Given an area as obsessed with the primacy of terroir as Burgundy it seems counter intuitive to highlight the regional wines. On paper these are the lowest ranked vineyards, off the beaten track and not allowed to mention their location. But with careful viticulture and vinification these wines can offer real interest and Burgundian character at accessible prices. Below I have chosen some of my favourites over three categories, Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rouge. Get behind the labels and discover these characterful, distinctive wines.
Regional Selection Dozen
Two bottles of each wine including delivery
Too often overlooked, over cropped and over flavoured with Kir! But, in the right hands, Aligoté can make excellent wines which seem able to channel Burgundy’s limestone soils into the glass. Old vines are certainly one of the secrets, avoiding modern clones which are designed to give huge yields. The two wines below, both from seriously old vines, are electric examples of modern Aligoté.
Domaine Buisson-Battault Bourgogne Aligoté 2018
£16.95 per bottle inc VAT
Two separate patches of vines east of Meursault, the oldest vines date to 1935. One parcel ripens early and gives weight, the other gives freshness and they blend so well. In contrast to the Lignier’s richness, this is always a racy, mineral soaked wine which seems to have much in common with Meursault. The vines grow on good limestone and this is apparent in the streak of saline minerality which both cuts and supports the wines citrus and white flower flavours.
Domaine Hubert Lignier Bourgogne Aligoté Aux Poirelots 2018
£17.95 per bottle inc VAT
Laurent Lignier has long been a fan of Aligoté – he’s an influential member of les Aligotéurs, the group set up by vigneron from across the region to promote the variety and raise its reputation. His own wine comes from a single vineyard near Gevrey planted in 1942-43. Around 10% Chardonnay, co-planted with the Aligoté, gives this a bit more roundness, and the old vines account for its serious concentration.
There are often secrets to be found behind the label in Burgundy; here we have an unranked Meursault and a wine made from vines over 70 years old. Although Bourgogne Blanc can be blended from anywhere in the region and usually is to make the more widely available commercial wines, each domaine will normally own a few pieces of Bourgogne land, some of which can be of real quality. These domaine bottled wines can be amongst the best values to be found in Burgundy – characterful wines which speak of their village and the winemaker’s style.
Domaine Buisson-Battault Bourgogne Blanc 2018
Sold Out, sorry
Two vineyards, les Clous Perrons & les Magnys, planted between 1951-2001. This sees one year in oak, 10% new, and several months in tank, before bottling – it is afforded as much care as anything in the cellar. Francois is making a little more of this cuvee now as he is looking after his brother’s vines. That’s great news – it’s a fantastic Bourgogne Blanc that does what these wines should – it offers a view into the village and domaine style in an accessible, drink young package. The 2018 is beautifully concentrated and defined, with pure, crystalline peach and citrus notes, good texture, tense acidity, and a long, cool finish. Classy, refined, and elegant.
Domaine Michel Caillot Bourgogne Blanc Les Herbeaux 2015
£23.95 per bottle inc VAT
This vineyard is in the middle of the village of Meursault – when the vineyards were classified it was an orchard, at that time fruit was more profitable than grapes. As this changed most of these orchards were ripped up and replanted to vines. Some have since been reclassified as village land – Domaine Lafon’s Clos de la Barre being the most famous, but not Les Herbeaux. Yet, when you taste the wine, you can clearly see it’s a Meursault in all but name. Michel Caillot has deep and very cold cellars, so fermentations take a long time to finish. After the wines have been in barrel for a year / 18 months, they go to tank on their lees for another 12-18 months. This seems to swap some of the fruit for structure, as well as giving the wines a depth and savoury dimension from the lees contact. Superb wine.
In the past much of the land classified as Bourgogne struggled to fully ripen grapes, especially in the frequent cool vintages. This has changed over the last couple of decades. Warmer conditions and less rainfall mean that ripeness is less of an issue in most years, and the water retentive clay on which these vines often grow can actually be an advantage. It always pays to find out as much about a Bourgogne as you can, especially at top domaines -get behind the regional labels and you can find great value, high quality, wines which are often a match for higher priced village wines from lesser growers. The two wines below are both from truly great domaines, who simply don’t release anything that doesn’t live up to their name.
Roty Coteaux Bourguignons 2017
£21.95 per bottle inc VAT
Domaine Joseph Roty boasts one of the largest concentrations of old vines in Burgundy, averaging about 65 years. The domaine is fanatical about old vines, they have some of the oldest in France, the living ambassadors of the affinity the Roty’s so obviously feel for their land. They are uncompromising in their pursuit of quality. The Roty’s Coteaux Bourguignons is, unusually, 100% Pinot Noir, no Gamay here. Light in body and colour, but relatively concentrated on the palate, the 2017 shows lots of brisk cherry fruit, a touch of undergrowth and a woodsmoke note. A lighter, fresher style of Bourgogne pinot noir, best drunk with fatty charcuterie or cheese.
“The 2017 Côteaux Bourguignons wafts from the glass with an inviting bouquet of cherries, berries and sweet soil tones, framed by a light patina of oak. Medium to full-bodied, ample and fleshy, it’s layered and succulent, its generous core of fruit structured around fine, powdery tannins”William Kelley February 2020 www.robertparker.com
Domaine Hubert Lignier Bourgogne Rouge Grand Chaliot 2019
£28.95 per bottle inc VAT
A vineyard just south of Nuit-St-Georges planted in 1987. The rich clay gives a deeply coloured, intense wine with stylish plum and dark cherry fruit. This is the fuller and more age worthy of Lignier’s two Bourgogne Rouge. The 2019 is a wonderful example of the quality of the vintage, with ripe yet pure and crisp fruit in abundance, backed by fresh acidity and a cool saline note on the finish. An excellent Bourgogne Rouge that wouldn’t be out of place in a village line-up.
“The 2019 Bourgogne Grand Chaliot has a lively and generous bouquet with red cherry and cranberry fruit, quite Nuits Saints-Georges in style, which is no surprise since that is the location of the vines. The 30% whole bunches is nicely disguised and the longer élevage in barrel until December 2020 lends it good weight on the fresh finish. Certainly Village Cru in quality.”Neal Martin, December 2020, www.vinous.com