You might imagine that the most decisive moments in buying Burgundy fall at the very high end. But who wants to be promoting $400-plus bottles that don't quite reach the highs their tariffs imply? Rather, it's the humble Bourgogne-level wines that I fret about the most. I've argued many times in support of the truth that value exists at every twist and turn in Burgundy. You just have to look hard enough.
Charles Van Canneyt is best known for his day job producing the revered wines at his family's estate in Vosne-Romanée, Domaine Hudelot-Noellat. A few years ago, Charles wanted to have some freedom to express Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a slightly different vein and started his own label. Within the context of Burgundy, though, the wines are still extremely tied to the Hudelot-Noellat style. Purity first.
Looking at Burgundy's $30 to $40 category can be a bit of a minefield. It's critical that the names in question apply the same meticulous process as top cuvées. That's precisely why the Bourgogne Rouge from Charles is such a winner. Tasting this alongside his Charmes-Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Beze, the Bourgogne Rouge carries the same translucency and rigorous definition as the Grand Crus.
Regal structure aside, there's also an immediacy and fruit-forward component that makes these super primal in their deliciousness. This has become a house Burgundy for me. I once came upon a bottle of the 2013 bottle hiding in a dark corner of my cellar, and its expression had only grown more vibrant in three years: Gorgeous bright cherry fruit, a finely woven thread of minerality, and a hint of forest floor residing under it all. From one of the most gifted minds in Burgundy, this is a great chance to line the walls of your cellar for a song.
I'm continually learning new lessons as a retailer, and I have vivid recollections of how tasting the 2013 and 2014 Edmond Cornu Bourgogne Rouge put the domaine on my radar. Small purchases of each proved to be great buys and immediately found devoted supporters. However, the wines quickly vanished from the iconic Neal Rosenthal portfolio in weeks after those initial purchases.
Edmond Cornu is famous for his terrific Grand Cru Corton, and his Les Barrigards Bourgogne Rouge is sourced from a single vineyard of old vines nearby. Each year, it delivers everything we love about Côte de Beaune's exotically spiced Pinot Noir. Vintages like 2005, 2009, and now 2019 are ideal to go all-in on the Bourgogne level red wines: More concentration, deeper texture, and finishes lengthened!
Cornu is a legend among Burgundy collectors and purists. The domaine was established in 1875, then Edmond began bottling instead of selling his grapes to negociants in 1959. Cornu's Grand Cru Corton reaches great heights, but for 20 percent of the price, Les Barrigards deserves a spot in every Burgundy lover's cellar.
Much of the success of Burgundy's younger generation comes from a deep understanding and passion about the work of the vignerons that preceded them. Although still a young man, Benjamin Leroux has more experience than any winemaker his age. Leroux's wines are now clearly in very select company with the likes of Lafon, Roulot, and Colin-Morey. With average production less than 200 cases per wine, the only challenge is securing enough for the demand of this star who's now in the cross-hairs of collectors.
Today, I'm happy to offer Leroux's 2018 Bourgogne Blanc & Rouge.
Finding a balance in Burgundy where silky, gossamer texture doesn't come at the expense of tension and salinity is the ultimate high-wire act. And this is where Leroux excels like no other - In tastings among other terrific producers Benjamin's wines jump out for this quality.
They're featherweight on the palate with a deep saturation of fruit, minerals, and finish long and incisive with a haunting salinity that has you reach for another sip immediately. Each cuvée is distinct and carries incredible clarity of place. The sense of luxury in these wines is vivid, but terroir is highlighted above all else.
Leroux's Bourgogne Blanc is a staple for me each vintage, and brings a complexity that only 70-yr-old vines can, with many parcels sourced from Meursault and Puligny! Aged in 10% new oak.
Bourgogne Rouge is sourced from several parcels covering appellations Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Santenay, Beaune, Ladoix, Savigny-lès-Beaune, and Fixin. Grapes are fully de-stemmed, fermented with native yeasts over 10 days, aged in older French barrique for 12 months, and bottled without fining or filtering.
Leroux began studying at Beaune's wine school at age 13. After working in Bordeaux, Oregon, and New Zealand he became winemaker at the revered Comte Armand estate in Pommard. After 30 years in the industry he has now began to focus nearly exclusively on his own label, still consulting for a bit for Comte Armand.
It's Saturday, so I'll keep things extra brief. Denis Bachelet produces a small range each year, but in 2016 it's painfully low. No producer in Burgundy beats Bachelet at his game: Pinot Noir of ruthlessly intense concentration meeting polish and finesse. The wines are so unmistakable. There's almost a painfulness to the tone of the fruit, in the best possible way in their laser-focused style. Bachelet is also famous for his entry levelwines (Bourgogne Rouge and Côte de Nuits Villages) showing lights-out with decades in bottle - Most of this is due to the very old vines in play here. Within these humble designations, Bachelet is THE king.
Today, I'm happy to offer a small grouping of Bachelet's three benchmark wines, complete with a 4-vintage vertical of his Bourgogne Rouge.
Bourgogne Rouge comes from a total of 0.61 hectares. Two lieu dits, Pressonier and Grands Champs, planted in 1977 and 1986, respectively. All destemmed and aged in neutral barrels.
Côte de Nuits Villages comes from a 0.95 hectare parcel planted in 1952. The very old vines are sourced from vineyards just north of the Gevrey appellation. All destemmed and aged in 25% new barrels.
Gevrey Chambertin Vielles Vignes comes from a 1.23 hectare parcel of vines planted in between 1932 and 1937. All destemmed and aged in 20% new barrels.
Bachelet's wines, and particularly these three, have been a staple of my personal collection for years. I cannot think of another producer whose entry level wines still represent a special occasion every single time they are poured.