These terrific values—all under $ 25—from the heart of France will put Chardonnay back on your list of favorites.

Published on Sep 28, 2012
White Burgundy

Ask any high flyer about white Burgundy , and you will hear that it’s love in a bottle and not worth drinking unless it’s priced at $ 100, $ 200 or more. But those same folks don’t mention what they drink when the spotlight is off and the market is down. In fact, if they don’t drink (at least occasionally) the fabulous under-$ 25 wines found here, they don’t really understand economics and pride of place.

White Burgundy – Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide

“One of my difficulties when I talk about Burgundy is to explain that most of it is not expensive,” says Louis-Fabrice Latour, the seventh-generation president of négociant Maison Louis Latour, based in Beaune. “I say that we have kept the same price for a generation. It’s always been good value.”

We’re talking about white Burgundy or, as the French labels read, Bourgogne. I have reviewed 450 (and counting) 2009 and 2010 white Burgundies for the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide, and a good portion retails under $ 25. The grape variety is invariably Chardonnay.

“People often say to me, ‘I don’t like Chardonnay, but I do like Burgundy,’ ” says Andy Chabot, sommelier and director of food and beverage at the exclusive Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee.

White Burgundy: The Original Chardonnay

Chabot’s 211-page wine list contains 15 pages of white Burgundy , starting at $ 45, a reasonable restaurant price. “When we tell customers that Chardonnay is white Burgundy , it’s an eye opener” for many of them, says Chabot.

Chardonnay is ubiquitous around the world, because—at its worst—it’s a grape variety that’s easy to grow. At its best, Chardonnay is Burgundy. The French origin, climate, soil and the people who fashion the wines make all the difference.

“When I put ‘Chardonnay’ on the label, of course I am competing with the rest of the world,” says Frédéric Drouhin, president of Maison Joseph Drouhin.

“But when I put that word ‘Bourgogne’ on the bottle, then I am also selling our history and our region,” saysDrouhin, whose 13th-century wine cellars in Beaune once belonged to the kings of France.

So where do the best values come from? The producers, from large to small, consistently come up with the same answers.

“Mâcon and Chablis are the two places I tell customers to look,” says Cécile Repolt, export director of the Nuits-St.-Georges négociant Louis Max. “And, of course, I suggest they try our Bourgogne Blanc.”

When a consumer opens a bottle, Repolt says, “they appreciate the acidity, the freshness, the pure fruit, the lower alcohol.”

Those are certainly some of the reasons to drink white Burgundy . For under $ 25—often under $ 20—you can find a wine that has a great sense of place, a feeling of being just right, confident without trying too hard.

But beware, once you acquire a taste for Burgundy, you may be a lover for life.

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