The Wine Cellar: Give these best-buy Burgundies a try
For good bargains on tasty, high quality wines with personality, look to Burgundy’s regional wines as a terrific starting point. Regional level wines account for about 51% of Burgundy’s overall production. The wines generally come from limestone and clay-based vineyards resembling, but not quite as distinctive as Burgundy’s more prestigious premier cru and grand cru sites.
In recent decades, seemingly limitless worldwide collector demand has driven prices for the top-level prestige wines to dizzying heights. At the same time, savvy, independent winegrowers recognizing renewed consumer interest in Burgundy wines generally increasingly find it economically feasible to produce outstanding quality wines at the more modest Bourgogne regional levels. The wines use primarily Chardonnay grapes for whites and mainly pinot noir for reds.
Instead of merely maximizing quantities to make quick revenues, the best growers reduce yields to produce high quality grapes in their regional level vineyards. The resulting regional wines combine quality and value, but you must be choosy to find them.
“The rising demand for Burgundies creates opportunities for energetic growers to reclaim traditional regional terroirs. I am very excited about producers, young and old, who take chances and experiment in the vineyards,” says Marco Pelletier, a highly regarded sommelier who owns Vantre, a terrific casual bistro near Place de la Republique in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. “The key is discovering growers and wines with energy. Burgundy is about producers and not so much appellation.”
Try the following decidedly delicious wines from energetic, dedicated winegrowers:
• The 2017 Domaine Catherine and Didier Tripoz, Bourgogne Blanc “Vieilles Vignes,” France (Luxury 77795; $14.99) comes from a charming husband-and-wife team working for the last 30 years in the Mâcon, Burgundy’s “sunny” southern-most region. The grapes for this wine come from 60-year-old, organically cultivated chardonnay vines located right behind the winery.
In the glass, the wine’s light straw color unfolds lovely apple and citrus aromas with notes of white flowers. Take a sip to discover ripe citrus and orange peel flavors with medium concentration. Vibrant, refreshing acidity balances the clean, dry finish which lingers pleasantly. Pair this delicious wine with grilled swordfish kabobs with a citrus and molasses glaze. Highly Recommended.
• Edouard Lepesme trained in marketing wine before the professional winemaking bug bit him. After studying viticulture in Beaune, Burgundy, Edouard went “all-in” and bought an estate with organically trained vines in the village of Vaux-Auxerre. Located about a two-hour drive southeast from Paris, the area takes its name from the principal town of Auxerre which originally was an old Roman outpost on the Yonne River.
Most of Lepesme’s vines toil in chalky limestone soils on a sweeping, windy hilltop. This perch offers dramatic, beautiful views over the Yonne River Valley below and the rolling hills beyond.
For the delicious 2017 Domaine d’Edouard, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre Pinot Noir, France (Available from Chambers Street Wines; $27.99), Lepesme harvested the grapes by hand, fermented the fruit with indigenous yeasts, and added minimal sulfur before bottling. The resulting wine offers marvelous red fruit aromas with a touch ofsous-bois earthiness. Ripe, juicy fruit flavors unfold in the glass. Vibrant, uplifting freshness and elegant, silky tannins provide just enough backbone. Pair it with grilled skirt steak. Highly Recommended.
• Northern Burgundy’s infamous spring frosts routinely have challenged veteran vigneron Dominique Gruhier since beginning his work in 1989. But the resourceful, energetic grower preserves by focusing organic cultivation of the vines and producing high quality wines.
In the village of Épineuil, the gregarious, yet cerebral Gruhier putters around his vineyards these days in a vintage Renault car. Kimmeridgean limestone and clay soils prevail, so Épineuil’s terroir resembles the best sites in the more famous Chablis which lies just to the southwest. Gruhier’s French exporter, Becky Wasserman & Company, refers to his delightful, fresh red wines as “Chablisien Pinot Noir.”
The 2016 Domaine Dominique Gruhier, Bourgogne—Épineuil, France (Available from Saratoga Wine Exchange ; $25.59) offers juicy, dark cherry fruit laced with clean mineral notes. Soft tannins balance the fruity finish. This is a delicious, juicy “vin de plaisir,” a wine full of pleasure ready for immediate drinking. Highly Recommended.
• In recent years, Marsannay-based winegrower Régis Bouvier has worked his vines with nearly organic methods. The engaging Bouvier also started using partial whole-cluster fermentation to add a touch of freshness to his delicious, delightful reds such as the 2017 Régis Bouvier, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, France (Available from Saratoga Wine Exchange ; $21.88). The wine offers forward raspberry and red cherry fruit with stemmy notes. Juicy, pure red fruit flavors follow balanced by superb, clean freshness and fine, silky tannins. Highly Recommended.
• The 2017 Jane et Sylvain, Bourgogne Rouge, France (Available from Chambers Street Wines $23.99) comes from “Mom and Pop” partners, Jane Bernollin and Sylvain Raphanaud, who farm pinot noir vines organically in and around the village of Gevrey-Chambertin. The two collaborate on all aspects of the work to offer superb red Burgundies in the best sense: wines without pretension giving pure pleasure at terrific prices. This wine delivers direct, pure red and black fruit with moderate concentration, uplifting freshness and fine tannins. A touch of earthy complexity in the finish adds a classic Burgundy note. Pair this delicious wine with grilled pork chops. Highly Recommended.