It’s also the great utility of red Burgundy that I appreciate. I’ve come to accept something I heard at a wine class, seminar, or maybe just from a wine salesman: that red Burgundy, because of its of medium heft, its acidity and light tannins, is the most versatile food wine around. It can make food and wine pairing much easier. And, these are quite easy to drink on their own.
Over the years, it hasn’t been just the expense causing my hesitation with exploring more of the region, though that is the certainly the primary consideration, but there is also the amount to know to really know Burgundy. As noted wine educator Kevin Zraly opined, “Burgundy is one of the most difficult subjects in the study of wines….here are a lot of vineyards and villages, and they are all important.” There is so much to try to grasp. There is Burgundy, the wines labeled “Bourgogne,” and then in increasing selectivity, and expense, comes the seven regions – like Côtes de Nuits and Côtes Chalonnaise – the many villages, then the premier crus and the grand crus at the pinnacle. Then white-centric Mâcon region itself has three levels of regional levels, too. There is a lot to know with Burgundy. I used to know more, though far from anything approaching expertise, and I am usually fairly befuddled in the Burgundy aisle these days and have been for a while.
Before attending a trade luncheon before Christmas about Burgundy’s best kept secrets, it was my thought that its theme might be the promotion its secondary white varietal, Aligoté, that has gotten space on wine lists in recent years, or maybe the base Bourgonge classification, the most affordable, or that it might take a broader view of Burgundy, to include Beaujolais, also. The mass of Burgundy – Côtes de Beaune, Côtes de Nuits, and the grand and premier crus scattered among them, Chablis – does not need promoting, I thought. Burgundy “has become the most coveted wine in the world,” to quote Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine writer. But, it seems that it does, and least some parts of it.
At the luncheon, a group of local wine professionals was lead in a blind tasting of nine wines, six white and three red. We were asked to assess the level of each of the wines after each three-wine flight. Village was the most common retort, though premier and even grand cru were heard. It turned out that every one of the wines were from one of the regional appellations, though. And all were Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, the core of Burgundy.
My favorites were Maison Ambroise Hautes Côtes de Nuits 2018, which is white; Château de Messey Mâcon Cruzille, Clos des Avoueries, 2018, white; and Domaine Fournier, Côtes d`Or, 2018, red. The retail prices for these are $30, $34, and $25, not inexpensive and more than what I typically pay for a bottle of wine. But, I thought that these prices were quite fair, probably lower than the quality would indicate, in fact. These three were about the most expensive of the nine. What struck me was the value throughout. These were obviously very well-made wine, often delicious, sometimes offer a decent amount of complexity, all for very fair prices. Some were excellent values, including Domaine Marc Mâcon Pierreclos, a white for just $11.
The producers above might be somewhat obscure, at least to me. I didn’t see any of these at Total Wines this morning. We were told that there are good values in the Mâcon, and that might be a short-hand two-syllable name to remember when a white wine is in order. And I did happen to pick up a couple of bottles with Mâcon on lable today, both definitely under $20. Some of the other values we sampled were the result of a warming planet. Also values are to be found in Hautes Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, two areas just outside those two famed areas that long produced wines that were once thin and consumed mostly locally and quite cheaply, but recently, because of much higher temperatures, the grapes are much more fully ripened and the wines are fuller and more flavorful. Some good out of the bad.
There is still a lot to understand – a lot of names to learn, and ones that can be tough for many of us to pronounce – when it comes to affordable Burgundy, but I found it heartening to learn that there is fairly affordable wines from there that are actually a fine value for the quality.