Burgundy, Bourgogne in French, may seem larger than life for all the attention it gets, but it’s actually quite a small slice of the wine world. Less than 5% of French wine production comes out of this treasured region, and only about one fifth of that gets exported to the eager U.S. market. It’s fair to say that demand places great tension on supply.
Realities on the ground, such as devastating spring frost and disease pressure, have put a double-digit dent in yields in some pockets of Burgundy, layering on the stress points. According to the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB), 2021 came in at about half the volume of a “normal” harvest—a result of a frost-filled spring followed by a cold, wet growing season. Tack on the other recent challenges for the global wine industry—disruptions in the supply chain, packaging material shortages and limitations due to the pandemic— and witness the complex business of pricing bottles of wine.
The odds may seem stacked against finding Burgundy at a reasonable price—but curiosity can lead to some incredible and authentic finds. And despite the limited quantities, Burgundy continues to offer top quality options at a range of prices. Though home to many “unicorn” treasures and blockbuster vintages, there are bottles of Burgundy for everyone.
Regional wines are the starting point in the quest for access, and about half of Burgundian wines fall into this category. Burgundy-based Stevie Bobès is a wine professional, guide and curator of a value-oriented wine club, Wine Ambassadeur. “Most of these entry level wines from any of the more than one thousand producers will offer the pleasure of enjoying wonderful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines at lower price points,” says Bobès. He also recommends wines from the Mâconnais, located in the southernmost swath of Burgundy. Look for the words “Bourgogne” or “Mâcon” on the label. These terms may also be accompanied by a geographical indicator—or example, Bourgogne Épineuil or Mâcon Fuissé. The term “Burgundy” is a translation and isn’t used on labels.
The village-level category is also considered a sweet spot for value, and Bobès suggests that lesser-known areas in the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais in the south, or Grand Auxerrois or even Chablis in the north offer promise. “Names such as Viré-Clessé, Saint-Véran, Montagny or Vézéley come to mind for whites,” he says. “Look to Irancy for reds, and Givry, Rully and Mercurey for both white and red wines.” Some of the villages are home to Premier Cru, which will be indicated by the name of the vineyard site (called a climat) on the label. Logically, this will increase the price in most instances.
Another way to enjoy the best of Burgundy on a budget is to consider unexpected categories. Crémant de Bourgogne white and rosé sparkling wine is made in the traditional method, and there are bottles available for under $30. There are also little pocket-plantings of unique grape varieties that add diversity to the buying options. A small portion of Burgundian cultivation is Aligoté—a vibrant and youthful white wine that has its own appellation and centuries of history in the region.
In Burgundy wine buying, consider that the appellation (rather than the producer) is generally the most significant identifier and will enjoy the most prominent spot on the label. If there is a particular producer that has caught your eye, consider seeking out another bottle from their range that comes from a less expensive location or category. “There are plenty of wines in the region that are accessible and value-oriented just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed,” says Bobès.
Bottles To Try
Domaine Besson Givry Les Grands Prétans Premier Cru 2019; $48, 94 Points. Sourced from vines averaging 40 years in age and matured in a touch more new oak than this producer’s other Givry bottlings, Les Grands Prétans offers a marked increase of density and perseverance in its red-cherry, plum and raspberry palate. Although intensely fruity and sun-drenched, the wine is etched by complexities of earth, blossom and animal. Just approaching its peak, it will likely improve through 2029. —Anna Lee C. Iijima (Buy on Vivino)
Domaine Levert-Barault Mercurey La Chassière Premier Cru 2019; $55, 93 Points. Perfumed notes of rose water and crisp black plums introduce this bright, fresh-fruited Pinot Noir. Supple in tannins and packed with juicy black cherry and berry flavors, it’s a thirst-quenching, immediately approachable wine elevated by a tinge of chalky minerality and a bristling spine of acidity. At peak now–2027. —ALI
Maison de la Chapelle Irancy ‘Les Beaux Monts’ 2019; $40, 93 Points. A shade riper and richer than the producer’s other, equally striking Pinot Noir bottlings, Les Beaux Monts offers juicy black cherry and raspberry flavors accented by whispers of rose petal and candied violet. It’s a lush, penetrating expression of Northern Burgundy in a hot vintage, framed with supple tannins and a lingering, smoky finish. Ready now, the wine should drink well through 2029. Editor’s Choice —ALI (Buy on Wine-Searcher)
Domaine de la Renaissance Rully ‘La Barre’ 2019; $50, 91 Points. This juicy, mouthwatering wine contrasts crisp bites of sour cherry and raspberry with spicy, smoky hints of roasted coffee bean and cacao. Held upright by firm, finely edged tannins, it’s a bit tight in youth but should open nicely from 2024 through 2027. —ALI (Buy on Wine-Searcher)
Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Cuvée Réserve Pinot Noir 2019; $23. 90 Points. This is a fresh-fruited, easy-drinking Pinot Noir packed with cheeky red cherry and raspberry flavors edged by hints of spice and earth. Refreshing and slim despite the heat of the vintage, it’s a structured sip cut by tart hits of cranberry and cassis acidity. At peak now–2025. —ALI (Buy on Wine-Searcher)
This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
Last Updated: May 9, 2023