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Best-Value Red Burgundy Producers

By Clive Coates, M.W.

No one would call red Burgundy cheap. By its very nature - fragmented
domaines; no economies of scale; grape varieties that cannot be over-
cropped (to produce more than two-and-a-half tons per acre of pinot noir
especially, but also chardonnay, rapidly leads to weak, insipid wine) -
Burgundy cannot compete with warmer, more prolific, fertile soils
elsewhere. But, on the other hand, if we compare 2000 Bordeaux prices
with the 1999 Burgundy prices (I deliberately pick two excellent vintages),
we will find Château Cheval-Blanc leaving France at $280, while Comte
Georges de Vogüé's fabulous Musigny exits at only $130. So, is red
Burgundy expensive? Wines at this level, obviously, are for high days and
holidays. What can we find in Burgundy at prices we can afford to drink
regularly? Let us impose on ourselves a budget of $30 per bottle.

Where do we go? There are two answers: The lesser-known villages and the
lesser wines of the best growers in the more mainstream villages. In both
cases, the most important thing to look for is the name of the grower or
merchant. Stick to the starred sources and you will very rarely go wrong.
Secondly, pay attention to the vintage. Nineteen ninety-nine is splendid, but
a bit young still, except for the very softest wines such as Côte de Beaune-
Villages or Chorey-Lès-Beaune. Nineteen ninety-eight is a very good
vintage - plump, fruity and medium-bodied - and a lot of the lesser wines
are beginning to drink very nicely. Nineteen ninety-seven is even easier to
drink: soft-centered, very ripe and fruity, but for drinking soon.

Let me now take you on a tour of the lesser villages in the Côte d'Or. Forget
for a minute Volnay and Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée,
Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin. These villages produce
lovely wines, but they are over our budget.

Our first stop is MARSANNAY, which lies to the north, almost in the
suburbs of Dijon. The wine here was simple Bourgogne until 1986. Today
what you get, increasingly with a vineyard name behind it (look for Clos du
Roy, Longerois, Grasses Têtes, Echézeaux, Champs Perdrix and Champ
Salomon), is a wine of medium structure, not a great deal of tannin (to
extract more would be to unbalance the wine), but very engaging, fresh
blackberry and black cherry fruit. Look for the following growers: Bart,
Régis Bouvier, René Bouvier, Marc Brocot, Fougeray de Beauclair,
Huguenot, Jean and Jean-Louis Trapet plus the merchant Louis Jadot.
(Worth noting: Marsannay also produces delicious rosé.)

The most respected address in Marsannay is undoubtedly that of Bruno
Clair. Clair, now in his mid-40s with three energetic, preteen children, took
over part of the Clair-Daü estate when it was divided in 1985. Since then, he
has expanded his domaine and proven himself to be one of the most

His village Fixin is neat and elegant. is LADOIX. . Target price for village Fixin: $21.more in dozens of bottles rather than in hundreds of cases. The wines here have become a lot more sophisticated in the last decade. Moving down the Côte. intense. What is of more interest to us. in Bachelet's view. Many of the Marsannay sources above also offer Fixin. Target price for Côte de Nuits-Villages: $21. three of which are monopoles. What used to be rustic is now well worth the time investigating.5 miles away. The latter is best known for its whites. new oak barrels for wine maturation. Denis Bachelet runs his ten-acre domaine virtually single-handedly." investments have been made in up-to-date machinery (such as pneumatic presses) and higher quality. understated. we come next to the FIXIN appellation. on the northeast side. They are rich and substantial but no longer a bit tough. Fixin's best grower is the self-effacing but sympathetic Stéphen Gelin. above) decided to go their separate ways. what the French call sauvage (savage). as well as to vines 12. For deliciously stylish Côte de Nuits-Villages I look to Domaine Bachelet. Target price for a good Marsannay rouge: $20. south of Nuits- Saint-Georges. with our value-for-money brief. which applies to Fixin and to neighboring land in the village of Brochon. His wines are medium-full in weight (without a suggestion of over-maceration). but when the latter retired he and his cousin (see Jean-Michel Molin. You must count what he produces in each category . For really good Côte de Nuits-Villages consult Denis Bachelet. At the expensive end are a few premiers crus. You have to be careful with Fixins because they can often be rather hard. even at the Côte de Nuits-Villages level. Gelin used to operate a domaine jointly with his father-in-law André Molin. At its foot. elegant and subtle. Longerois and Vaudenelles. but there are good reds to be had here. In both villages. Louis Jadot and Philippe Rossignol. His range extends from Chambertin Clos de Bèze down to three red Marsannays: Grasses Têtes. The Côte de Beaune begins with a bang at the hill of Corton.from Charmes-Chambertin downward . is the simple village wine. and the wines are concentrated. on the southwest side is PERNAND- VERGELESSES. along with the beneficial practice of dropping fruit in the "green harvest. pure and very elegant. Low yields are crucial. Philippe Bernard (Domaine du Clos Saint-Louis) and Jean-Michel Molin. parts of the slopes have recently been upgraded from villages to premier cru. quality has improved immeasurably over the last decade due to both philosophical and technical changes in winegrowing.accomplished winemakers in the Côte d'Or. plus the appellation Côte de Nuits Villages. Other names to note include Vincent & Denis Berthaut. too. In both cases.

But do not miss out on the village wine. One of the leading growers in Pernand-Vergelesses is Rapet Père & Fils. lean and handsome son Hugues. Run by the Germain family. There are no premiers crus here and. for Premier Cru: $28.we find CHOREY-LES-BEAUNE. the best grower in Chorey. On the "wrong" side of the main Beaune-Dijon road . The best growers include: Simon Bize. SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE lies round the corner of the Mont Batois from Pernand-Vergelesses.that is. What is more. Rather. too. Together they turn out several premier cru Beaunes. and has put his son. which he offers in both red and white. Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot. is my favorite grower in Savigny. as can those of other. if lighter. Régis Pavelot and Rollin Père & Fils. Not entirely coincidentally. The "fils" in the operation is Vincent. but now they are much more refined. Target price for Chorey-lès-Beaune: $20. Chandon de Briailles. in my view. Jean-Jacques Girard. They now have four other Pernands. three of them new premiers crus. fruity. rich wines which I consider one of Burgundy's real bargains today. the downslope . Tollot-Beaut is. Ile des Vergelesses. I am drawn to the moated Château de Chorey-lès-Beaune (where one can stay over on a bed-and-breakfast basis). Indeed. Target price: $21. who has been in charge of the winemaking since 1993. lesser Côte de Beaune villages. elegant expression of pinot noir. Roger Jaffelin. Chorey-lès-Beaune. The grapes can also be used. Aude. not much interest in single-vineyard wines. soft. it seems. in charge of day-to-day wine production. for the merchant wines of Bouchard Père & Fils. Its wines used to be rather sturdy and rustic. But the basic village wine remains a very good value. Target price for a village Savigny: $23. Look. a mixture of the somewhat solid but rich wine from Maranges (see below) with the more fragrant and elegant. this milestone marked the vintage when this estate shifted from making merely acceptable wines to producing something rather exciting. and daughter. The following names offer good Pernand-Vergelesses rouge: Marcus Delarche. These are fullish. a delicious . father François is now semi-retired. The Rapets produce Corton in both colors. Benoít. Target price: $21. is a regular négociant blend. In his large. this is a light. Bruno Clair.The following names offer good Ladoix: Capitain-Gagnerot. Jean-Marc Pavelot. and are major landholders in Pernand's leading premier cru. for the appellation Côte de Beaune-Villages. For outstanding Chorey-lès-Beaune. vaulted cellar you will find half a dozen very good premier cru Savignys. Robert & Raymond Jacob. Camus-Brochon. Lucien Jacob and Louis Jadot. Jean-Pierre Maldant and Jean-René Naudant. Bouchard Père & Fils. they keep well. now ably assisted by his equally tall.

white Pernand-Vergelesses and. delicate style. Château de Chorey-lès-Beaune: juicy. Jadot and other leading merchants. up in a valley into the Hautes Côtes. Look for the following names: Alain Creusefond. but at half the price. makes both red and white wine of surprising purity and finesse for a wine at this price level. and these arrangements still continue in some cases. Target price for Monthélie: $21. less rich. is SAINT-ROMAIN. Indeed. Good Côte de Beaune-Villages can be found at Bouchard Père & Fils. out of necessity. Denis Bousset. Pommard and Volnay. André and Bernard Labry. over the last 20 years Monthélie growers have stopped vinifying with the stems (a fine practice for the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. but his Clos du Val premier cru is the best red Auxey-Duresses on the market. lie Auxey-Duresses and Saint-Romain. Prices remain low because few consumers have heard of the name. to reach MONTHÉLIE. above the village on the slope that includes the premier cru of Clos du Val. into the hills. some very worthwhile red wines can be found. Much of the land. Continuing south we skip. the charming Annick Parent is now in charge. Didier Darviot. less interesting than Monthèlies. and his village wines are not at all without interest either. over Beaune. The best Monthélie producers are Éric Boigelot. As I remarked in my notebook when I was sampling her 2000s: Why pay twice as much for indifferent Volnay? Beyond Monthélie. invested in temperature control and reduced the harvest. Yet. Just about everybody else in Auxey-Duresses answers to the name Prunier. Target price for Côte de Beaune-Villages: $19. Following the retirement of her father. but only leading to rustic wines here because the stems are never ripe). diminutive Michel as the doyen of the village. They show the same elegant. tidied up their cellars. Henri Latour and Dominique & Vincent Roy. was leased to neighbors on a sharecropping basis. Paul Garaudet and Monthélie-Douhairet. of course. The premier cru Monthélie Champs-Fulliot marches with Volnay Clos des Chênes. succulent and deliciously drinkable. at least six domaines belonging to individual members of this family bear the Prunier name. making the wines difficult to sell. It is hard to think of the somewhat shy. Drouhin. J&A Parent is my favorite source in Monthélie. All are quite closely related to each other and all produce at least acceptable wine. Further on still. Jean. Bouchard Père & Fils. put simply. AUXEY-DURESSES' wines are cooler. Target price for Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru: $21. who doubles as a child physiotherapist. This is the best site in the commune. Indeed. As elsewhere in the minor villages of Burgundy. I would suggest that most of the land is better planted to chardonnay rather than pinot noir. Again the weather is . but it is Michel Prunier who stands out in the crowd. Its best wines. are lesser Volnays. Michel Deschamps. Annick. hitherto.

as I previously mentioned. but if so. custom-built. like Savigny.cooler. Target price for Saint-Romain: $19. Once again. Target price: Villages wine: $22. though not as continuous as the Côte d'Or. MERCUREY and GIVRY (the other two. up in Saint-Romain-le-Haut. La Maladière and Beaurepaire lie in the middle. The view from his courtyard. Beyond Maranges. Chouilly and Sampigny - is the last appellation in the Côte d'Or. produces some of the greatest values in Burgundy. so the Saint-Romains are not too unfriendly. Bouzeron and Montagny. make useful elements in the Côte de Beaune- Villages blends. RULLY is the least interesting of the three red wine appellations (its whites . say the locals. Target price for Maranges: $19. René Lequin and Lucien Muzard. it will rain the next day. The commune boundaries confine the appellation almost entirely to vines on the slope. the wines offer excellent value. Clos Grand-Rousseau is found to the south. provided you find a grower whose Maranges are elegant and not too sturdy. beyond the communes of Meursault. Premier Cru: $28. He is currently in the process of relocating from Santenay to a new.comprising the villages of Dézize. The most rewarding section lies on the slope adjoining the commune of Chassagne-Montrachet: premiers crus such as Clos des Tavannes. Three Chalonnaise villages are of interest to us: RULLY. elegant and full of fruit. modern warehouse on the flat land between Meursault and the A6 autoroute. They are lightish in body but can be decently unpretentious. In their own right. Even village Santenay is better than you would expect. Its medium-bodied wines are plump. Vincent Girardin has the best address in Santenay. we arrive in SANTENAY. now in his early 40s. Alain Gras' wines are pure. Vincent Girardin offers a wide range of Santenays in both colors: medium weight. La Comme. very easy to drink and surprisingly elegant. produce only white wine). Names to look for include: Roger Belland. perched above a 100-foot cliff. Further south. Maurice Charleux. Fernand Chevrot. full of fruit. The best names include Bernard Bachelet & Fils. Starting with only seven- odd acres in the early 1980s. You can sometimes see Mont-Blanc. is breathtaking. has expanded to nearly 35 acres and in the process has also become a wine merchant. We have seen three very ripe vintages lately. another group of hills. fruity. Vincent. above the village. the wines lighter and leaner than Auxey-Duresses. Alain Gras is the leading grower in Saint-Romain. the wines are a great deal more sophisticated than they were a generation ago. which. The wines have good substance and. a little further east. Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. MARANGES . yet prices remain reasonable. Denis Clair. balanced. form the base for the Côte Chalonnaise. Les Gravières and Beauregard. Contat-Grange and Édouard Monnot. splendidly balanced and full of interest.

Jeanin- Naltet. This is no more. Rully's most original wines come from Henri & Paul Jacqueson. It is worth trading up to premier cru. Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune? You could do a lot worse than to investigate the following: . The nucleus of the commune consists of an elongated amphitheater three miles in length. and two splendidly contrasting whites from Grésigny and Les Pucelles. the Clos des Barraults and the Champs-Martin. Rully. Michel Briday. which. But what of the simple Bourgogne Rouge or generic wine from either of the Hautes Côtes. The wines are a bit lighter than Mercurey's. François Lumpp. The white Clos des Barraults is equally good (they also offer Corton-Charlemagne). Jean-Paul Ragot and Clos Salomon/Dujardin. The wines are elegant and very well balanced. François Racquillet and Antonin Rodet. The wines are firmer. The Domaine Michel Juillot is Mercurey's most esteemed estate. standouts in our price range include two reds. One of the notable things about the Jacqueson cellar used to be a full-size photo of two scantily-clad nymphettes treading down a vat of grapes. The Domaine Joblot. and the best reds are full of fruit and not too lean.definition and elegance. but have more to them . profound and multidimensional. in the center of town. this swath of hospitable land is rated premier cru. Today it is ably run by Michel's son. is the village's leading source of Givry. Yet the last few vintages have seen kind weather and more generous wines. Admirable domaines include: Chofflet- Valdenaire. for the most part. Domaine de Grandmougin and the Château de Rully. Sited above the village. Much has been mentioned in the preceding paragraphs about the most affordable wines turned out by the top growers in the mainstream villages. Target price for a Givry for Premier Cru: $24. a premier cru is worth the extra cost.than those of Rully. Target price for Rully: $22. Bruno Lorenzon. as well as substance . richer. GIVRY is the third village in the Côte Chalonnaise of interest to us. Adjoining Rully is the larger MERCUREY. splendidly sheltered from the prevailing westerly wind and blessed with very rocky. has become politically correct.are generally more satisfactory). Again. The top of their range consists of reds from the premiers crus of Cloux and Chaponnières (the Cloux is the best). limestone soil. Target price for a Mercurey Premier Cru: $26. Dubreuil-Janthal. faces due south. but not excessively so. Faiveley. a little more expensive and last longer than those of Rully. and has soils more favorable to pinot noir. Look for the following labels: Jean-Claude Brelière. Laurent. The most impressive estates include those of Brintet. The wines are quite oaky. It does not lack class either. Domaine de la Folie. it seems. Joblot's Clos de la Servoisine is surprisingly rich.

co. more alcoholic blockbusters from farther south in France or. Michel Gros. the best-value Burgundies are well worth exploring. In short. Denis Carre. Henri Latour. And the wines are not as tiring . For further details.995.clive-coates. Today there is a large and increasing number of dedicated producers who offer well-made wine at honest prices. Claude Nouveau and Parigot Père & Fils. visit www.208. was published by The University of California Press.Bourgogne Rouge: Ghislaine Barthod (Chambolle-Musigny). Michel Lafarge (Volnay). Michelle & Patrice Rion ( Happy drinking! ¶ European contributor Clive Coates.8943). A Burgundian Pinot Noir offers a delicious flavor. complexity and finesse. Hautes Côtes de Beaune: Domaine du Bois Guillaume. Gros Frère & Soeur and Thevenot Le Brun & Fils. Target price: $18. is author and publisher of the fine wine monthly magazine The Vine (for a free sample issue. Thierry Mortet (Gevrey-Chambertin). from California. Louis Jadot (Beaune). poor-value-for-money area it was accused of being 20 years ago. . Michel Morey-Coffinet (Chassagne- Montrachet). all delicacy. MW. Target price: $18. An Encyclopaedia to the Wines and Domaines of France.indeed. Blanche & Henri Gros.-Georges Prémeaux) and Fabrice Vigot (Vosne-Romanée). fax a request to 44. Hautes Côtes de Nuits: David Duband. bigger. much more food friendly . old-fashioned. Burgundy is no longer the stuffy. His latest book.