Burgundy Below the Radar
One of France’s greatest wine regions might be known more for its unaffordability as its deliciousness. Until now.
I’m just back from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I hosted a few events during their Winter Food & Wine Festival. During my presentation at their opening dinner I told a story about learning to decant wine when I was a kid during one of my very big family’s weekly Sunday lunches around the long table in my grandparents’ basement. The punchline of the story is that I was learning to decant from the gallon into carafes. After the laughter, someone asked me what we were drinking back then in the mid 1970s, and when I said Gallo Hearty Burgundy, some people laughed and some clapped and cheered, while the youngest people in the room had no idea what I was talking about. Which is sort of what I expected.
Truth be told, I don’t typically talk about Burgundy, the wine region in northeastern France, a lot, or teach classes about it, for example, because it’s very, very complicated (and very expensive, too!). When I do touch upon the subject it’s to point out that for a lot of Americans (in my experience), Burgundy the region is instinctually linked to burgundy the color, meaning many people associate it with red wine only. That’s when I tell them that the two primary grapes of Burgundy, or Bourgogne in French, are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This surprises a lot of people. I’ll continue by adding, so when talking about Burgundy, white Burgundy is synonymous with Chardonnay and Red Burgundy is synonymous with Pinot Noir. And that’s where I leave it.
“…the two primary grapes of Burgundy, or Bourgogne in French, are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”
Interestingly, this week I attended a Burgundy wine dinner at Café Boulud here in New York City hosted by Philippe Pascal, owner of Domaine Du Cellier aux Moines. The reason I was interested in attending was because of the estate’s address: Côte Chalonnaise. Have you heard of it? Or it’s maybe better-known sub-regions: Mercurey, Givry, Montagny, Rully and Bouzeron? If you have, great! If you haven’t, I’m not surprised. These regions (or addresses that are recognized by the French government for distinct, protected status) sort of off the beaten path for better-known (read: more expensive) regions. Let’s break them down, quickly.
In Burgundy, there are five main wine regions, which are: Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Maconnais. Each of these regions is further divided into sub- regions, which are also known as “appellations.” In total, there are over 100 appellations in Burgundy, each with its own unique characteristics and regulations governing winemaking. For example, the Cote de Nuits region includes several appellations, including Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and Vosne-Romanée. The Cote de Beaune region includes appellations such as Pommard, Meursault, and Puligny-Montrachet. Maconnais is known for its very affordable wines, but Côte Chalonnaise gets lost in the avalanche of information.
The Cote Chalonnais sub-region is situated south of the Côte de Beaune and north of the Maconnais. While the wines produced in this region are not as well-known as those from the Cote d’Or, they are still highly regarded for their quality and complexity. The white wines produced in the Cote Chalonnais are typically crisp, refreshing, and minerally. The most famous white wine from the region is probably Montagny, often described as being similar to those from the nearby Cote de Beaune, but with a slightly more acidic and mineral-driven profile. The reds in the Côte Chalonnais are known for their elegance and finesse. They are lighter and more delicate than those from the Cote d’Or, but they still exhibit the classic Pinot Noir characteristics of red fruit and earthy notes. The most famous red wine from the region is probably Givry, often described as being similar to those from the nearby Cote de Beaune, but with a slightly lighter and more delicate profile.
At the dinner, we kicked off with Domaine du Cellier aux Moines Mercurey Blanc ‘Les Morgatons’ 2020, and Montagny 1er Cru ‘Les Combes’ 2020. As expected, the Montagny was as great as expected: flinty, minerally and crisp.
Once seated with tasted two flights of three wines, one with each course.
Domaine du Cellier aux Moines Mercurey Blanc ‘Les Morgatons’ 2020
Montagny 1er Cru ‘Les Combes’ 2020
As expected, the Montagny was as great as expected: flinty, minerally and crisp.
Torchon of Foie Gras with toasted brioche and jam.
Domaine du Cellier aux Moines Bourgogne-Aligoté ‘Sous le Roches—Vieille Vignes 1945’ 2020
Montagny 1er Cru ‘Les Charlottes—Vieille Vignes 1939’ 2020
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Purcelles’ 2020.
The Montagny was the surprise of the trio, exhibiting beautiful, crisp apple fruit, focused acidity, and a subtle richness. Not one of these wines costs more than $50, according to publicist Odila Galer Noel.
Coq au Vin
Domaine du Cellier aux Moines Givry 1er Cru ‘Clos du Cellier aux Moines’ 2020
Domaine du Cellier aux Moines Givry 1er Cru ‘Clos du Cellier aux Moines—Les Dessus’ 2020
Domaine du Cellier aux Moines ‘Clos Pascal Monopole’ 2020
All three were remarkable, but the ‘Les Dessus’ had extraordinary finesse and depth, punching high about its suggested retail cost of around $75 a bottle.
If you’ll take my advice, I would ask your local retailer if they can source these wines; in New York they are distributed by Misa Imports.