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Legendary Burgundies and Great Food in Beaune

Legendary Burgundies and Great Food in Beaune

An exclusive report from this year's Hospices de Beaune, the most famous wine auction in France

Tasting burgundies in Beaune.

Beaune is a beautiful little walled town that serves as Burgundy’s wine, food, and charity capital. Its Hospices de Beaune hospital dates back to 1443, and each November since 1851, its auction of new barrels of some of the most prestigious cuvées from the new Burgundy vintage has been a highlight for pinot noir and chardonnay lovers – and buyers – from around the world.

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This year, there was much early damage in the famed vineyards along the Côte d’Or from hail and cold weather, reducing the crop by 30 to 50 percent. However, the resulting wines are delicious, and when I got one of the coveted press seats to the 152nd edition of the auction this past Sunday, I saw 2012 Burgundy prices go up and up, raising a record € 5.9 million or $7.5 million dollars for various charities – including one headed by France’s former first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.


The Glorious Burgundies Of Olivier Bernstein

In 2002, I studied for one year in Beaune to get a degree that let me become a farmer, or something like that. But I knew already how to vinify at that time. When I was 35, I decided to buy 8 hectares (20 acres) in Roussillon (in southern France). It was only 5 years later that I opened the business in Burgundy.

I stared collecting some wines. I visited Burgundy and I could get an allocation of wines from the best producers. I stared making wines with some of the growers. My passion, on top of classical music, became wine.

You produce wines from some of the finest vineyards in the Cote d'Or, and your work is highly original. Tell me a little about this.

Today, I make 10 wines: 3 Premier Cru and 7 Grand Cru. We don’t purchase fruit. I rent the plots – it’s very original. I rent the plots and I farm myself all the plots.

The whole concept has been to convince some owners to rent me their plots, or if I can say differently, I pay them every year the amount of money they would get if they made the wines themselves. I tell them, don’t do that. I will pay you. Don’t go in the vineyards. I will go in the vineyards myself, so I farm all the plots.

I work with 15 owners, not growers. I grow the fruit. I am not a negociant, I am a domaine.

We own two plots. I found all the plots the same way. I do everything myself. It is the same plots since the beginning. So I’m not changing every year. To me, the most important thing is the farming. I need to make the berry myself. Vinification becomes very easy afterwards. It’s all about having the right berry, and you can’t have it when you buy the grapes. You don’t know what has happened. I need to control that.

It was difficult at first, but when I talked to them (the growers in Burgundy) in 2007, they saw me as a grower, because I had my estate in the south of France. They never saw me as a negociant. Then, they thought, ‘why not? We can try.

We started with a few rows and then I could convince them that we could have a few more rows the next year. We started with 30 barrels and now we make 80 barrels of Premier Cru and Grand Cru, which is quite a lot, actually. (25 cases to a barrel), We make 4000 cases of 6.

I bought in 2012 Mazis-Chambertin and Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru “Les Champeaux,” that I was farming since 2007 already. It’s just that I have a contract that says it’s mine. It belongs to the bank – still. For a few decades!

What is your personal philosophy about making Burgundy?

It’s going to sound a little pretentious, but I make better berries than the others. It’s impossible to have great wines without having great berries. It’s really all about viticulture – the choices you make in the vineyard. And one very important thing is I selected vineyards that were planted with very old vines. This is very unique. Most of our plots are 40, 50, 60, 70, even 80 year-old vines.

At that time, the vines were much better planted than the last 30 years. So that’s why it’s very important to is to have small berries. We don’t want the big berries.

It’s all about the raw material.

Is there an emphasis on Pinot Noir clones in Burgundy, as there is in California?

Everything in Burgundy was perfectly planted. It’s just that in the 1970s, there was a move to plant clones that were very productive. The clones produced big berries, and those clones do not produce very interesting wines. It doesn’t matter if you are on the Grand Cru or Premier Cru plot. It’s less interesting. You need to have a certain concentration, a certain ripeness.

I understand that while the quality of the 2016 vintage in Burgundy was extremely high, the quantity was alarmingly small.

2016 was a tiny vintage. Many buds were frozen. It’s a classic vintage, with very well balanced wines. In some vineyards, production was down more than 60%.

We increased our prices by 40%. For me, there was no choice. I pay full price, so for me, my fixed costs are the same, whether I have 20 hectoliters l per hectare or 60 hl per hectare, it’s the same price for me.

We thought there would be a reluctancy in the market (based on the higher prices), but the contrary is true.

Many growers did not increase their prices. But they have fixed costs that is 5 Euro. I have 100 Euro. I need to pay the owner. The others, it’s already paid, as their parents or grandparent paid for the land. So they don’t care, they don’t have to increase the prices.

What percentage of your wines do you export?

99%. Wne we started, we received reviews from Allen Meadows and others, and the US importers came. As for the French importers, they were probably sleeping at the time. So they did not realize that there was a new grower and it could be interesting.

So for the first two or three years, all the importers ordered every bottle they could, so there was nothing available for France!

England is our first customer - they have 25% of the production. America is the second market with 15% (note: Wilson-Daniels is the US importer for Olivier Bernstein wines). I would say Switzerland is very strong with 10%. Japan is also very strong, as is China and then a few other countries in Asia.

Are the Chinese trying to buy everything they can?

Yes, and that is one of the reasons I don't open the French market, as I know the retailers will ship it all to Asia.

What evidence have you seen of climate change in Burgundy?

I don't have that much experience in Burgundy, but 2015 was warm, 2017 was warm, 2018 was warm. Usually we don't have that many vintages that are warm.

In 2016, we harvested on the 23rd of September, but in 2018, we harvested on the 1st of September. More than three weeks in advance, so the trend is going in this direction.

Tasting notes on several Olivier Bernstein Burgundies from the 2016 vintage

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Champeaux”

Young, bright garnet aromas of red cherry, strawberry, red poppies. Medium-full with very good concentration. Light meatiness in the finish. Very good persistence, good acidity. 10-12 years. Outstanding

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Cazetiers”

Deep, young garnet aromas of sweet cherry and raspberry. Medium-full, oak notes are very subdued long finish with excellent persistence beautiful complexity. 15-20 years. Excellent

Clos de Vougeot

Bright garnet aromas of red roses and bing cherry- very floral nose. Medium-full, this has lovely structure, big tannins and a distinct earthiness in the finish, along with excellent complexity and varietal character. 15-20 years. Excellent

Mazis-Chambertin

Deep garnet meaty aromas, with a hint of bacon, red cherry and espresso. Full-bodied with big tannins, excellent persistence and very good acidity. The oak notes are a bit more evident in this wine, but they are nicely integrated. 20 years plus on this one. Outstanding

Deep garnet huge fruit aromas of strawberry and black licorice. Full-bodied, with exotice fruit character. Very good acidity, excelllent complexity, this is a classic Grand Cru with the stuffing to drink well for more than 25 years. Superb


Legendary Burgundies and Great Food in Beaune - Recipes

The atmosphere, staff, food and wine are all outstanding. This restaurant is worth a special trip. It is a great value and has an amazing selection of wines--at very reasonable prices.

20 - 24 of 524 reviews

I love the duck here and their wine list. They have a wide range of burgundies including older vintages. Had a lovely bottle of 1982 Richebourg and Jacques carillon.

The food and service were ok, but the wine list is exceptional! Everything was in French so you need to be good with that ahead of going

We found the food to be very good, but not terribly special. The wine list, on the other hand, was excellent, and for a restaurant, reasonably marked up.
We found the service to be courteous and correct.
It helps to speak decent french and have a sense of humor. These folks have a very popular and busy restaurant and work very hard.

I visited Ma Cuisine twice last week and both times food and service was excellent. Manager was delightful and helpful and only other person serving was a young lady who again worked extremely hard in a very busy restaurant.The wine list is magnificent with a huge selection of wines both local and other regions all at good prices.


Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune

Nowhere else in France does the concept of terroir mean more than it does in Burgundy. Alsatian wine is also based on defined plots of land, but grape varietals take prominence Bordeaux’s château estates seldom produce more than two wines each, from a mix of two or more varietals and champagne blends different varietals from different vintages.

Burgundies are made from one single grape for red, pinot noir, and one for white, chardonnay. Medieval monks propelled Burgundian viticulture to greatness, developing a sixth sense for specific soils and climates over centuries of vineyard cultivation. That ultimately led to the region’s current classification pyramid of 33 Grands Crus, some 600 Premiers Crus, and many other village and regional wines. Of Burgundy’s 4,300 domains, 85 percent count fewer than 25 acres of vineyards. Burgundy’s focus on specific wine growing areas known as climats or terroirs -with multiple producers within each-is its often-confusing hallmark.

The famous Clos Vougeot appellation, for example, is named after wine cellars built in 1115 by Cistercian monks from nearby Cîteaux. It covers only 124 acres of vineyards, parcels of which are owned by 80 producers: 80 different wines, 80 different expressions of one vineyard. By comparison, Bordeaux’s Château Margaux, with one owner, has about 217 acres planted with vines, producing just two reds: Château Margaux and Pavillon Rouge. To get the hang of Burgundy it’s critical not only to understand which vintage was good and which appellation did well, but especially which producer made the wine.

Burgundy’s vineyards are divided into five principal areas: Chablis to the north the Côte d’Or, between Dijon and Chagny and, extending southward, the small Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais, and finally Beaujolais.

The greatest Burgundies are concentrated along the celebrated Côte d’Or, which itself is divided into the Côte de Nuits, south of Dijon between Fixin and Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune, which starts north of the city of Beaune at Pernand-Vergelesses and continues south to Santenay. And it’s in Côte de Beaune that our series on Burgundy wines begins.

Citrus and cinnamon

The fresh seafood flavors of seared scallops in an orange butter sauce found their echo in a 1998 Chevalier-Montrachet from Bouchard Père & Fils, the host of a recent wine-tasting lunch in Beaune. The 10-year-old Grand Cru, coming from some of the best white-wine-producing soil of the Côte de Beaune, exuded aromas and flavors of citrus, mineral limestone and iodine.

Among the oldest Burgundy producers, Bouchard Père & Fils is currently the largest vineyard owner in the Côte d’Or. The Chevalier-Montrachet vineyards cover less than 15 acres, explains Bouchard director Stéphane Follin-Arbelet, and Bouchard owns almost 6 of them-a substantial amount of real estate by Burgundian standards.

Just one day earlier I had picked up part of the same terroir, in the form of mud on my shoes, along the break in the slope between the vines of Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet: mixed clay and limestone, rocky, wet and slippery because of cold January rain-terrain formed in the Jurassic period. In his famous book, Terroir, geologist James Wilson recalls how experts often note the stonier tastes in Chevalier-Montrachet wines.

The Côte de Beaune is most famous for its great whites-five Grand Crus-but it also makes very good and sometimes exceptional reds, as I was reminded with the next wine-food pairing at the Bouchard lunch. A Corton 2000 proved particularly elegant, with notes of cherry jam, musk and cinnamon, an appropriate match for a filet mignon of veal roasted in its jus.

Also served with the veal was a well-known Premier Cru from the 1976 vintage, which needed some 30 years to come to life. That hot summer of 󈨐 blocked ideal grape maturity, with the wine showing a hard, acidic nature in the intervening years, Follin-Arbelet explained. But by now, in early 2009, the Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus had developed creamy, spice-driven flavors. Follin-Arbelet also explained the legend behind the wine’s curious name: in the 17th century, a Carmelite nun working in her convent’s vineyard correctly predicted that Anne of Austria, Louis XIII’s long childless queen, would finally give birth to Louis XIV. The grateful Anne presented the convent with a statuette of the Infant Jesus, and ever since, the vines, now part of the appellation Beaune-Les Grèves, have borne the name Enfant Jésus. Bouchard Père & Fils acquired the vineyard in 1791.

Charlemagne’s legacy

The hill of Corton sits at the northern tip of the Côte de Beaune, at the opposite end from Chevalier-Montrachet. At 1,000 feet, it’s known for winds that dry out excess humidity and help avoid rot. Grouped around the villages of Aloxe-Corton and Pernand-Vergelesses, the Corton area produces both red and white Grand Crus.

In Aloxe, overlooking the Corton vineyards, Philippe Senard of Domaine Comte Senard recounted the region’s delightfully hoary anecdote about the emperor Charlemagne, whose adoration for red wine led to his barbe fleurie -his white beard flowering with red wine stains-and how white grapevines were planted to avoid them. But whether Charlemagne was behind it or not, Corton is famous for both its Grands Crus: the red Corton and white Corton Charlemagne. Senard’s Corton Clos de Meix is a rarity, a Grand Cru monopoly vineyard-Domaine Senard owns the whole five-acre Clos. The 2003 vintage we tasted exuded a leather-like perfume in its robust and deep nature-typical for red Corton wines.

Between Chevalier-Montrachet and Corton there is an almost continuous series of the Premier Cru vineyards that have given the Côte de Beaune its notoriety: Saint-Aubin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard, Volnay and Meursault among others. Traveling along the route I stopped for tastings at Château de la Maltroye, Paul Pernot & Fils and Sylvain Langoureau in Saint-Aubin. All three make very good to excellent wines, sold worldwide. Saint-Aubin, notably, is a less costly alternative to the better-known whites of the Côte de Beaune, and Langoureau is one of its best producers.

Comparing vintages

The advantage in tasting wines from large producers like Bouchard is the possibility of getting an overview of all the major Burgundy appellations under one roof. After tasting a series of 2006 wines at Bouchard, I followed up with 2006 tastings at Joseph Drouhin and Albert Bichot, two other well known Beaune-based producers. My general impression was that the 2006 reds were fine and rather classic, showing good body and structure, but they may lack the depth and precision of great vintages, such as 2005 and 1999. The 2006 whites proved less homogenously good-some were a bit flabby, others just lovely. I particularly enjoyed Albert Bichot Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes (smoke, flint, with a layered and nuanced palate), Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet (a palate with verve and fine mineral aspects), Bouchard’s Meursault Les Perrières (thoroughly pleasing wet stone and lime flavors with a fresh palate and a hint of apricot) and Bouchard’s Chevalier-Montrachet, whose nose and palate exude eau de rose and fleur d’oranger.

The 2007 was a more difficult vintage for the whites of the Côte de Beaune, due to a challenging climate, but it may have more potential. During a tasting at Louis Jadot with winemaking director Jacques Lardière and his daughter Juliette Lardière-Butterfield, we went through scores of wines-including different barrel samples from each-to get a handle on the 2007 vintage. Like the 2007 whites encountered previously at Langoureau, Pernot and Maltroye, they were generally marked by freshness coming from very good acidity but also a richness that makes this vintage potentially excellent.

The 2007 reds at Jadot were charming and sometimes profound, but just occasionally marked by hollowness on the mid-palate. There were also fine reds among the lesser-known Beaune appellations, including Clos des Ursules, the first vineyard bought by Louis Jadot in 1826.

More evidence of the promise held out by the 2007 Beaune whites was found at Domaine Henri Boillot. Based in Meursault, Boillot is the fifth generation of a family of vintners with some 37 acres of Burgundy vineyards. The precision, roundness and crispy acidity of his Bâtard-Montrachet 2007–just bottled after 14 months in cask–remain a great tasting memory.

Panos Kakaviatos discusses Burgundy and other wines on his website.


Hidden pockets of Burgundy that yield great wine values

Back when I was a lad, selling wine as a merchant, the most popular white Burgundy was the unpronounceable Pouilly-Fuisse. I most often heard requests for "Polly Foosay." Why a wine was so sought after whose name was difficult to say remains odd to me. (By the way, it's close to "pwee-fwee-say.")

Nowadays, with Burgundies red and white, it's the unpronounceable names that are the least popular and consequently often a great buy because demand for them is so low.

That leads me to the topic for this column: "hidden Burgundy," wines from this most expensive of French winemaking regions that are extreme values because they're off the wine retail radar screen. Some have names difficult to say, but more are tucked away in appellations commonly overlooked for, well, reasons difficult to say.

Cote de Beaune

Among the tongue twisters is the lengthily named 2012 Louis Jadot Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Clos de la Croix de Pierre ($35-$40) from near the top of the famed Cote de Beaune. ("Pair-nahn-vair-juh-less" is close enough.) It's in the austere, high-toned Jadot style, which gives it plenty of delicious acidity and a good dollop of minerals as an offset to the rich pear aromas and flavors.

And there's the 2011 Benjamin Leroux Auxey-Duresses Blanc ($45) from a bit farther south on the same cote. Matt Kramer, in his book "Making Sense of Burgundy," calls Auxey-Duresses ("oh-say-doo-ress") "the most underrated commune in the Cote d'Or," that strip of gold in more than one way — at the heart of Burgundy. Leroux's Auxey, for the price, is a terrifically dense version of nearly unoaked chardonnay, tangerine-y and minerally and long on the palate.

Other more easily pronounceable yet nonetheless commonly overlooked vineyard areas in the Cote de Beaune include St. Aubin, Chorey-les-Beaune and Santenay, this latter also highly regarded by Kramer. Here are some recommended wines from these three villages.

2012 Francois Carillon St. Aubin Blanc 1er Cru: Notable for its incisive acidity, hemmed in with minerals reminding of white chalk, and its white fruit flavors quietly unfolding on the tongue. $40-$45

2012 Vincent and Sophie Morey St. Aubin Blanc 1er Cru Les Charmois: White fruits and white flowers, white minerals and white wood, a real blanc all around, coming on to the tongue with some heft. $40-$45

2012 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune: A light-bodied but very pretty version of aromas and flavors of chocolate-covered cherries supple, limpid, elegantly tannic a real beauty in true Burgundian pinot noir for so little outlay. $25-$30

2010 Camille Giroud Santenay: Santenay turns out broad-shouldered, almost rustic versions of pinot noir. This is delicious for its tastes and aromas of candied fruit (like SweeTarts), with full-on wafts of dusty earth. (And note, the domaine is American owned!) $35

Cote Chalonnaise

Perhaps the most overlooked values in Burgundies made of both chardonnay and pinot noir are to be found coming from the region just to the south of the Cote de Beaune, the Cote Chalonnaise. In general, the wines are more rough-hewn than those made of the same grapes to the north, but from good producers and houses, they are truly amazing values. Here are more recommendations.

2012 Domaine Alain Roy Montagny 1er Cru: Montagny makes whites only. This is a beaut, for its scents and savors of white flowers, white peach and pear and intense minerality, edged in a lemon-y acidity. What a fine price for so much in a wine. $20-$25

2012 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey: Faiveley is well-known for its holdings here. This is all cherries and raspberries, on the way to being Beaujolais-y for its ebullient fruit. (Be sure to aerate it for at least four hours.) $25-$30

2012 Domaine Chofflet-Valdenaire Givry 1er Cru: Givry makes pinots on all fours: deep carmine-purple color, strong flavors of black currants and dried strawberry, chalky tannins and hints of minerals and earth. This domaine is a star of the region. Another unbelievable price. $25-$35


Beaune – The Heart of Burgundy

France isn’t shy of picturesque villages and exquisite regional delicacies and I’ve had the pleasure of sampling many, from a favorite summer escape in Provence to Mediterranean bliss on the Côte d’Azur and recently a bubbly sejour in Champagne. When the temperature drops though, I seek hearty cuisine and rustic countryside which can all be found in the heart of Burgundy.

One of the oldest wine regions in France (it is believed that the area has produced wine since 300 AD), it has history at every turn and none of the stuffiness of more famous Bordeaux. Burgundy will charm you with its old ways, friendly farmers, and exceptional wine and food. Get your introduction in the walled town of Beaune, the epicenter of it all.

It’s picturesque, almost a little too much, with cobbled streets and shaded squares revealing obvious wealth and a sole common denominator – wine.

Chic mansions, hotels, wine stores, tasting rooms and elegant restaurants in one compact city center has created one of the best places in all of France for wine tasting.

In between two glasses you can visit a handful of historical buildings though they won’t keep you busy for long – you’ll soon be back to swirling grape juice ad infinitum as you should.


Look for the easily missed tiny Passage Saint-Hélène right off Place Carnot where you’ll find a lot of peace…

…and one of Beaune’s most popular restaurants: Ma Cuisine. A favorite of locals and ‘in-the-know’ visitors, the small restaurant is famous for its legendary wine list of over 850 and its great regional cuisine.

The local specialty of Jambon persillé – ham hocks simmered in aligoté (white wine from Burgundy) which is then turned into a terrine with parsley. Sounds simple but this was amazing…

Beef carpaccio, although not a local specialty, scored high points and pairs so well with the local wine.

When you’re ready for a break from the wine and food, it’s time to pay a visit to the town’s true jewel: the magnificent Hôtel-Dieu.

It’s France’s most splendid medieval charity hospital and a symbol of the town’s history. For the past 150 years, it is also home to an annual charity wine auction known as Hospices de Beaune throughout the wine trade, an event that has since become an indicator of pricing trends for the current vintage.

Now a museum, you’re able to stand in the impressive Salle des Malades – the hospital wards – where rows of enclosed wooden beds were used to heal the poor (some as late as the 1980s!).

But the most stunning feature of the hospital is without a doubt its extravagant roof with Burgundian glazed tiles.

It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before and you’ll need some time to take it all in, from the geometric patterns to the colorful tiles.

Soon you will have seen pretty much everything there was to see in this charming little town and the good news is, there are tons of nearby villages that are waiting for you to explore. Beaune is literally in the center of the rolling hills of Burgundy which have given birth to some of the world’s most famous and expensive wines. Ever heard of Chablis or Nuits-St-Georges? Perhaps not if your paycheck isn’t close to that of a hedge fund manager, but it’s nevertheless thrilling to be standing in the middle of such prized vines.

Whether you opt to rent a car or take a bike tour like we did, you’ll love the scenery of undulating pretty towns and vines as far as the eye can see.

Having a knowledgeable local guide is an obvious advantage though as there’s so much history you just wouldn’t get in a book. In between pedal strokes we’d learn about the Great French Wine Blight which had to be cured by planting American vines, immune to the pest. And how the vines around us produced such different wines that a mere 10 feet of distance was enough to create an entirely new personality from the varied soil.

Wherever you look you’ll see a calm and serene tableau of winemakers and farmers working the venerated soil.

You’ll also spot extremely old hideouts used to protect from sudden rain and store tools and equipment.

Superior wine comes from superior grapes and these beauties are surely some of the best looking I’ve seen.

Beaune wines have always been predominantly red and made from the flagship Pinot Noir…

…though lately there’s been a growing demand for Chardonnay so white is having a little moment!

Passing through villages you’ve seen on so many fancy labels is a treat, and of course they’re as enchanting as their names suggest.

We made a stop in the scenic village of Volnay where there are nearly five times more wine labels as there are inhabitants so that gives you an idea..

Every house has its own operation with garages storing barrels, yard used for cleaning and basement for ageing.

Next is the village of Pommard which rarely needs an introduction as it is considered the typical Bourgogne wine: deep red, powerfully aromatic, solid and trustworthy.

We dropped in at a small local producer and got to visit the family operations on site, barrels in the cave…

…and a well deserved tasting after a rainy ride! There are so many houses to choose from, you’ll either have to pick at random or go with a few names you’ve tried at home. Either way, you’ll no doubt leave with a few bottles and continue on to the next village or collapse at a local inn. The only drawback to visiting Burgundy is that you might return home slightly heavier and addicted to wine outside of your regular purchasing limits – you’ve been warned!


Côte de Beaune

Pernand-Vergelesses

The northernmost village in the Côte de Beaune famously contains three exceptional Grand Crus𠅌orton, Corton-Charlemagne and Charlemagne -- but unless you feel like burning a Benjamin or more on a single bottle, you’ll want to seek out Pernand-Vergelesses’ Village-level wine for maximum value. “The Village vineyards produce both red and white wine with nice structure (due to the superb marls of the soil) and great acidity (thanks to northeastern exposure),” explains Lebault. Robust Pinot Noir or lively Chardonnay-based wines from a world-class wine-growing region for around $30? Now, that’s a deal.


Between Ladoix-Serrigny and the hillsides of the Maranges, the Côte de Beaune winegrowing region covers 20km from north to south. Facing the morning sun, these vineyards are never more than a few hundred meters wide. Yet they produce red and white wines that are internationally renowned. Their reputation also extends to the town of Beaune, an historical center where you can discover all the secrets of the Bourgogne winegrowing region.

A little farther to the west, behind the Côte de Beaune, the vines flourish on a gently concave plateau, 400m above sea level. This is the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. On the sunniest slopes, around 20 communes produce lively and accessible wines from the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune appellation.


Burgundy Wines That Won’t Break the Bank

Lettie Teague

WHEN WINE CONNOISSEURS talk about Burgundy, they are invariably referencing famous three- and four-figure grand crus like Chambertin and Montrachet. And yet wines produced in more humble appellations like Marsannay, Auxey-Duresses or even Côte de Beaune can also provide a real taste of the region—and at a price that regular drinkers can actually afford.

The word “affordability” is rarely associated with wines from this region of France, especially in recent years. Burgundy is currently one of the priciest precincts in the winemaking world. Every serious drinker seems to be focused on buying its best bottles, to the exclusion of almost everything else, including that former collector staple, first-growth Bordeaux.

In fact, when it comes to Bordeaux versus Burgundy, wine merchant Geoffrey Troy, of New York Wine Warehouse in Long Island City, N.Y., said bluntly: “Bordeaux is dead.” Mr. Troy isn’t alone in his opinion wine professionals have been declaring Bordeaux dead for several years thanks to a few dismal vintages and excessive prices. The Burgundy market, meanwhile, has been hot since the 2005 vintage, according to Mr. Troy. He noted that many of his top clients have transitioned from Bordeaux to Burgundy, making the market for the region’s best wines “stronger than ever.”

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Message in a Bottle

Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys, a wine retailer and auction house with offices in White Plains, N.Y., and Hong Kong, said he has seen a similar trend at auction. While prices of Bordeaux have remained stable, according to Mr. Zacharia, “prices of Burgundy continue to push higher and higher.”

One explanation, which any economist would love, is a matter of scarcity. The amount of wine produced in Burgundy has always been much smaller than that made in Bordeaux. The latter is the largest producer of appellation d’origine controlée, or AOC, wines in France, whereas the former is roughly a quarter of the size and produces only 3% of the country’s AOC wines. Burgundy’s supply has been further diminished in recent years in 2012 and 2013, bad weather of all sorts cut some producers’ total harvests in half.

Still, a surprising number of very good, very affordable Burgundies are available right now—even if they aren’t the kind of wines a collector might covet. As Mr. Troy said, none of his big Burgundy collectors would drink a Marsannay or a Rully, let alone a Bourgogne. Not even on an ordinary Tuesday night. “They might drink a premier cru or a village wine,” he said.

A village wine is a few rungs above a basic Bourgogne in the Burgundian hierarchy, where wines are ranked according to place rather than producer, as they are in Bordeaux. The more specific the place, the better the wine—in theory at least. For example, Bourgogne is made from grapes planted anywhere in the region, and consequently is the lowest-ranking wine. Bottles that carry a more specific place of origin—such as Côte de Beaune, an appellation of the Côte-d’Or subregion—are one step up, followed by village wines identified by the name of a town. Further up the quality ladder are wines from the region’s almost 600 premier cru-designated vineyards. The highest classification, grand cru, goes to just 39 vineyards and is concentrated in two of Burgundy’s five subregions, with 32 in Côte-d’Or and seven in Chablis.

Without a grand cru to their name, the other subregions—Mâconnais, Côte Chalonnaise and Beaujolais—are much less fashionable. But this also means their land is much more affordable. These areas are now home to more and more ambitious young producers unable to afford land in the Côte-d’Or, where a hectare (almost 2.5 acres) can cost more than €1 million ($1.1 million).

Becky Wasserman-Hone, a highly regarded importer based in the town of Beaune, is a fan of simple Burgundies, saying they can help aspiring drinkers understand both the region and a producer’s style. And though she has spent her career helping to make famous such sought-after producers as Denis Bachelet, Michel Lafarge and Comtes Lafon, Ms. Wasserman-Hone said she is dismayed at the frequency with which these more affordable wines are overlooked. “There are rarely headlines about the Boy Scout who helped an old age pensioner across the street, and rarely any thought given to ‘Burgundy on a Budget,’ ” she wrote in an email.

For my own budget Burgundies, I decided I wouldn’t spend more than $35 a bottle. That may sound like a lot for “budget” wine, but even Bourgognes from some top producers can cost close to $100 a bottle. I looked for bottles from good producers in every subregion—save Beaujolais, which warrants a column all its own.

&ldquo Wines produced in Burgundy’s more humble appellations can provide a real taste of the region—at an affordable price. &rdquo

While a few examples were less than thrilling, most were quite good. The 2013 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos Rochette ($31), a full-bodied white from Côte Chalonnaise, was a standout. Producer Erwan Faiveley called it “one of, if not the best value white we have in our portfolio,” which includes many famous grand crus.

Another terrific Côte Chalonnaise was the 2013 Domain Dureuil-Janthial Vauvry Rully Premier Cru ($36). A wine of great texture and depth from the Rully appellation, produced by the talented young Vincent Dureuil-Janthial, it justified slightly blowing my budget. The wines of Rully have become increasingly fashionable, delivering unexpected quality for the price.

There were some memorable wines from the unchic Côte-d’Or appellations of Marsannay and Auxey-Duresses. The former is the northernmost appellation in Côte-d’Or, near famed Gevrey-Chambertin while the latter is far south, next to the much more famous Meursault. The 2013 Domaine Bart Marsannay Les Champs Salomon was a big, rich, showy wine—and a great deal at $26. On the opposite side of the scale, and the other end of Côte-d’Or, the 2012 Domaine Jean & Gilles Lafouge Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru Les Duresses ($33) was a delicate and savory red.

I also found several notable Chablis, including the wonderfully minerally 2014 Patrick Piuze Terroir de Chablis ($22), the 2014 Moreau-Naudet ($29) and the refreshing and bright 2014 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Domaine Sainte Claire ($16).

I shared many of my finds with friends, all of whom were wine lovers but not collectors. Unaware that the wines were obscure and/or lacking in status, my friends were pleased with the wines’ generous character, lively acidity and true sense of place. These were Burgundies without pretense yet still worthy of praise.

Oenofile // Five Bargain Burgundies That Are More Than You Bargain for

From left: 2013 Domaine Bart Marsannay Les Champs Salomon 2013 Domaine Rapet Pere & Fils Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes 2013 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos Rochette 2013 Domain Dureuil-Janthial Vauvry Rully Premier Cru 2014 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Domaine Sainte Claire

2013 Domaine Bart Marsannay Les Champs Salomon $26

Leading producers in the overlooked Marsannay appellation on the northernmost end of the Côte-d’Or, Martin and Pierre Bart have turned out a particularly powerful and impressively well-structured wine.

2013 Domaine Rapet Pere & Fils Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes $34

Both red and white wines are produced in this Côte de Beaune region close to the grand cru appellation of Corton. This minerally white from a highly regarded producer is restrained and elegant.

2013 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos Rochette $31

This wine from the often-underrated Côte Chalonnaise’s Mercurey appellation is a rich, barrel-aged white that Erwan Faiveley believes may be the biggest bargain white in the estate’s portfolio.

2013 Domain Dureuil-Janthial Vauvry Rully Premier Cru $36

I went $1 over my budget for this terrific expression of Pinot Noir by Vincent Dureuil-Janthial, one of the great talents of the Rully appellation. Produced in a premier cru vineyard, it’s a beautifully balanced, graceful wine.

2014 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Domaine Sainte Claire $16

There are many great bargains to be found in Chablis, the northernmost subregion of Burgundy. This basic bottling—a crisp, dry, almost austere white from Jean-Marc Brocard—is definitely among the best.

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Things to Do

Athenaeum Beaune
This book/wine/kitchen store has a good selection of cookbooks and books on French wine. If you are staying a while and need some kitchen essentials, you can find them for less expensive elsewhere, but Athenaeum does have a nice selection of wine glasses and cheese serving accessories if you want to elevate your Burgundy experience and have something nice to bring home at the end of your trip.

The Cook’s Atelier
This family run luxury kitchen store has a full line of copper pans developed with Mauviel and also offers intensive French cooking classes in their stunning kitchen.

La Moutarderie Fallot
The headquarters of this famous mustard maker is in downtown Beaune. You can book an experience, but if you just want mustard both Intermarché (upscale French supermarket chain) in Nuits St. George and L. Eclerc (hyper-market chain) in Beaune carry the full range of Fallot products, including gold pails suitable for gifting.

Hospices de Beaune
This hospital founded in the 1400s is a touristy but fascinating stop in Beaune. If there is no line, it’s worth quickly taking the self guided tour if for no other reason than the architecture, most notably the ornate rooftop and soaring gothic spires. Similar to Auction Napa Valley, Burgundy vintners set aside special bottles for the Hospices de Beaune’s annual charity auction.


Watch the video: Μουριά. Ταβέρνα Παλαιό Φάληρο,σπιτικό φαγητό,μαγειρευτά,εστιατόριο,ψητά στη σχάρα (January 2022).