Burgundy wines are some of the most difficult wines to understand. One reason is that Burgundy wines are so expensive, so it is harder to find opportunities to taste them. It may surprise people to know that generally, the most expensive wines in the world come from Burgundy, not Bordeaux. The prices are mostly driven by demand and scarcity. Each vineyard is very small and the grape varietal used to produce red wines (Pinot Noir) in the Burgundy region is one of the most difficult and fickle grapes to grow. But there is a way to drink Burgundy affordably, so read on!
Burgundy is divided into five subregions. The most northerly wine subregion of Burgundy is Chablis. It is very close to the Champagne region and predominantly produces unoaked white wines from the Chardonnay grape. You can get exceptional wines from this subregion at the Premier Cru level (see my past article on the Burgundy classification system) for under $80.
The other Burgundy wine subregions are clustered together. The most northerly of these wine subregions is Cote de Nuits. “Cote” means slope and the subregion is named after the commune of Nuits St. Georges. This subregion is known for producing very high end, exceedingly expensive red wines.
The next subregion is Cote de Beaune. This subregion is a named after the city of Beaune, which is famous for its yearly Hospice de Beaune charity wine auction in every November of each year. This subregion is known for making some of the most expensive white wines in the world, made from the Chardonnay grape.
The price of wines to from Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune, and perhaps even Chablis, exceed what most people want to spend on wines. But the next two subregions of Burgundy provide great value if you want to try wines from the Burgundy region.
The next subregion of Burgundy is Cote Chalonnaise, which is named after the town Chalon-sur-Saône. It is known for making value red wines. Finally, there is the Maconnais subregion, which is the most southerly of the Burgundy wine subregions. It is known for producing value white wines. Some readers may have heard of Pouilly Fuisse, which is a region located in the Maconnais.
With the skyrocketing Burgundy prices, many wine drinkers are turning to Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais wines, and wondering why they have been overlooked for all these years. Wines from these subregions are made in the same style and use the same grape varietals as their more expensive neighboring subregions in Burgundy. They do tend to be earlier drinking and won’t be able to age more that five years but that is perfect for most wine consumers, who buy for consumption, not for collecting.
For more information on Burgundy wines, see my video here. Until next time, happy drinking!
Tony Kwan is the Richmond News' new columnist. Lawyer by day, food and wine lover by night, Kwan is an epicurean who writes about wine, food and enjoying all that life has to offer.