Burgundy has established a world-wide reputation for excellent quality, premium wines, despite the term being created as an Anglicised word for marketing purposes. In France the region and wines are ‘Bourgogne’ and there is a push among winemakers in the area to reclaim this original name.
Whether you call it Burgundy or Bourgogne, however, if you love these wines, you may be in for a shock in the coming year. Demand has always outweighed supply, but after some recent bad harvests the cellars are looking emptier than usual. This is not helped by the fact that there are really only two main grapes allowed, Chardonnay for white wine and Pinot Noir for red. Some Aligoté and Gamay can be planted as well but with so few varieties, creating a blend to mask a particular grape’s deficit is not an option.
Cécile Mathiaud of the Bourgogne Wine Board says “we know it will be two tricky years, producers will satisfy their customers here and abroad but with lower amounts of wine. Usually, the oldest costumers get served first, some have had the same customers for over 100 years”.
Some Burgundy winemakers planned ahead. Adrien Pillot of Domaine Fernand et Laurent Pillot said “2020 was a great year for our harvest so we split it and sold the same quantity as 2019; what is left will go towards the 2021 market.” Most producers, however, agree that there will be little choice but to increase prices. “With a year like this,” says Laurène Boss of Maison Joseph Drouhin, “we have to put the price up, or close. It might be ok for one year but what if there is another like this?”
Increasing the cost is not something winemakers take lightly. “Bourgogne wine is not meant to be speculative” says Vincent Valet of Maison Pierre Bourée et fils, who is worried it will price out locals in France “It’s meant to be shared. It is an emotion, not a €100 bill”.
What it does mean however is that smaller, lesser-known houses are going to be given a chance to shine. “One of the things I see in London,” says François Berthenet of Domaine Berthenet, “is people chasing Grand Crus, but one of the strengths of the region is that there is excellent terroir everywhere. Just because it says Grand Cru doesn’t mean it’s grand”.
Brothers Paul and Théo Merlin of Domaine du Vieux Sorlin agree, saying “we want to show that Mâconnais can make great wines”. Often stating Macon on the label rather than Bourgogne, this area has been sadly neglected by Burgundy lovers, but the wines are excellent with fresh fruit flavour from the sunshine and a backbone of minerality from the soil.
Look also to Beaune for their elegant structure, which is “often more delicate than Cote-du-Nuits,” according to Boss, “and good quality for the price”. Finally, seek out Rully, especially for crisp but rounded whites which offer some of the best value in Bourgogne. As Felix Debavelaere of Rully-based Domaine des Rois Mages says, “the truth is in the glass.”
Five of the best
Saumaize-Michelin, Pouilly-Fuissé Ampélopsis – £49.60 GREAT WINE CO.
The estates flagship and described by winemakers Lisa and Vivien as the “crèame-de-la-crèame”. A blend of the very best of their Premier Crus, this can cellar for up to 20 years… if you can wait that long.
Joseph Drouhin, Meursault Perrieres, 1er Cru 2018 – £87.99 OCADO
Silky and fresh this is a wine of supreme elegance and generosity from an established house. A fantastic vintage, snap it up with your weekly shop before it runs out.
Louis Jadot, Beaune 1er Cru Rouge 2013 – £32.99 WAITROSE
An opportunity to try this world-renowned premium producer and a premier cru no less for an excellent value price. Supple roses and ripe fruit make this an enjoyably refined pinot noir for pairing with practically everything.
Château de Marsannay, Bourgogne Rouge, ‘En Montre Cul’, 2016 – £22.68 JUSTERINI & BROOKS
With its sophisticated structure and elegant earthiness, this is a grown-up wine offering a mouthful of dusky, ripe cherries.
Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bougogne Blanc de Blancs NV – £14.99 WAITROSE
One of my fail-safe go-to wines to please everyone. Gorgeous creamy mousse with delicate notes of buttered toast, honey and citrus. Serve with baked camembert for a truly sumptuous treat.