Demystifying Burgundy Wines: How to Find the Best Value Products
Around 183 million bottles are produced every year in Burgundy and one bottle out of two is exported. This illustrates the demand for these wines all around the world. In Québec, we are one of the best markets for these products. If China is mostly interested in prestigious and rare wines (Grands crus), we are mostly interested in wines originating from all appellations of Burgundy. Indeed, from all of the wines produced in the region, 1% of all products come from Grand cru appellations, 10% from Villages Premier crus, 37% from Villages appellations and 52% from Regional appellations.
The wine enthusiast, the professional and the knowledgeable wine amateur all have one element in common when tasting a Burgundy product: this unique expression that is often associated with the terroir notion of Burgundy wines. This concept, invented by the people of the region, corresponds to all of the qualitative elements of the varietals, to the natural elements (weather, exposition to the sun and vine position) and to the know how of the winemaker. With this terroirnotion comes other words such as climate and “lieu-dit”, two terms that are often confounded. Climate refers to the precise location of a parcel that benefits from unique geological and climatic elements. It can also refer to the “Clos”, a climate surrounded by a wall of stone. In the Middle Ages, the “Clos” were owned by prestigious owners or by monastic orders. Today, many owners can share the same Clos. As an example, the Clos de Vougeot, Grand cru in Côtes de Nuits is shared between 84 total owners. Indeed, 1247 different climates are precisely delimited in Burgundy regarding their unique characteristics in the AOC classification system. It is therefore not surprising that the Burgundy region is one of the most divided vineyards in the world. For the “lieux-dits”, they refer to a specific location that is characterized by history or by the topography. There can therefore be multiple “lieux-dits” inside a climate, or a climate that can only include part of a “lieu-dit”.
If there were only one classification to discover in the quest to taste terroir wines in Burgundy at competitive prices, it would certainly be the complementary geographical denominations. These are not equivalent to the AOC, but more so an identification of smaller territories within these appellations. The AOC system, created in 1937, has brought forth the number of 100 of AOCs, but it was in fact 84 AOCs to which the complementary geographical denominations of Burgundy are added. Today, there exist 14 of those within the Burgundy AOC such as: Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Le Chapitre, Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse… The sub-region of Mâconnais is also an extremely interesting case as more than half of the area of the Mâcon appellation is dedicated to these complementary geographical denominations. There are 27 of these in the Mâcon AOC that allow for the addition of the “villages” denomination to increase the geographical precision. Here are some of the more known ones: Milly-Lamartine, La-Roche-Vineuse, Uchizy, Vinzelles…
So, if you want to discover very interesting wines from these locations at reasonable prices, these products are some of the better bargains at price points around 20 to 25 dollars. With all of that said, the wines of Burgundy, in their regional appellations, are also interesting but their style often comes from the producer instead of from theterroirin which the grapes are harvested.
For all the lovers of sparkling wines, you must certainly already know the Burgundy region because of its very interesting products in terms of pricing. Elaborated with four different varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Gamay and Aligoté), they can showcase their finesse and complexity in these argyles and calcareous soils of Burgundy. Did you know that, since 2016, you can find two new quality labels among the Crémants de Bourgogne: Eminent and Grand Eminent. If the Crémant de Bourgogne label already ensured a quality product for the consumer (minimal aging of 1 year, grapes harvested by hand, limited pressurization, traceability and taste tests on all of the cuvees), these Eminent and Grand Eminent mentions allow for an even better quality (24 months of aging for the Eminent and 36 months of aging for the Grand Eminent). For the Grand eminent, the products are blessed with incredible finesse; the wines are Brut (less than 15g/L) and are produced exclusively with Pinot noir and Chardonnay
My favorite Mâcon Uchizy, Talmard 2017.
My favourite Crémant de Bourgogne Eminent : Louis Bouillot, Perle Rare 2015.