The earliest recorded praise of Burgundy’s wines was in 591 by Gregory of Tours, who compared their quality to the Roman wine Falernian, one of the first wines to be exported to Britain while it was a Roman settlement. Monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church have since had an important influence on the history of Burgundy wine. The Cistercians, themselves extensive vineyard owners, were the first to notice that different vineyard plots gave consistently different wines. They, therefore, laid the earliest foundation for the naming of Burgundy crus and the region’s terroir thinking. Since then, aided by advancements in commerce, Burgundy has become the wine of choice for discerning wine lovers the world over. Fuelled by supply and demand, cultish following, and to some extent the escapades of Rudi Kurniawan and John Kapon, prices have skyrocketed seemingly without an end in sight. I count myself firmly amongst those struck by the magic of great Burgundy, as a region it plays straight into the hands of fanatics and collectors. When it’s on form, Burgundy transcends what many would have considered possible from a humble grapevine. That being said, when I share images of recently enjoyed bottles, I’m often asked by readers to recommend accessibly-priced or ‘under the radar’ bottles for those seeking obtainable indulgence or exploration on a budget. In this article, I’ll point you toward 8 Burgundian wines, from the estates of some outstanding producers, each priced under £30 a bottle.
2017 Mâcon Viré-clessé, Les Héritiers Du Comte Lafon – £26 available at Tanners
In September 1999 the Lafon family, arguably amongst the greatest producers of Meursault, bought an estate in the Maconnais, renaming it Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon. The most recent addition, from 2009, is a contract to farm the vineyards of the Château de Viré, with the appellation Viré-Clessé. The operation is now looked after by Caroline Gon under the supervision of Dominique Lafon. After being immediately converted to organics, the vineyards are now farmed according to biodynamics. After tasting these wines with Dominique earlier this year, I couldn’t be more impressed, a superb opportunity for affordable greatness.
This Mâcon Viré-clessé is rich and characterful with ripe tropical fruit flavours on the nose and a palate of peach, mango and hints of honey, fresh and moreish.
2015 Rully Rouge en Guesnes, Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial – £27 available at Four Walls Wine
The wines of Vincent Dureuil-Janthial have set new benchmarks for the humble Rully appellation, not surprising given the quality of the sites that Vincent controls and his tireless work in the vineyard. It is not uncommon for Vincent to spend up to 14 hours a day in the vines during much of the growing season, doing most of the vineyard work himself. Dureuil-Janthial stopped using herbicides in 2001 and his estate is now fully organic. Much of their approach is guided by biodynamic methods. In his book Inside Burgundy, Jasper Morris MW says that if asked, he would name Vincent Dureuil-Janthial as the number one producer in Rully.
This Rully Rouge is fresh, elegant and textural. On the nose a whole heap of wild berries, dark chocolate, potpourri and spice with excellent depth at the core, bright acids and powdery tannins. This bottle punches way above its appellation and Four Walls have an excellent selection.
2015 Bourgogne Blanc, La Tufera, Etienne Sauzet – £24 available at Lay & Wheeler
Etienne Sauzet put together an estate of around 12ha and established the Sauzet name as one of the top two or three addresses in the village of Puligny-Montrachet. Initially, the estate was taken over by his son-in-law Gérard Boudot, who arrived in 1974, in 1991 the inheritance was split up between the three grandchildren. Since that time Gérard, now joined by daughter Emilie, and son-in-law Benoît Riffault, has augmented his holdings by purchasing additional grapes. The vineyards have been farmed organically since 2006 and after two years of experimentation all switched to biodynamic cultivation from 2010. After tasting with Benoît Riffault earlier this year, I scooped up as much as I could afford from the 2018 EP offering.
This Bourgogne Blanc is simply electric, overflowing with vibrancy on both the nose and the palate. A common theme from this estate. Hints of tropical fruit on the nose with melon, orchard fruits and a hint of reduction. Palate is round and complex, ripe stone fruit and a pure, mineral core. Want to see what an excellent winemaking team can do with ‘entry level’ wine? This is it.
2018 Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine Paul Pillot – £24 available at Four Walls Wine
Domaine Paul Pillot was founded in 1900 by Jean-Baptiste Pillot. His sons, Alphonse and Henri, succeeded him after the conclusion of World War I, increasing the Domaine’s holdings significantly and beginning to bottle their own wines. Henri’s son Paul then took over the Domaine in 1968. Today, the estate now owns 13ha of vines and is run by Paul’s dynamic son Thierry who began working in 1999, before taking over full time in 2004. Thierry is the 4th generation to take on the reins, under him, the focus has been in the vineyards, with discreet use of new wood and a minimal intervention approach in the cellar. There are so many reasons to love Bourgogne Blanc, not only is it an affordable way to better understand a producers style. But it also offers wine made with the same love and care as those unaffordable to the majority of drinkers, it’s what I would consider obtainable luxury.
Although there is little to no oak the nose displays hints of roasted almonds with a core of citrus blossom and lime. Incredibly fresh and sharp on the palate, not particularly generous or broad, but packed with mouthwatering fruit. The winemaking here is outstanding, a touch of complexity with gripping acidity that lingers on for what seems like forever.
2017 Bourgogne Aligoté, Benjamin Leroux – £23.50 available at Berry Bros & Rudd
Having created a name for himself as general manager of Domaine du Comte Armand, Benjamin Leroux established a small négociant business in 2007 now making wine from simple Bourgogne to a range of Grand Cru. Benjamin is a master at delivering purity of fruit alongside superb texture in his wines, which have only the subtlest influence of oak. Aligoté is perhaps most famous as the third grape variety of Burgundy, a ‘poor’ cousin of the more prestigious Chardonnay. Despite this lesser status, in recent vintages, a number of producers have worked wonders with the variety, Leroux amongst these.
With grapes picked a little later than others, this Aligoté has an element of texture as well as mouthwatering acidity. Fresh, fruity and complex with a long, saline finish.
2017 Bourgogne Rouge, Hudelot-Noëllat – £23 available at Lay & Wheeler
Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat has extensive vineyard holdings based around the Noëllat heartland of Vosne-Romanée and covering all the villages from Nuits St Georges to Chambolle-Musigny. Charles Hudelot arrived at the estate to take over from his grandfather Alain in 2008, assisted also by Vincent Munier who has been working there since 2005. Small changes at the estate have included the purchase of a new destemmer which sends the grapes into the fermentation vats uncrushed, which I assume is in part responsible for the wonderful fruit purity achieved so consistently. The vineyards continue to be run according to lutte raisonnée, though Charles is open to an organic approach in the future. Hudelot-Noëllat is amongst my top Burgundy estates, year after year Charles wines impress me. For Burgundy lovers seeking value, this bottle is a godsend. I would argue that you will struggle to find another bottle in this price range that offers more complexity and finesse.
2017 was a relatively straightforward vintage for many. This wine is bright and lifted with a broad bouquet of aromas and a smooth, silken texture. On the nose you’ll find fresh red berries, flowers and spice, and a striking mineral note on the palate. This is gold.
2015 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Coquard-Loison-Fleurot – £27 available at Four Walls Wine
This estate was originally focusing on the French market until the latest generation, represented by its talented commercial director Claire Fleurot and young winemaker Thomas Colladot, joined forces to raise the estate to new heights. Claire is responsible for marketing the wines in France and around the rest of the world, meanwhile, Thomas is in charge of winemaking. Together they manage the estate’s expansive vineyard selection. The family owns an incredible selection of six Grand Cru vineyards in the Cote de Nuits. Thomas also happens to be the best friend of one of Burgundy’s most celebrated winemakers, Sebastian Cathiard, the two share similar winemaking philosophies. Recently a friend of mine, an avid Burgundy collector, waxed poetic about the potential of this estate, absolutely convinced of its future brilliance. He was so keen to see if I shared his thoughts that he sent me home with a bottle in hand.
As a prefix to my tasting note, after drinking this bottle I immediately ordered 6 for myself, that should tell you everything you need to know. Wonderfully airy fruit, red cherry, cranberry and a hint of sweet bramble underbrush. The palate is balanced, elegant and lengthy. Dense and compact fruits, although somewhat counterintuitively, remaining subtle, gentle and refined. This is a great value Burgundy.
2015 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Gilbert et Christine Felettig – £22.20 available at Four Walls Wine
Few estates have made more dramatic progress over the last handful of vintages. Gilbert Felettig was dissatisfied with his 2009s. He set about changing everything. Henri Felettig, a former vineyard worker, founded this estate in 1974. His children Gilbert and Christine joined him in 1993 and now run this 12.5ha estate. Viticulture is now organic, with no use of herbicides or insecticides, vines are mostly old and everything is harvested by hand. The wines see between 30% new oak in the case of the village wines and 50% for the Premier Cru, before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Again, having tasted with Christine earlier this year, I am convinced this estate is only going to get better. Their 2018 faired extremely well across the range, the pair are reaping the rewards of hard work and investment in both the vineyards and the cellar.
The fruit in this Bourgogne is solely from Chambolle-Musigny, and it shows. Bright lifted raspberry, hints of darker bramble fruits, seamless notes of sweet nutmeg and an overarching floral elegance. The palate is clean with well-defined fruits, a touch of white pepper and herbs. I could drink this all evening.