Pinot noir grapes growing at Santenay

Burgundy on a budget: Part 1

Burgundy, France is one of the last places where you might expect to find relatively inexpensive pinot noir, but as domestic prices continue to rise, Burgundy often offers better values.

Of course there is a difference between new and old world pinot noir, with the wines from California, Oregon and New Zealand being much more fruit-focused and often having more alcohol than the more earthy, mineral-laden pinot noir found throughout France. This said, there is a commonality, as pinot noir is a lighter, high-acid grape with red berry fruit no matter where it is grown.

The grand and premier crus and even village-level wines of the Côte d'Or region of France are going to run you some big bucks, and as Burgundy is as variable as any region, the quality does not always match. However, if you look for the more modest wines from notable producers you can find wines in the $25 to $30 range that are well-made, complex and consistent.

Here are three choices to try:

Julien Altaber Pinot Noir, 2013 With his vineyard located in St. Aubin, Julien Altaber is a rising star in Burgundy's natural wine world. Working with purchased, organic fruit, he is pretty much a winemaking fanatic and uses little to no sulphur dioxide. This cuvee is unsulfured and while it may not age as well because of it (but it might), it offers a very pure expression of fruit and terroir with crimini mushrooms, rhubarb, red berries and cola. Suggested retail: $27

Guy Bussiere Pinot Noir, 2008 Guy Bussiere's vineyard is located in Bonnencontre, the eastern part of the Côte d'Or that is not well-known. He practices both organic and biodynamic viticulture and since 2009, he has made some wines without additional sulfur. If you look at the color of this wine you can tell it has some age and may even look a little bit more mature than it is. But the palate is sophisticated, not tired, with cedar, cola, mulled-wine spices and pomegranate on a bed of supple tannins. Suggested retail: $30

Lucien Muzard & Fils Bourgogne Rouge, 2011 Lucien Muzard used to sell most of his wine off in bulk to other producers. When his sons Claude and Hervé took over, that changed. They converted their holdings to organic viticulture and have been certified biodynamic since 2011. The Bourgogne Rouge is composed of fruit from both Maranges and Santenay in the Côtes de Beaune area. Delicate though not dainty, with floral and strawberry aromatics, a dash of white pepper and red licorice on the palate, it is a great introduction to this understated domaine. Suggested retail: $30

Some of these wines can be found at K&L Wine Merchants, Farmstead, Ordinaire, Paul Marcus Wines, Ruby Wines, Say Cheese, Terroir Natural Wine Merchant and The Wine Club.

Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics.

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