Professional wine journalists and critics helped millions of consumers around the world to discover new wine regions and unknown names among winemakers.
To date, we have accumulated a vast amount of data that allows us to draw more complex conclusions than a simple comparison of one wine with another.
I am often asked: “Which wine is the best?”. Behind this simple and perhaps naïve formulation lies an incredibly arduous task that I have become interested in solving.
I’m opening a difficult 2020 with a study on Burgundy.
This study covers the Cote de Nuits region, and two villages from Cote de Beaune: Pommard and Volnay, where wines are exclusively produced from Pinot Noir.
Before I present the results of the study, I want to remind you of one important rule, which guides me and many professionals I know in the wine world.
Three important criteria when choosing quality wine. Strictly in this sequence:
Despite the uniqueness of the terroir (a combination of soil and climatic factors and special characteristics of a particular area), it is often the producer (winemaker) that determines the quality of the wine.
Terroir provides the necessary condition, but by no means sufficient!
The year of harvest has the least weight, as the best winemakers adapt their techniques to the conditions of each particular year of harvest. Thus, vintage can manifest itself in the style of wine, the speed of reaching peak maturity, and of course the price!
The wines from the best winemakers in the “weak” vintage are usually an excellent deal, if not a bargain, providing the best value for money.
In the first part you’re currently reading, I’ve focused on the ranking of the villages appellations.
The second part is devoted to the rating of the Grand Cru appellations and how some parts of the Premier Cru relate to them.
The third and final part is the extensive rating of winemakers. Producers are divided into several categories and separately allocated the largest producers of the region.
The ranking of the village appellations* includes Premier Crus.
Grand Crus have their own individual appellations and the corresponding rating is given in the second part of the study.
*Appellation (fr. appellation d’origine controlee is the main unit of classification of quality wine, an area with special geographical, climatic, soil and other characteristics in which certain types of wine can be produced using certain technologies.The communes of Vosne-Romanee, Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny are the “big three” of red Burgundy. The wines from the vineyards of these appellations are unequivocal leaders in the assessment of professionals.
Vosne-RomaneeThe Appellation includes 14 Premier Crus.Production communes: Vosne-Romanee, Flagey-Echezeaux.The commune of Vosne-Romanée produces 6 Grands Crus and the commune of Flagey-Échezeaux 2 Grands Crus.Vineyards area:151.91 ha (including 57.19 ha Premier Cru).
This area of the vineyards does not include the Grand Cru area, as these sites are considered separate independent appellations.
Vosne-Romanee is a small village where the best Pinot Noir on planet Earth is produced.There are no mediocre wines. As a last resort, if there is such wine, it is entirely the fault of the winemaker and completely on his conscience.— Courtepee, an 18th-century writer
No other appellation can boast of the incredible intensity and refinement of Vosne-Romanee wines at the same time.
This commune is quite compact, its production area is almost 3 times smaller than in Gevrey-Chambertin.
Here, all Grand Crus absolutely deserve their status. Some parts of Premier Cru are clear candidates for Grand Cru. Among them: Cros Parantoux, Aux Malconsorts, Les Beaux Monts and Les Suchots.
The average market value of the best wines of The Vosne-Romanee is 350 euros. The ten most expensive wines range from 1,350 to 12,600 euros.
Gevrey-ChambertinThe appellation includes 26 Premier Cru climats.Producing communes: Gevrey-Chambertin, Brochon.There are 9 Grand Crus in Gevrey-Chambertin.Vineyard area:411.29 ha (including 81.61 ha Premier Cru).
This is the largest in size appellation in the Cote de Nuits.
The village of Gevrey-en-Montagne was once the first to decide to rename it, adding the name of its best vineyard to its name, becoming Gevrey-Chambertin on October 17, 1847.
It is from this village that the belt of the great Grand Crus begins, stretching to the South to the southern borders of Vosne-Romanee. The signature of the style of Gevrey-Chambertin is deep coloured red wines, with relative extraction and pronounced influence of oak. Wines are more for autumn-winter than spring-summer season.
Among the 26 Premier Cru a recognized leader is Le Clos St-Jacques, which is ahead of many Grand Crus.
Also worth paying attention to: Les Cazetiers, Aux Combottes and Les Corbeaux. Several Premier Cru climats have Monopole status, i.e. the whole plot belongs to one landowner. These include,
Clos du Fonteny (Monopole Domaine Bruno Clair)
Clos des Issarts (Monopole Domaine Faiveley)
Clos des Varoilles (Monopole Domaine des Varoilles)
La Romanee (Monopole Domaine des Varoilles)
Clos du Chapitre (Monopole Nuiton-Beaunoy)
The average market value of the best Gevrey-Chambertin appellation wines is 320 euros.
Chambolle-MusignyThe appellation includes 24 Premier Cru climats.Production communes: Chambolle-Musigny.There are two Grand Crus in Chambolle-Musigny.Vineyard area:152.65 ha (including 55.40 ha Premier Cru).
Chambolle-Musigny is the last of “big three.” The commune is quite compact in size and stands out for its very high quality wine standard. It is difficult to make a mistake and run into frankly weak wine.
The style of wines is often described in words elegant and charming. Wines do not differ in great color depth and do not stand out by their structure. They are more about sensual fruitiness and laconic texture.
As in Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny has an undisputed leader among Premier Cru — Les Amoureuses. This area is without a doubt at the level of Grand Cru.
Also worth paying attention to Les Charmes, Les Cras and Les Fuees.
The average market value of Chambolle-Musigny’s best wines is 300 euros. The 3 wines with the highest ratings cost in the range of 1,500 to 3,200 euros.The second “trio” is occupied respectively by the appellations of the communes of Nuits-Saint-Georges, Volnay and Pommard. It is noteworthy that there are no Grand Crus in these communes.
Nuits-Saint-GeorgesThe appellation includes 41 Premier Cru climats.Producing communes: Nuits-Saint-Georges, Premeaux.Vineyard area:Red wines: 297.06 ha (including 136.32 ha Premier Cru)White wines: 9.78 ha (including 6.79 ha Premier Cru)
The small town of Nuits-Saint-Georges gave its name to Cote de Nuits. In the past, however, it was called Nuits-sous-Ravieres. After two years of trying, in May 1892 they were allowed to rename to Nuits-Saint-Georges having borrowed the name from their best vineyard.
With no Grand Crus, there is an impressive number of Premier Cru vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges. According to this number (41) this commune is the absolute leader among the rest. Almost half of the area of the vineyards of the appellation have Premier Cru status.
Les St-Georges was nominated for Grand Cru a few years ago. But it will take many years before the conservative and slow bureaucratic machine of INAO delivers its final verdict. Although many agree that this site deserves a higher status, it is fair to notice that Les Vaucrains, Les Cailles and even Aux Boudots are no less worthy.
This commune also has four monopoly Premier Cru sites:
Clos des Porrets (Monopole Domaine Henri Gouges)
Clos de Thorey (Monopole Domaine de la Vougeraie)
Clos Saint-Marc (Monopole Domaine Michèle et Patrice Rion)
Clos des Grandes Vignes (Monopole Domaine du Ch’teau de Puligny-Montrachet)
The average market value of Nuits-Saint-Georges’ best wines is 180 euros.
VolnayThe appellation includes 29 Premier Cru climats.Producing communes: Volnay; Meursault for climat Santenots.Vineyard area:220 ha (including 132.54 ha of Premier Cru)
Volnay, perhaps are the most coveted red wines in the Cote de Beaune. The classic style of Volnay wines can be expressed in such words: delicate, feminine, multi-layered, elegant. Power, rigor and tannins are not about Volnay. Focus is on length, not its strength.
There are 29 Premier Crus in Volnay and this appellation is the record holder for the number of monopolistic ones among them.
Clos de la Bousse d’Or (Monopole Domaine de la Pousse d’Or)
Clos de la Rougeotte (Monopole Domaine Francois Buffet)
Clos du Verseuil (Monopole Domaine Yvon Clerget)
Clos de la Barre (Monopole Louis Jadot)
Clos de la Cave de Ducs (Monopole Domaine du Comte Armand, until 2005 — Domaine Carre-Courbin)
Clos des Ducs (Monopole Domaine Marquis d’Angerville)
Clos d’Audignac (Monopole Domaine de la Pousse d’Or)
Fremiets Clos de la Rougeotte (Monopole Bouchard Pere and Fils) — part of the Fremiets section of Premier Cru
Clos des 60 Ouvrees (Monopole Domaine de la Pousse d’Or) is the best part of the Cailleret Prime Cru.
Clos des Santenots (Monopole Domaine Jacques Prieur) — part of Les Santenots du Milieu
Best Premier Cru sites: Cailleret, Clos de Chenes, Les Santenots du Milieu and Taille Pieds.
The average market value of Volnay best wines is 110 euros.
PommardThe appellatoin includes 28 Premier Cru climats.Producing commune: Pommard.Vineyard area:321.63 ha (including 115.82 ha of Premier Cru)
Pommard was once in more fashion than Volnay thanks to its dense and sly wines. The wines of Pommard are characterized by deep rich color, relatively pronounced tannins and superiority, not elegance. The closest in style analogue of Cote de Nuits could be Gevrey-Chambertin.
The best of the Premier Crus: Les Epenots (Grands and Petits) and Les Rugiens (lower part of the Bas site).
Clos des Poutures (Monopole Louis Jadot) — an enclave inside Les Putures
Clos des Epeneaux (Monopole Comte Armand) is partly in Grand and Petits Epenots
Le Clos des Boucherottes (Monopole Domaine Coste-Caumartin) — part of Les Boucherottes
The average market value of Pommard best wines is 100 euros.
Morey-Saint-DenisThe appellation includes 20 Premier Cru climats.Producing communes: Morey-Saint-Denis.Morey-Saint-Denis has 5 Grand Crus.Vineyard area:Red wines: 106.61 ha (including 38.22 ha Premier Cru)White wines: 4.93 ha (including 1.23 ha Premier Cru)
Ranked 7th, The Morey-Saint-Denis boasts as many as 5 Grand Crus in the village. At the same time, wines of the village level and Premier Cru rarely receive such high scores among critics, which determined the position of this commune in the ranking. Not as elegant as in Chambolle, not as tannin as in Gevrey.
The Monopoly Section of Clos de la Bussiere Premier Cru is owned by Domaine Georges Roumier.
Monts Luisants Premier Cru is best known for its white wines:
Domaine Ponsot Clos des Monts Luisants Vieilles Vignes — since 2005 100% Aligote from old vines planted in 1911. Until 2005, there was a blend with Chardonnay. The only Premier Cru wine in Burgundy from Aligote.
Domaine Dujac Monts Luisants — since 2000 100% Chardonnay.
The average market value of the best Morey-Saint-Denis wines is 95 euros.
VougeotThe appellation includes 4 Premier Cru climats.Producing communes: Vougeot.Vougeot is home to one Grand Cru.Vineyard area:Red wines: 10.65 ha (including 8.10 ha Premier Cru)White wines: 3.65 ha (including 2.83 ha Premier Cru)
The commune of Vougeot is rather famous for the largest Grand Cru Clos Vougeot, which is located within its borders and occupies the bulk of its territory. The remainder includes a very small number of plots, of which only 4 have the status of Premier Cru. Fans of white wines should pay attention to Chardonnay from Vougeot. There are some very decent wines here.
The average market value of Vougeot best wines is 80 euros.
MarsannayProducing communes: Marsannay-la-C’te, Couchey, Chen’ve.Vineyard area:Red wines: 181 haWhite wines: 40 haRose wines: 20 ha
Marsannay is quite a young appellation, which was introduced only in 1987. Rose wines have gained a good reputation, there is a separate Marsannay Rose appellation for them.
The red wines of Marsannay have excellent value for money. This is perhaps the most underrated appellation.
The average market value of Marsannay best wines is 40 euros.
There are no Premier Cru sites in Marsannay yet, but some winemakers have long noted individual lieux-dits on labels. Recently, INAO was sent the dossier proposing to assign the status of Premier Cru to almost 30% of the vineyards of appellation.
FixinThe appellation includes 6 Premier Cru climats.Producing communes: Fixin, Brochon.Vineyard area:Red wines: 96.23 ha (including 18.52 ha Premier Cru)White wines: 4.29 ha (including 0.19 ha Premier Cru)
Of the 6 sites of Fixin Premier Cru, 3 are monopoles:
Clos Napoleon (Monopole Domaine Pierre Gelin)
Clos du Chapitre (Monopole Domaine Guy and Yvan Dufouleur)
Clos de la Perriere (Monopole Albert Bichot)
The average market value of the Best Fixin wines is 50 euros.
ConclusionsThe first part of the study provides a good picture of the balance of power in the region. How communal appellations are compare to each other.
Among the wines of the “big three”, the appellation Gevrey-Chambertin has an area of vineyards significantly larger than others, thus producing significantly more wines.
It is also noticeable how the market price correlates with the rating of the commune of their origin.
Wines of the second trio Nuits-Saint-Georges, Volnay and Pommard are very well presented in the market, offering a wide variety and yet affordable price. Here the consumer can choose the preferred wine style.
The small communes of More-Saint-Denis and Vougeot are peculiar with white wines. Red wines are inferior in their reputation to eminent neighbors, and their value is not much inferior to the second trio.
Marsannay offers the best value at relatively high quality. It is interesting to pay attention to the rose wines of the region.
Fixin is still held hostage to the former historical glory, Their wines do not correspond yet neither in terms of quality, nor in the level of price. However, the potential of the region is far from being revealed.
(To be continued…)
Red Burgundy Research. Part 2. The best vineyards.
Red Burgundy Research. Part 3. The best winemakers.
Reference‘Inside Burgundy’ — Jasper Morris MW
‘The Climats and Lieux-dits of the Great Vineyards of Burgundy’ — Marie-Helene Landrieu-Lussigny, Sylvain Pitiot.
‘The Wines of Burgundy’ — Clive Coates MW
‘My Favourite Burgundies’ — Clive Coates MW
‘Great Domaines of Burgundy’ — Remington Norman, Charles Taylor MW
burgundy-report.com by Bill Nanson
burghound.com by Allen Meadows
winehog.org by Steen Ohman
My other projectsIn 2017, for the first time I published my ratings: Top 12 countries wine producers and Top 12 wine regions.
After the success of my premiere and a lot of interest from readers, in 2018 I updated these ratings. This time I drew attention to the dynamics of the development of individual regions and made the first attempt to look also at the best producers in them.
In the same 2018 I allowed myself to update the famous classification of wines of the Left Bank of Bordeaux of 1855. During a months-long study, I analyzed more than 18,000 professional assessments and more than 80,000 user ratings of all classified chateaus from 1982 to 2017.
In 2019, I continued my research work and offered my version of the classification of wines of the Right Bank of Bordeaux — a weighted rating of producers of the Right Bank of Bordeaux.
I have received many positive feedback, including useful and constructive criticism. It is quite clear that some wine enthusiasts with great tasting experience might have their own subjective preferences and do not agree with any conclusions. However, even among them I find great support and agreement. Moreover, the ratings I have offered reflect the real reputation of wines, which has developed among both professionals and amateurs over a long period of time.