One of my favorite global wine regions is French Burgundy—a destination I've enjoyed immensely ever since our business with whisky blender Michel Couvreur has personally brought us to the famed locale. When we've visited, we've been with Charles; who also has business in the area with the actual winemakers. There is a group of small growers that Charles works directly with as an importer and with whom, until this point, we've never done business with at K&L. Our Burgundy buyer retired last month, however, after more than a decade at the helm, and since his absence I've been helping ownership keep the section tidy and neat. In order to keep our shelves from falling into disarray, I've brought in a few of the small Burgundian wines that we've grown fond of over the last few years on our trips abroad. So far almost everything has been purchased by the staff (because the wines are inexpensive and delicious), but I figured at this point I might as well let you all in on the secret.
If you've ever been curious about Burgundy, but have simultaneously been afraid to shell out hundreds of dollars for wine that may be of questionable quality, then here are a few sure-fire hits that go easy on the pocketbook while delivering extreme value and quintessential Burgundian character. They're not big names from famous villages, but that's exactly why they've been overlooked, my friends.
2012 Domaine Ragot Givry 1er Cru "La Grande Berge" $24.99 - One of the most difficult combinations to find in young, inexpensive red Burgundy is that ever-longing, haunting essence of forest floor and baking spices, along with just the right amount of ripe raspberry fruit. Burgundy is cold, which means that often times the fruit just doesn't ripen the way it does in other pinot noir-growing parts of the world. Tart cranberry or tannic blackberry will often await your lips upon first sip; a sign that the wine needs a few years in the cellar to soften up before drinking. But what are we to drink while we wait?! This wine—the Ragot red from the underappreciated Givry region; a juicy and boisterous red with serious structure and depth. Black cherry fruit, bits of compote (almost like envelope glue—in a good way!), and a perfect balance of soft mouthfeel and acidity.
2013 Andre Bonhomme Vire Clesse "Les Pierres Blanches" $16.99 - We get used to Chardonnay here in the states as something rich, creamy, or even buttery, but truth be told, Chardonnay can create one of the freshest, cleanest, and most delicate wines in existence: white Burgundy. Because of its rather neutral, mild-mannered character, Chardonnay is the perfect template for the time-tested terroir of Burgundy's complex and erratic soil structure. The limestone-rich vineyards of Chablis, for example, fill the Chardonnays of that region with the salty zing of oyster shell and baking powder-esque minerality; just like the ground in which the vines are grown. While not quite as intense, the Bonhomme Vire Clesse is snappy and fresh in that same matter, albeit with more stonefruit and less of a mineral backbone. It transitions into green apple on the finish and leaves you with a smile on your face, ready for another big sip. This is a Spring patio sipper, pure and simple.
2010 Andre Bonhomme Vire Clesse Vieille Vignes $22.99 - I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that the "vieille vignes" (old vines in English) expression from Bonhomme is absolutely the best deal on white wine in the store. Whereas the 2013 "Les Pierres Blanches" is lithe and lean, the VV is five years old at this point with more richness and weight from the old vine fruit. When white wine ages, the flavors begin to oxidize and the fruit turns from fresh and clean into a nutty, sherry-like roundness. This wine is just beginning that transition so the flavors are still full of acidity, but with a leesy mouthful of white Burgundian goodness. I've drunk about two cases of this wine on my own over the last few months, as have my colleagues Jeff Garneau and Jim Barr. It's just too f-ing good to pass up, even when you've had it every night for a week. I'll be buying as much as I can of this wine until it's gone. You just do not see Burgundy deals like this anymore.