Stephen Brook explains how Beaune can offer such good value Burgundy, and picks nine top red Beaune wines to try...
For the wine lover, the relative obscurity of Beaune has advantages. Many a producer remarked to me that a good Beaune premier cru usually costs less than a village wine from, say, Chambolle or Vosne-Romanée. And though many Beaune wines have great charm and accessibility when young, they can and do age well. Bouchard, for instance, prides itself on having 19th-century bottles from its top site, Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, that are apparently still alive and well. A recently tasted 1993 Beaune Grèves from Drouhin was still robust, even though it is certainly ready to drink.
- See Stephen Brook’s top value red Beaune wines below
Beaune is not the easiest appellation for consumers (or wine writers) to understand, if only because there are no fewer than 42 premiers crus. Mere village vineyards tend to be on flatter land in the southern sector near Pommard. That almost 80% of vineyards are rated as premier cru has invited a sceptical response from some observers. But the explanation is far from sinister. As the town has expanded, it has done so into the prettier northern districts. That meant encroaching on vineyards, so that many of Beaune’s former village vineyards now house estates or hotels. Nonetheless, most producers agree that a handful of premiers crus don’t make wine of the highest quality.
That is why merchants such as Jadot and Bouchard Père et Fils produce premier cru blends in considerable volumes, both for marketing purposes and because it allows them to blend together wines from sites that are either too small or not quite good enough to justify their own single-vineyard bottlings.
The little-known 66ha Côte de Beaune appellation has nothing to do with Côte de Beaune-Villages, which is not specific to a single terroir, and refers to wines that come from a number of village communes justoutside the Côte de Beaune. Drouhin is one of the few producers to use it. Véronique Drouhin explains: ‘It’s a separate appellation of about 40ha of vineyards above the northern sector. It’s very useful, as we can use it not just for our 4ha planted here, white and red, but we can declassify our young vines from premiers crus into it. It can offer exceptional value.’