The name Burgundy, or Bourgogne as you will see it on wine bottle labels, conjures up, at least it has done for me, mystique, elitism and generally wines that can often represent poor value-for-money.  So, in the spirit of ‘demystifying the world of wine’ I went there in person in the Autumn of 2022 and also conducted a tasting of 2017 reds from different sub-regions (appellations) with some of my trusted wine buddies.

But firstly, the whites. They are almost exclusively Chardonnay, with various degrees of oak influence. From close to zero in Chablis (115 miles South-East of Paris and 85 miles North of the rest of Burgundy) to full-on new French wood exposure in Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault in the Cote de Beaune region. These wines command silly prices – but if you come across any of the above or, more likely a Hautes Cotes de Beaune white for under £35 do give it a try! But, for better value (and a little less use of oak) we need to look slightly further South.

Around the towns of Chalon-sur-Saone and, even further South in Macon we find lighter, apple and buttery reminiscent, more affordable Chardonnay – a good example to get you started is the Cave de Lugny Chardonnay Mâcon-Villages from Waitrose at around £12.

The Burgundian exception to Chardonnay is Aligote, which accounts for just 10% of white grape production and is recommended to accompany the local delicacy, snails. I tried it  – and the sharp crisp acidity almost managed to smother the chewy garlic infused snail texture but for me, once bitten twice shy, and that’s it for snails I’m afraid!

For the reds, there is only one varietal in play – namely Pinot Noir.

Marsannay 2017

And in a blind tasting of the 2017 vintage (admittedly a variable vintage) there was a distinct preference for the wines of the Cote de Nuits over those from the Cote de Beaune. Marsannay represented, relatively speaking at least, the best value for money at £36, as opposed to the Vosne Romanee at £54 and the Gevry Chambertin at £55.  The Marsannay “Les Grasses Tetes” from Domaine Bruno Clair had a seductive nose of red fruits, spice and brambles which followed through on the palate, where the flavours were nicely balanced with a soft tannic grip in the mouth and a lovely lingering residual winter warmth.

Having said all that, the 2022 road trip offered the chance to sample some 2022 reds from Cote de Beaune and those from Maranges, Savigny and Saint Romain stood up very well too, with cellar door prices between 16 and 22 Euros per bottle.  So keep an eye out for these on supermarket shelves and restaurant lists for your introduction to decent, typical red burgundy..

For further detail and insight, check out www.vins-bourgogne.fr