Bordeaux is best known for its expensive, ageworthy red wines. Some carry 3- and 4-figure price tags; the best age for half a century or more. But not all Bordeaux reds are so prestigious. At ten times the size of Burgundy, there’s an ocean of Bordeaux beyond the famous names. Much is mediocre and uninteresting. But some is genuinely delicious, and careful shoppers can find great value.
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The wines of the Domaine des Varoilles are at the bold end of the Burgundy spectrum. All of their cuvées come from Gevrey-Chambertin, a village known for its robust, masculine wines. Where much red Burgundy tends towards subtleness and finesse, the Varoilles style is noticeably more intense.
Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet produce the world’s finest dry white wines. In production for nearly two thousand years, the vineyards surrounding these villages produce wines of different characters — Puligny a bit more buttoned up, Chassagne a bit friendlier.
This weekend the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille in Paris and the start of the French Revolution. In Burgundy, the decline of the monarchy marked a profound change in vineyard ownership. Napoleon’s 1804 Code Civile abolished primogeniture, forcing all sons into inheritance and forever changing the Burgundian landscape.
The wines of Côte Rôtie have been celebrated for thousands of years. Made from pure Syrah at its northernmost growing limit, Côte Rôtie represents Syrah at its most refined. Our source for Côte Rôtie is the Domaine Bonnefond.
For most people French Sauvignon blanc means Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. But the grape also thrives in Bordeaux. In the Loire the grape is exuberant and fruit forward; Sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux isn’t unfriendly, just a bit less outgoing.
The town of Maragnes is an underrated source for red Burgundy. Located at the very southern end of the Côte d’Or, it’s often left off regional maps, and its reputation is for rusticity over refinement. But chosen carefully, Maranges can offer excellent value for red Burgundy drinkers. The wines never reach the complexity of Vosne […]
Of all the white Burgundy we import, none is a purer expression of Chardonnay than Nicolas Maillet’s classic Maconnais cuvées. They’re cool, round, unadulterated Chardonnay with excellent balance and no oak. If the Côte d’Or offers Burgundies of pedigree and refinement, then the Maconnais offers Burgundies of vibrancy and joy.
Cornas is a tiny appellation. It covers 145 hectares (compared with Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s 3,000+), and is home to fewer than 50 vignerons. The name comes from the Celtic word for “burnt earth,” and it’s an appropriate moniker: Cornas is pure Syrah like the rest of the Northern Rhône, but the feel is of something farther to the South.
The Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard is one of the best known and most respected names in Burgundy. Wine writer Neal Martin of Vinous calls the Gagnard wines “some of my favorite in Chassagne: consistent, well-crafted, and honest.” Since 1989 Caroline Lestimé (daughter of Jean-Noël) has produced wines at the same superlative level as her father: pure, classy, and elegant.
For a Burgundy collector, the sub-$30 Bourgogne is an elusive. Bourgogne-level wines of both colors from famous names now push past $50 per bottle. Modern winemaking and excellent recent vintages, mean many of these wines are worth it – but they’re a bit more of an investment than they used to be.
For white wines, it doesn’t get much drier than Muscadet. Grown near the mouth of the Loire River, Muscadet is at once brisk and hearty — the essence of the windswept Atlantic coast. When the weather turns hot we can’t think of much else in our glasses.
If Vosne-Romanée embodies Burgundian sophistication, then neighbor Nuits-St-Georges has the humbler charm of a country gentleman. Spread across five miles of varied terroir, the wines of Nuits-St-Georges range from spiced and elegant to meaty and rich. Wines from plots near the Vosne border can borrow a bit of spice and silk from their neighbor.
Even among a portfolio of low-profile winemakers, Jean-Marc Monnet is under the radar. We visit him every year, and we still have trouble remembering all the turns to find his domaine. He has no website, his house is unmarked, and there’s one tiny road sign.
For centuries Champagne has been a symbol of refinement and class. It’s sophistication in a glass, the pick of high rollers from Gatsby to Churchill. And for the most serious aficionados, Blanc de Blancs is the best of the best. Made from only white grapes, it’s Champagne at its most elegant.