Top Ten Burgundy Producers (That you can actually buy…)
I was recently looking for some guidance on what Burgundy producers to collect and I came across a Top Ten list online. It had some names I had heard of, like Leroy, DRC, Rousseau, Leflaive, Liger-Belair and the like. Great, I thought, I’ll just start filling my cellar with those wines!
Just kidding. Maybe one in a thousand of you out there have enough time and money to put together an all-star Burg collection like that. But the lesson for me is that we need a real top ten list. A list of producers that actually provides useful information to normal consumers who happen to like Burgundy. A list of Burgundy producers that make wines that are not crazily priced and that you can actually find in the marketplace (with the help of a friendly wine shop of course). With the 2017 pre-sale campaign just beginning, we think the timing is right.
1. Christian Moreau
Chablis still provides the best value in collectable white wine from anywhere in the world, and I had a lot of good options to choose from in this region. I went with Moreau because this is one of the few producers in Chablis who works organically in the vines and classically in the cellar. They have a range of incredible holdings all the way up to Les Clos. I’ve tasted a number of older vintages and they develop beautifully (including, of all vintages, a 2003 that blew my mind!).
Moreau’s wines are now in demand enough that the Grand Crus are allocated to retailers and you can’t just expect to buy them whenever you feel like it. But with just a little effort you can usually get a few bottles of Grand Cru and in the meantime there is a fantastic range of premier crus that are fairly easy to source. Or buy a case of his village wine and stuff it in your cellar for three or four years. The 2012 AC Chablis is perfect right now!
Jean-Louis Trapet is a star in France, but here, thankfully, only the most devoted Burg fans have noticed. A fervent biodynamicist, he is obsessive in the vineyards and then works with an extremely hands-off approach in the cellar. His Marsannay is a great go-to every-day Burg. Going up the ladder, it’s hard to argue with a bottle of his AC Gevrey Chambertin, especially after two to three years of cellaring.
The real prize at this domaine is his incredible set of Grand Crus: Chapelle, Latriciere and Le Chambertin. They are the most expensive wines on this list, but they are still just a fraction of the asking price for the names mentioned up in the intro, and we usually are able to buy enough to go around. If you need to have some Grand Cru in your Burgundy cellar (kind of makes sense right?) then Trapet would be an excellent and reasonable choice.
This is a producer that has been getting better and better every year, and I feel like it was with the 2014s that this became a truly top tier producer. He has some vines in Clos de la Roche, but they are young, and really the treasures here are the range of premier crus, most with old vines, from his home village of Morey Saint Denis. His parcel of Faconnieres was planted just after WWII and is Grand Cru in quality.
The style is very much in tune with current taste, with a focus on elegance and fruit purity. There is little whole cluster, and only a minimal amount of new oak. One little tip: whenever you can find his Bourgogne Rouge (as of this writing, we only have magnums in stock), you should grab a few bottles, as one of the chief sources is the great Bon Batons in Chambolle Musigny, and the wine is fantastic.
4. Hervé Sigaut
Everybody loves Chambolle Musigny, but it is really hard to find a producer that you can follow vintage after vintage with regularity. Mugnier and Roumier are completely off the charts for most of us. I’ve been tasting Chambolles from Sigaut for well over a decade now and I am astonished at how off-the-radar they’ve remained, especially given that they always get very high scores from Burghound. I guess that’s your punishment for not having any Grand Crus.
The wines just scream Chambolle, with utterly convincing floral and bright red notes. They’re pretty tasty on release, and I’ve had tremendous success aging these over five or ten years. I consider their Sentier an essential part of my cellar: the vines were planted in 1947 and they are right beside Bonne Mares! Meanwhile, their entry-level Chambolle offer a super accessible way to get at the village’s magic, as no cellaring is required.
5. Jérome Chezeaux
Ok, this one is a little more elusive because Rosenthal allocates the wines to historic customers, but fortunately we’ve been buying them for a long time so just stick with us. It’s on this list because we all need to have some Vosne Romanee and Nuits-St.Georges and no producer in this neighborhood can match Chezeaux when it comes to price/quality ratio. Looking at our current stock, for example, it’s amazing to see Vosne Romanee Suchot 2014 for under $100!
Definitely enjoy the Vosne Romanee (a village wine that we sell for just over $50 as if it were still the 1990s) and the famous premier and Grand Crus, but don’t sleep on the amazing range of Nuits St. Georges from the likes of Vaucrain, Prulier and Boudots. These days I’m enjoying 06s, 07s and 08s from the cellar and they are beautiful and extremely terroir-expressive.
The Edges of Burgundy (roughly, the not-so-famous village in the region, but see my write up about the Edges here) have to make an appearance in my Top Ten list, and here is the first of two. It is easy to forget that the great Chardonnay Grand Cru of Corton Charlemagne is partly in Pernand Vergelesses, and its lower slopes are actually AOC or premier cru Pernand. It is an amazing source of top value Chardonnay that can really evoke the greatness of Corton.
Domaine Rollin is my pick from this village. He makes great wines, both red and white. Rosenthal calls his village white wine “baby Corton Charlemagne”, and I tend to agree — it is perhaps the most age worthy $30 Cote d’Or white that I know. Up the food chain, things only get better, culminating in actual Corton Charlemagne that is also a bargain, at least in the context of Grand Cru white Burgundy!
7. Domaine Parent
There is lots to choose from in the Pommard/Volnay neighborhood, perhaps because neither village has any Grand Crus, and Pommard, in particular, still remains just off the radar of most top collectors despite having some really excellent sites. Pommard has a bit of an image problem, as historically the wines were associated with big tannic bruisers, a style that is not in favor at the moment.
Try Anne Parent’s wines, though, and you’ll see why Pommard is considered one of the great historic villages of the Cote d’Or. There are some well-structured wines in her line-up, for sure, but the terroir of Pommard is very diverse and she makes many wines that are positively Volnay-like with their velvety tannins and elegant aromatics. Her Les Epenots is drop-dead gorgeous. For everything you need to learn about Anne Parent and her vines, just listen to Levi Dalton’s excellent I’ll Drink to That interview.
These days, everybody wants their Chardonnay to be mildly oaked, slightly-reductive, and mineral-focused. Patrick Javillier has been making it that way for decades. His prices have remained awfully steady over this time, and today they are the best values in Meursault. Don’t be afraid to cellar his Oligocene, a mere Bourgogne Blanc but the vines are planted in limestone-rich soils in the village of Meursault, and it drinks better than many wines actually bearing that name!
Otherwise from Meursault, he only has village wines. That’s OK. Anyone who knows the village well knows that there are some very special lieu-dits (basically, single vineyard village wines), and Javillier has a couple of excellent ones. His wines are still under $100 per bottle and they age more reliably in the cellar than many wines that cost twice that.
9. JM Pillot
Pillot’s wines, frankly, used to be a little spotty and many were victims of premature oxidation. He was an early producer to have an epiphany on this score, and in the second half of the last decade he shifted styles quite dramatically. He now makes some of the most precise, pure and chiseled Chardonnays from anywhere, and they have no problem keeping in the cellar.
His top wines have become cultish and sought-after internationally, but his mid-range premier crus from Chassagne are incredibly compelling values that you can still find without too much effort — or at least you can once per year when we get our allocation! Burghound is in love with the wines (search for his wines and you’ll see tons of hearts) so it’s not clear how much longer this situation will last; just keep buying Pillot’s wines while you can.
10. Aubert de Villaine
No, DRC wasn’t going to make this list, but I sure can put its boss Aubert on it! He may be Burgundian royalty, but in his heart he is a French peasant, and so he and his wife established a small domaine in the Cote Chalonnaise many decades ago to make wines that are far more modest than La Tâche. We are definitely in the Edges of Burgundy here, but the quality is Cote d’Or level, and I have enjoyed many of his wines over the year, both young and old.
One of the interesting things about this domaine is that they make great wines not just from two grapes, but from three! Aligoté is a very important grape at this domaine — the heritage, golden variety of the grape called Raisin d'Or. It is a very clever wine to put in a Reasonable Cellar as it really performs well after five or so years. Allocations can be tight, but if you follow our newsletter regularly you’ll definitely have good buying opportunities.