The white wines from Burgundy, France, are arguably the most treasured white wines in the world. The most-coveted are Le Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne and other grand crus. These typically cost $150 a bottle and up. If you want to go a few notches down, you can try some premier crus from Meursault, Chassagne and Puligny Montrachet or Chablis.
Outside of the top vineyards, be they premier or grand cru, there are exceptional wines made by conscientious producers. The best bargains to be found are those from magnificent producers in lesser regions — lesser being a relative term as I would not call any appellation in Burgundy inferior.
Before going any further, I want to stress, in bold, a wine is only as good as its producer. This is true anywhere, but in Burgundy, it is written in stone. Because of inheritance laws, Burgundy’s vineyards are a maze with multiple producers, many of whom are distantly related to one another. Each winemaker puts a stamp on his or her products, so two wines made from rows that are just a couple of meters apart taste very different.
Here are a few gems that, while not super-inexpensive, offer a lot of value for their quality:
Domaine des Valanges Saint Veran, 2007: Located in the Maconnais, St. Veran is south of Pouilly Fuisse. I find the wines to be less tropical and a bit more angular than its famous neighbor, and they are often less expensive as well. A series of events lead Michel Paquet down the winemaking path and now, 30 years later, his humble little abode continues to put out very tasty juice. Bright and clean, with a hint of butter on a firm base of minerals, this is a joy to drink. Suggested retail: $24
Bernard Ente Bourgogne Blanc, 2007: Located in Puligny Montrachet, Benoit Ente has been making wine since 1999. A relatively young producer, he has learned that less is often more both in terms of yields and winemaking. Largely composed of grapes from 47-year-old Puligny Montrachet vines, this wine has an assembly of brioche, banana, caramel, chamomile and nut oils, yet it still manages to have finesse and with wonderful acidity and balance. Suggested retail: $35
Bernard Defaix Chablis, 2007: Bernard Defaix now oversees the estate he founded in 1959, having passed the winemaking torch on to his son, Sylvain. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, this bright, minerally wine is a great expression of Chablis’ chalky terrain. Medium-bodied with a Bit O’Honey nose and palate, and a long almond-like finish, burgundy fans and new-world chardonnay drinkers will be appeased. Suggested retail: $21
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.