Domaine Chandon de Briailles
Burgundy is home to some of the most rare and expensive wine in the world. Though prices have gone up significantly in recent years, this wine region is not just for the 1 percent. There are still many great deals to be had if you know where to look.
Burgundy is divided into five wine producing regions. The most famous part, the Côte d’Or, starts just south of Dijon and includes the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune. The Côte de Nuits typically produces the best reds and the Côte de Beaune the best whites.
Chateau de Chamilly
Burgundy produces primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the lesser-known white Aligoté and the fruity Gamay (if you include Beaujolais in the region, which is often up for debate) are also grown.
Chateau de Chamilly
Burgundy has a well-established hierarchy: wines fall into four classifications that date back to medieval times. The Grand Cru come from the best vineyard sites that produce the most complex and cellar-worthy wines (the label will say Grand Cru and will denote the vineyard where the grapes came from); Premier Cru are still high quality wines that are often right next to Grand Cru vineyards (label denotes both the village and vineyard); more affordable Village Wines are named for the town where the grapes are sourced and can be a blend of grapes from a single village. Regional Wines are made from grapes grown anywhere in Burgundy and can include rosé and sparkling wines.
Chateau de Chamilly
Know the lingo
Cristina Otel, the owner of Taste Burgundy Wine School has coined a phrase that every Burgundy wine enthusiast should know. Grey zones, as she calls them, are the AOC that butt right up against vineyards that have been classified as Grand Cru, but for whatever reason have not received the prestigious designation. These vineyards can be both Premier Cru and Village vineyards and the wines can still be excellent but had for hundreds if not thousands less than the Grand Cru wines of the Côte d’Or. The free Burg Map App is an interactive map that allows you to easily see the vineyards and their designations.
Get off the beaten path
The Côte Chalonnaise just south of the Côte de Beaune produces some excellent less expensive wines. One standout winery in the area is Château de Chamilly. Veronique Desfontaine and her two sons operate the winery out of a gorgeous Chateau and farm (parts date back to the 14th century). Arnaud produces the red wines while Xavier is in charge of the whites, with nothing coming in at more than €20/bottle. Their only Côte de Nuits red, the dark and fruity 2012 Fixin Premier Cru, is a great buy at €17.40 and their mineral and fruity 2011 Mercury Premier Cru Les Puillets will set you back just €10.90. The Desfontaine family recently acquired another domaine called Carey Potet, and they are now producing wines under both labels. Chateau de Chamilly is open for tastings, and both Domaine Carey Potet and Chateau de Chamilly are imported by Dionysos Importers Inc. and North Berkeley Wine in the US.
Chateau de Chamilly
The village of Savigny-Les-Beaune is located in the Côte d’Or, but has remained largely off the radar due to its location several kilometers from Route 74. Savigny wines are light and delicate, but also benefit quite a bit from time in the bottle. Domaine Simon Bize et Fils and Domaine Pavelot make excellent bottles, many Premier Cru, that sell for under €30. Domaine Simon Bize et Fils’ US importers include Martin Scott Wines, Cordon Selections, and The Source. You can find a list of Joli Vin, a California-based importer and distributor, retailers in California here. Savigny-Lès-Beaune is home to Domaine Chandon de Briailles, a gorgeous 18th century manor house and winery owned by the Count and Countess de Nicolay. The gardens were designed by the same landscape architect as Versailles and are open to the public. Also worth a peak is the beautiful Château de Savigny, now an airplane and motorcycle museum.
In the Mâconnais region in the south of Burgundy Pouilly-Fuissé usually gets all the buzz, but the appellation that sandwiches it known as Saint Véran (it includes the villages Davayé, Prissé and Solutré-Pouilly in the north, and Chânes, Chasselas, Leynes, Saint-Amour and Saint-Vérand in the south), makes equally delicious crisp and mineral whites for a fraction of the cost. Both Maison Louis Jadot and Domaine Drouhin have excellent bottles of Saint Véran for about €12 a bottle. Believe it or not, Maison Louis Jadot Saint Véran is available at Wegmans, an East Coast grocery store chain, and its general US importer is Kobrand Wine & Spirits. Domaine Joseph Drouhin’s US importer is Drefus, Ashby & Co.
Chablis is another wine producing region in Burgundy known for crisp and mineral whites, but few know the area is actually home to some Grand Cru vineyards. Because there’s less demand, bottles of Chablis Grand Cru can be had for less than €50/bottle, unheard of in the Côte d’Or. Look for Patrick Piuze’s wines, available through David Bowler Wines in the U.S. (his “Terroir” line is a particular steal). Duplessis also makes some fantastic, well priced Chablis, available in the US through Selection Massale.
The rising costs of land throughout Burgundy has spawned a new generation of high-quality micro-negoces. Though these producers don’t own their own vineyards, the care and attention to detail is very high. One example would be Samuel Billaud; Samuel left the eponymous Domaine Billaud Simon to start his own house in 2007. His densely structured and powerful Chablis from the rare 1er Cru “Forneaux” is both impressive and affordable, often available for as little as $30.
Look for other varietals
Many think Chardonnay is the only white wine in Burgundy, but there is another other white grape planted in the region called Aligoté. The simple, crisp white is a more steely, herbal relative of Chardonnay and is very inexpensive. Chateau de Chamilly sells an excellent bottle for €4.40. Domaine A. & P. De Villaine, the owners of the prestigious Domaine de la Romanée Conti (home of the most expensive wine in the world) also make a delicious (and cheap!) aligoté, Bouzeron, on their personal domaine, available in the U.S. through Kermit Lynch.
Look for wine makers who are thinking outside the box
Winemaker Anne Gros’ elegant Burgundies can hardly be described as inexpensive, but her Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc, regional wines that can be made from grapes grown anywhere in Burgundy, can be found for $25-35 in the U.S; Domaine Anne Gros wines are also imported by Dionysos Importers Inc. and North Berkeley Wine in the US. Gros and her partner, Jean Paul Tollot of Domaine Tollot-Beaut, also have a winery in the Languedoc called Minervois that produces some excellent affordable wine. The LA 50/50, a red table wine that is a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, and Grenache, goes for just €13 while the Minervois Les Carrétals, made with grapes from 100-year old Carignan vines, is €27.
Domaine Marc Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin is living proof that you don’t have to have Grand Crus and Premier Crus vineyards to produce excellent Bourgogne Wine. Winemaker Alexandrine Roy produces four different bottles of Gevrey-Chambertin and one Marsannay from village vineyards, with nothing going for more than $100/bottle. While these wines certainly aren’t cheap, they are good value for the Côte de Nuits—the 2010 Gevrey–Chambertin Vielles Vignes placed 2nd in a 2013 New York Times tasting of under-$100-burgundies and costs about $60. The rich and round 2011 Alexandrine Cuvée, made from berries handpicked for their skin to juice ratio, runs about $99, while the minerally 2011 Marsannay “Les Champs Perdrix” made from a tiny parcel on the rocky hillside above the village of Couchey is $40.
Domaine Chandon de Briailles
Maison Louis Jadot, Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Domaine Anne Gros, and Domaine Simon Bize are also available at Berman’s Fine Wine and Spirits in Lexington, MA.
Affordable places to stay and eat
You can certainly go big in Burgundy, but there are several great affordable hotels and B & B’s right in the heart of the medieval walled city of Beaune, including the Abbaye de Maizieres, a hotel in a historic abbey and Les Jardins de Lois a bed and breakfast featuring spacious rooms and a lovely garden. Le Comptoir des TonTons is a new restaurant that uses only seasonal, local ingredients featured on prix-fixe menus starting at €29. Caves de Madeleine is beloved by locals for its ever-changing menu featuring unique takes on regional dishes.
Written by Casey Hatfield for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Casey Hatfield unless otherwise noted. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.