Thoughts on Buying and Consuming BURGUNDY

Quick Intro: I’m quite early on in my wine buying and drinking career and have already found myself entranced with Burgundy. It seems to be arguably the most intellectually stimulating region and I love the taste of the wines. I’ve been fortunate to taste a lot of Burgundy already, including some of the big names: DRC, Roumier, Dujac, Leflaive, Raveneau etc. As I have begun to buy wine to cellar over the last few years, I’ve done my best to snag bottles from the most lauded producers while also including those more affordable: Jadot, Faiveley, Bouchard, Drouhin, Fevre, Chevillon, Gouges etc. I’ve been keeping an eye out for newer/up and coming/less known value producers but usually end up going with the trusty established producers since there is less information on the new guys and even if I taste the wines I don’t always know how well they’ll develop in 10+ years.

From those of you with a bit more experience with Burgundy, here are some questions:

What are your philosophies, opinions, and experiences with buying and consuming Burgundy?
How do you choose between buying different producers, vintages, and quality levels?
How does value factor in for you?

Do you buy 3 bottles of village wine or 1 bottle of Premier/Grand Cru?
Are you more likely to wish that you bought a bottle or two of Grand Cru/Premier Cru instead of the village wines or wish that you had bought 3-6 bottles of village wine instead of the Grand/Premier Cru(s) that turned out to not be $THAT$ much better or pleasurable.

Is it worth getting a few bottles here and there from great producers like Roumier, Dujac, Rousseau, Grivot, Roulot, Raveneau even with how expensive they can be?
DRC, Leroy, Coche etc out of the price range and I worry that these other producers may soon be too which is part of the reason I’ve tried to buy some of their wines here and there. Everyone says producer is most important in Burgundy but when do the wines of these legendary producers become so expensive that it’s not worth it anymore unless you’ve got $$$$$?

I’ve come across people that only buy deep in “great” vintages and avoid “off” or “weaker” years. I see the appeal of many of the “great” vintages but isn’t part of the fun finding great deals in the “lesser” or less popular vintages, usually from the best producers? Or am I just inexperienced and should be loading up on only 2015 reds and 2014 whites? How special really are the “great” vintages? Are the best wines mind blowingly better than the best of other years?

I know this will be different for everyone and there are many factors that go into this such as how much money you have to spend on wine, why and when you drink etc. but I wanted to get some opinions and see how others think about these questions. I greatly appreciate any comments and advice you all can contribute! [cheers.gif]

Just very shortly some of my experiences:

  • you will not understand Burgundy if you only buy/drink one level (e.g. Village or Grand Cru), you should try and follow all or most … and from different Villages
  • you will not understand Burgundy if you only buy/drink TOP vintages, you should taste all vintages (and some have the advantage reaching maturity earlier)
  • you will not understand Burgundy if you only buy/drink the top (most expensive/reknowned) producers, you should also try less famous (but good) producers
  • you will not understand Burgundy if you only buy/drink young (immature) wines, taste also wines at their apogee (15-30+ years)
  • you will not understand Burgundy if you only buy/drink one style (modern/traditional etc.)

I would suggest to find some producers with a style to your likes, follow these thru all vintages and all levels, and also try to find some mature examples.
In addition try wines from other producers (and styles) as many as possible to compare …

The true magic of Burgundy lies (imho) in mature examples from good vineyards and good producers … usually (but not always) from good vintages …

I was hoping that there would be an answer “all of the above”.

I drink more Burgundy than anything else. By a lot. I have had the opportunity over the last 40 years ago to taste a lot of different Burgundies from a lot of different producers and vintages and can say that my tastes do not necessarily always agree with the general consensus. That does not mean I am right and everyone else is wrong, but rather I need to buy within my own budget and preferences and not go to the crowd.

For example, I love DRC, but don’t buy them because of cost. By contrast, I don’t really find the wines of Leroy to my taste. The wines all taste to much like Leroy to me and not as much like their terroir. They also tend to be bigger wines than I am looking for in Burgundy.

I drink everything from Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc to Grand Crus. I will buy the great vintages (probably in greater quantities) and the middle vintages but not the bottom vintages. I have little 2004 and 2011 for example and probably wish I had less. But, I am perfectly happy drinking vintages like 2006, 2007 and 2008 from well chosen producers and esp. from vintages like 2000 and 2001. Probably the biggest change in wines since I began drinking wines in the 70s is the improvement of wines from what I call the middle vintages - over the last 20 years, everything that is not 1999, 2005 and 2010 on the one end or 2004 on the other end. And, most people continue to miss this completely and just talk about great vintages and lesser vintages.

The top 10 red Burgundy producers in my cellar by quantity of bottles owned are, in order, Truchot, Jadot, Rossignol-Trapet, Dublere, Chandon des Briailles, Hudelot-Noellat, Henri Jouan, Michel Gaunoux (probably should not be, I like these wines but do not love them and probably should have purchased fewer), Bouchard and then Cecile Tremblay and Mugneret-Gibourg tied. So, a combination of your categories.

For whites, my top four (much lower quantities) are Ramonet, Dublere, Bernard Moreau, and PYCM. PYCM would move to second if you treat his wines and those of his wife as one winery - don’t know yet whether that makes sense to do.

My overall philosophy for someone just getting into Burgundy is to taste - taste as widely as you can. Don’t buy too much too soon. There will always be another vintage. Buy what you like. For example, vintages 2012, 2013 and 2014 are probably about the same in quality, but very different in style. You are likely to like one of these vintages a great deal more than the other two - which one, I don’t know and you won’t either by reading my notes or those of anyone else. Also, on my list above, the wines of say Rossignol-Trapet, Dublere and Chandon des Briailles are extremely different from each other in style. Which will you like best. Only you would know and only by tasting - and only by tasting over years as the wines mature.

As to drinking wines young vs. old, I often like young lesser appellation wines with fish like salmon or tuna. For example, a Bourgogne Rouge from Hudelot-Noellat or Jouan or a Chorey les Beaune from Dublere can be perfect with salmon on a weeknight. But, I tend to like my wines from higher classifications with some age to them. Probably at least 10-15 years old. Very dependent on vintage. I have been enjoying some premier crus and grand crus from 2007 and 2008 now, although they probably are not yet fully mature. By contrast, my 2005 Bourgogne Rouge from Truchot is just beginning to get mature.

I’m quite early on in my wine buying and drinking career and have already found myself entranced with Burgundy. It seems to be arguably the most intellectually stimulating region

These two don’t go together all that well - if you’re early on then it’s only the most intellectually stimulating region of the few you’ve tried, and there’s an entire planet to consider.

You might take all of what Howard said into consideration, but don’t decide that there’s no need to look elsewhere. There’s a lot of interesting and intellectually stimulating wine made these days, so while exploring, it’s a good idea to remain open to discovering regions new to you. [cheers.gif]

Two different wineries. She has her own vines and makes the wines herself. So doesn’t make sense to put them together.

My guess is that they each contribute a good bit to the other’s wines. When her wines are a couple of years older it will be easier to judge how differently they are really made.

This post really hits home for me. I cut it down to save space on the forum…but Howard really hit the head on the nail for me. While my collection is not as large or diverse as many that love Burgundy I’m finding that it’s getting more challenging to put to words the wines I like to a specific style. I love A. et P. de Villaine for the feminine beauty that they show with 5-8 years from vintage. I also enjoy Maume from top to bottom in quality prior to Marchand & Tawse taking over the winery lands yet found the Pascal Marchand has more oak than I’m looking for in Burgundy while I liked an Anne Gros Echezeaux Les Loachausses the other day when I heard from someone I respect that they’re “more modern”. So I think in many ways I’m trying to get as diverse an experience as possible like Howard was saying. I’m learning that I like Pommard more in it’s youth than with age…and so on down the line. In the end, I think what makes Burgundy so interesting is that to learn you really have to seek a breadth of experiences from top to bottom.

Survey responses thus far imply the best experience is (i) drinking mature burgundy, (ii) from a great producer/classification, (iii) from a great vintage – in that order. A little bit poetic that maturity trumps vintage. Keen to know how folks define “mature” burgundy.

Buying and consuming Burgundy? In my rather extensive experience I’m very clear about one thing: the “consuming” part is much more fun than the “buying” part.

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Hey Everyone, thanks for all the responses so far! They’ve been very helpful.
I just took down the poll, as a few of you have mentioned the best answer really is “All of the Above” It was late last night when I was writing this post and got excited at the idea of creating a poll but I don’t think it was necessary after all. Of course the magic of Burgundy is to explore the different vintages, producers, vineyards, and quality levels.

I know when starting out especially it is vital to taste as much as possible to identify styles of producers and vintages that you may find a preference for. I have tasted lots of wines from different regions all over the world and plan on continuing to do so. I love Champagne, German Riesling, Austrian whites, Northern Rhone Syrah, Barolo, Barbaresco to name some favorites. I have producers from Spain, the U.S., and other countries in my cellar as well. Burgundy just happens to be my favorite.

I think what I’m looking for most in this post is some reassurance and guidance in deciding what producers to buy when taking into account scarcity, price, and value (assuming it’s a style you like). With the prices of many of the top producers going up more and more every year, how do I justify buying any of them? My first thought is that these are the benchmarks/classics and that I should have at least some from most of these producers. With prices going up every year, I’d like to grab some before they are too far out of reach. For me, buying these top producers hinders my tasting and buying of newer/more value oriented producers but the last thing I want is to realize in 10-20 years that I wish I’d bought more of the greats/classics.

I suppose a question to ask you all is do you think the prices and rarity of top level Burgundy will keep increasing? I assume at some point there will be a “correction” of sorts but I can’t imagine it’ll bring prices anywhere near affordable. I can’t imagine that the most famous producers will ever be any more affordable in the future than they will today.

Howard, this is helpful, thank you for taking the time to write all this! I find what you wrote about vintages especially insightful. A lot of the time I feel like people don’t pay enough attention to the “lesser” vintages and it can be tough to see things clearly when critics and everyone around is going head-over-heels for the “great” vintages. I do find that this effects me sometimes. I like the style of the 2014 Reds quite a bit (and definitely the whites) but with all they hype the 2015 Reds generated it sometimes makes me think twice. I guess one question I have related to this is when is it worth paying more for a “great” vintage?

This seems like good advice for just about any wine region that produces age worthy wine. It’s more or less the approach I’ve taken with Burgundy after reading a lot of advice and opinions on WB. If you just read the critics, I think it tends to lead in a different direction - trying to cherry pick vintages as well as spreading too thin across many producers.

It also depends on what your budget is. If your monthly wine budget is $300, then you are pretty limited by what you can buy and it will be impossible to get on anyone’s premier allocation list. That will limit your choices and the advice that someone can give you.

Video footage of latest premier allocation list member…

As usual, Howard nailed it in his post. I’d add just a few things.

Tasting - while it’s great to sample aged bottles, that may be hard to do as much as you’d like. But I’ve found the tasting new release wines for Burgundy is a great guide. Wines that I like young I tend to like with age. It’s a real ‘listen to your own palate’ kind of thing.

Tasting part 2: join a wine group/go to offlines. This site has a section devoted to offlines. Don’t be shy!

Bourgogne - village - 1er - GC. Howard mentioned this but I wanted to emphasize buying across the price spectrum. Not only will it help you learn the villages/producers but it will fill your cellar with wines with different aging arcs. If you only buy GCs and like your wine with a lot of age you will have nothing to drink for a long time!

Depends. I also like the style of the 2014 vintage, and, for me, the great vintage of recent date in that style is 2010. I have a lot more 2010s than I do 2014s (a lot of this is because at my age I am trying to cut back on buying young Burgundy), but clearly if they were the same price I would be buying 2010s over 2014s. I think it would be worth paying more for a 2010 than for the same 2014. 2015 is another fabulous vintage but one I think of as more in the style of 1999, a vintage I also love but perhaps not as much as 2010 - I will know better when the 2010s mature and I can see if I was correct about the promise I have initially seen.

You really won’t know if you like 2014s or 2015s better for many years, so as others have suggested, you probably should buy some of both. My guess is that 2015 will always be considered objectively as a better vintage for red Burgundies than 2014, but you are drinking subjectively, not objectively. Also, you probably want to hedge your risks and not go all in on any one vintage. The flaws in 2004s were not apparent to most critics until a couple of years after harvest. And, after a couple of years after harvest, vintages like 2000 and 2001 began putting on weight and have become much better than anyone thought at the outset.

I should comment that the one change I would make to the Burgundies I buy is to focus more on a smaller number of producers. I have too much wine from producers where I bought into the hype from store emails, wine magazines, etc. I guess some of this is a natural result of trying to figure out what I like, but I did it too much, IMHO.

Ok, so a few thoughts. I think it was Alan Rath that said he wished he had focused on wider purchases at all levels and less focus on the Grand Crus. With that, I’ll say that I’m doing what you are also. I buy as many of the Grand Crus as I can afford…it means less 1ers & village level wines. Yet, I’m also working with limited space. So for what I can afford now…I’m trying to source a bottle (or 3) of as many of the GCs in Burgundy that I can afford and only 30% is 1er Cru and about 22% is Village level or below. With this as a focus, I’ve gotten some great deals of some of the wines…but it still hurts to look at a vintage like 2015 and be buying less wine than I want to ensure that I have a few bottles of truly great wines to check back in on in my retirement. If I had more space I’d probably have fewer GC’s and more 1ers but space decides that for me. I think 1er Crus are already at (if they aren’t surpassing) prices that are what many GC’s were only 5-8 years ago.

Sorry back to your other questions:

Yes, I think the Grand Crus will keep going up to a level that many of us will find absurd in another decade or two. Just look at how some producers are treated now as near impossible and difficult to buy in ANY quantity beyond one or two bottles.

As for your questions about what you’re buying…I’d say as long as you think you’re doing the best you can with what you have then you’re on your journey. Are you happy with the purchases you’re making? Hopefully you are enjoying and trying the full range (village to GC) and you like seeing the differences along the way.

I hope this was helpful…from your post I think you’re spot on and where you want to be in this process. It sounds like we’re in the same camp pretty much…

the other Alan may also have said it but I said that my one regret in Burgundy was not buying more “lesser” wines, as the difference in quality between grand and premier cru often is less with age.

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