Burgundy for the 1 percent?

Thanksgiving is past, the winter holidays lie ahead, and visions of Burgundy are dancing through my head.

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But a quick trip to the wine shop for a wine-price reality check soon turned my thoughts from Bourgogne to reflections on Karl Marx or maybe Jesus, whoever first said “go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor.” This is not a popular quotation with the fabled 1 percent, but I’m pretty sure they’re the folks who are buying high-end Burgundy, mostly.

Yes, it was a strange digression to have in a wine shop during holiday time, but a quick trip through Wine-Searcher.com helps understand why the joys of top-rank Burgundy elude many of us these days.

Uncle Pennybags

Let’s start at the top: A jug of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru from Burgundy’s Cote de Nuits might be a nice thing to take to the office party. Or, perhaps, to keep at home to consume all by one’s self. The current 2016 vintage goes for an average of $20,705 for a bottle at U.S. retail, if you can find it; a couple of California retailers have marked it down to a practically laughable $18,495. Or give it a try at auction, where starting prices are typically a paltry $7,000 to $8,000. Be prepared for your fellow hedge-fund managers to bid up the price, though!

But let’s be realistic: If you can’t afford Romanee-Conti, you actually might be willing to splurge on a more affordable neighbor in its neighborhood, Vosne-Romanee. You can find Dominique Mugneret Vosne-Romanee Cuvee Alliance des Terroirs for $70 to $80 or so, for example. That’s doable, for a very special holiday treat. But now enters the other difficulty with the finer range of Burgundy: Most of the producers are tiny, and their production is limited. Wine-Searcher lists that Dominique Mugneret Vosne-Romanee only at a couple of small wine shops in California. Good luck finding it.

I’m not going to find the top-rank Burgundies around my home in Louisville at any price, but back at my neighborhood wine shop I was looking at comparatively modest villages Burgundies that mostly started around $50 and went up past the three-figure mark from there. No, you don’t have to be a 1 percenter to buy those, but once I had invoked the memory of Marx and Jesus, I wasn’t willing to go there.

So I stretched my wallet just a little and dropped down into the bottom-feeding range for Burgundy, Bourgogne Pinot Noir. This is generic Burgundy, literally, and it’s still not cheap by my usual under-$20 standard. But a $28 price tag on Joseph Faiveley 2015 Bourgogne Pinot Noir seemed fair, and indeed it proved to be an appealing entry-level Burgundy that gave a real, if small, hint of what all the enthusiasm for the higher levels is all about. You’ll find my tasting notes below.


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Wine books for the holidays

Last week I told you about the new 8th edition of The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, and since I have it out, I’ve been enjoying reading its extension discussion about Burgundy and its detailed maps of the region as I tasted this week’s featured wine. If you buy it for yourself or a friend, I believe you’ll enjoy it too.

Hugh Johnson 2020

Meanwhile, the new 2020 edition of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book is available now too, and naturally I was among the first in line to grab the updated edition. Every year, this affable British wine scribe crams in even more information, updating reports on vintages and offering sound advice on buying value and aging potential, food matches and much more. I highly recommend it.

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book for 2020 is available now from Amazon.com for $11.99 in hardcover, or put the pocket book on your pocket device with the Kindle edition for just $6.99. As always, purchases made with these links will return us a small commission at WineLoversPage.com, and I appreciate that.


Today’s Tasting Report

Joseph Faiveley 2015 Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($27.99)

Joseph Faiveley

This Faiveley Bourgogne Pinot Noir is a rather light, but bright and pretty ruby red, typical of Burgundy. Delicious scents of fresh, ripe raspberries and a darker hint of cranberry fill the nose and carry over into a simple but pleasant red-fruit flavor shaped by crisp acidity and soft but persistent tannins with a moderate 13% alcohol. Good red-berry flavors and zippy acidity hang on in a long finish. Summing up, it offers a good introduction to red Burgundy and makes a fine food wine. U.S. importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (Dec. 5, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: Red meat, rare steaks, or good roast beef are the natural companion of Burgundy as most Pinot Noirs; but Pinot is a versatile food wine and will work with a surprising range of fare from wild salmon to mushrooms and cheese. We paired it with great success with roasted brown mushrooms, potatoes and onions sprinkled with long grated shreds of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

WHEN TO DRINK: Pinot Noir is difficult to predict in the cellar, but we shouldn’t expect a long life out of simple Bourgogne Pinot Noir. That said, though, this wine’s good fruit, acidity and tannins suggest that it should hold, and could possibly improve, into the early 2020s.

My local price adds a significant bump to Wine-Searcher.com’s $23 average U.S. retail, and quite a few Wine-Searcher vendors show it for less than $20, so shop around if you can; and don’t delay, as heavy U.S. tariffs on French wine may drop soon. Bottom line, Burgundy isn’t cheap, not even low-end Bourgognes, but if you want it, at least for a holiday treat, it’s worth paying for.

Here’s a brief fact sheet on Faively Bourgogne Pinot Noir from importer Frederick Wildman.

Check prices and find vendors for Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to find information, vendors, and prices for dozens of other Bourgogne Pinot Noir wines.


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • La Vieille Ferme Vin de France Rosé ($8.99)
  • La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($8.99)
  • Laroque Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)

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