For lovers of Burgundy, Barolo and Tuscany alike, the news of rising prices is an all too familiar sight. Whether it’s new markets commanding more demand, difficult vintages reducing yields or simply the hype reaching immense furore – prices of these vaunted regions continue to skyrocket. The shock of an entry Bourgogne exceeding $100 is no longer apparent, nor the prices of village above $200. Whilst this does not affect the lucky few, most of us, even those with a fleeting interest in the traditional homes of Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, are stuck with a difficult decision. Do we continue to fork out questionable sums for the traditional pinnacles, maintaining the hypothesis that their entry wines are for weekly drinking? Or do we limit our expense and reserve them for a special occasion? If the latter resonates, then please join the search for wines from new or forgotten regions. Wines that maintain value yet will remind us of those aforementioned regions we hold so dear. Luckily, I believe we are in a magnificent age where options abound, yet here I’ll focus on substitutes for the regal Cote d’Or.
So if Burgundy is your thing you need not look far. For white, the Mâcon has improved out of sight in the last decade, with more and more wines drawing high praise from critics such as Jasper Morris and William Kelley. The promise of the region is exemplified by Domaine des Comtes Lafon’s decision to purchase land there in 1999 and Domaine Leflaive following suit in 2004. Stylistically they exhibit a touch more ripeness than their siblings up North, however the best examples show as much complexity and often similar minerality. Look for Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, Mâcon-Bussières or Pouilly-Fuissé. In terms of producers, you cannot overlook the negociant magic of Maison Verget. Run by the outlandish Jean-Marie Guffens and his wife Maine Heynen, these wines are the bargain you should seek – the 2020 releases bright and fleshy yet serious undertones waiting to develop.
Now if Red Burgundy tickles your fancy, my suggestion is to head a dash further south to the Beaujolais. Here we switch from Pinot Noir to Gamay. Deservedly this region had a terrible reputation in the late 20th century due to awful mass market Beaujolais Nouveau. Unfortunately, this stereotype remained for too long. Nowadays the region is awash the vignerons practicing mindful and dedicated farming, and wines ranging from beautifully perfumed and lush to more structured and intricate. Look for wines with one of ten Crus – my favourites being Morgon, Fleurie and Côte de Brouilly. A new find for us is Daniel Bouland, whose wines mesh the haunting fragrance and succulent fruit with all too mesmerising texture and tannin – wines for now or for the future.
We all gasp at the prices of Burgundy and its noble siblings, but I stress, look at the benefits! Vignerons have taken inspiration, and now, more than ever, one can find wines from new or forgotten regions that will provide the mercurial drinking pleasure we all pursue.