Value red Burgundy
You can easily spend a small fortune on a bottle of Côte d’Or Pinot Noir if you so desire – but you don’t have to. Tim Atkin MW was impressed with the quality of these 32 best buys
You don’t have to spend big. Tim Atkin MW selects 32 great buys at £25 per bottle or less
To Listen To some people, good value red Burgundy is an oxymoron, right up there with friendly fire, jumbo shrimps and Hell’s Angels. it all depends on what you mean by value, of course. if you’re in search of a £5.99 bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin – the unicorn of the wine world – you are almost certain to be disappointed. But that doesn’t mean that all Burgundy is second mortgage material.
The very top wines are indeed expensive, stratospherically so in some cases, but Burgundy also offers lots of reds that are comparatively affordable. only 1% of what it produces, both red and white, is sold as grand cru, with a further 10.5% of premier cru. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for other wines. We looked for wines available at £25 a bottle or less, to see what the region could offer.
Burgundy is predominantly a white wine area, so there’s less red to go round (28% by volume if you include a little bit of rosé). Most of this is made from Pinot Noir, of course, but don’t forget that Burgundy grows some Gamay too, despite the grape’s banishment by Philip the Bold in 1395. Gamay doesn’t just pop up in generic appellations such as Coteaux Bourguignons and Bourgogne Passe-toutgrains, but also in the Mâconnais, especially the closer you get to the Beaujolais. As interest in cru Beaujolais has grown, so people are beginning to look at Gamays from southern Burgundy too.
But what about Pinot Noir? Any joy there? Yes, indeed. Drinking basic red Burgundy is much less of a risk than it used to be. There are several reasons for this: climate change (and generally earlier harvests); a run of good to very good vintages (the last awful crop was 2004); the widespread use of sorting tables, even for basic wines; and increased competition. Plenty of top producers make excellent Bourgogne Rouge, as well as their swankier wines.
Nor is the Côte d’or completely off limits. Chorey-lès-Beaune, Fixin, Maranges, Marsannay, santenay and savigny-lès-Beaune are all capable of producing wines that won’t assault your credit card. Further south, the Côte Chalonnaise provides even richer pickings in the Pinot Noir-focused appellations of Givry and Mercurey, as well as in more Chardonnay-dominated Rully. Reds from here stack up extremely well, not just against Côte d’or wines, but against those from the more celebrated Pinot-producing countries of the New World, such as Australia, Chile, New Zealand and south Africa.
And yet for all that, any red Burgundy drinker looking for a bargain will generally find him or herself drinking generic or regional wines. The rules that apply to buying grander wines from the region apply here too. Choose your producer with care and know a little bit about vintages. The best growers and négociants (the latter often have extensive vineyards too) consistently produce good wines. And the warmer and drier the year, the more you can put a foot on the lower rungs of Burgundy’s quality ladder. This tasting proved that, jumbo shrimps be damned, the region can indeed provide value for money.
‘Plenty of top producers make excellent Bourgogne Rouge, as well as their swankier wines’
Tim Atkin MW is a widely published and awarded wine writer, photographer, judge and communicator. Among other honours, he is a member of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in Burgundy