but there are wines that are perfectly enjoyable and deliver a glimpse of what makes Burgundy special.
Here are a few that are worth a try:
Large negociants such as Drouhin have so many fruit and talent sources that the wines at the bottom of the rung are often pretty good. Showing the tropical typicity of the Maconnais, this is a pleasing wine that has enough New World character to appeal to California chardonnay drinkers. Available at Noe Valley Wine Merchants.
Suggested retail: $15
The Lamblin family has been making wine in Chablis for 12 generations. Today, they make more than 40 wines, from Burgundy to the Languedoc. In spite of its widespread interest, this Bourgogne Blanc is simply too good to miss. Minerally with white flowers, tapioca and yellow apples, it has some complexity and personality. Available at Mollie Stone’s and Whole Foods markets. Suggested retail: $14
Cave de Lugny is a corporate cooperative (a rarity in Burgundy) in the Maconnais. Less tropical than Drouhin’s Macon, it has more of a northern fruit profile with apples and pears and bright minerality. Available at Beverages and More. Suggested retail: $15
Pamela Busch was the founding partner of Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bars, and is a wine educator and writer.