Where to find ‘affordable’ wines in Burgundy 2022
As Burgundy gears up to release its 2022 vintage en primeur, Domaines Albert Bichot technical director Matthieu Mangenot tells Patrick Schmitt MW where to find “affordable” wines.
If there’s one thing the wines of Burgundy are known for, it’s high prices, but producers are increasingly keen to point out that there is value to be found in the region, fearful that drinkers will be driven out of the appellation and into the arms of less expensive sources of fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir if they can’t find affordable versions in the Côte d’Or.
And it was notable during a tasting in London last month of the 2022 harvest featuring wines by Burgundy grower and négociant Albert Bichot that the producer’s technical director sought to point out the parts of the region where people might find relative value.
Before doing this, he did warn the drinks business that the 2022 releases will be pricier than the wines from 2021, even though 2022 produced higher yields – 2021 was affected by a severe late-spring frost that decimated volumes.
Having recorded that 2022 produced wines of “restraint”, despite being the “hottest and sunniest vintage ever”, he used the word “relief” to describe the vintage, and that was because, he said, “The good news is there is much more volume [than 2021].” Continuing, he said of the 2022 harvest, “It is not a high-yield vintage, but much more classic.”
Nevertheless, he told db to expect “price increases on the village wines and above”, before commenting, “We need to wait for the 2023 vintage to see any price drops on the regional wines – but not now.”
Indeed, this year’s vintage, which has produced the highest-volumes since 2018, should bring some price stability and possible decreases too, according to Mangenot.
Supporting the views of Veronique Boss-Drouhin, the Albert Bichot technical director expects to see less pressure on supply with the 2023 vintage, and therefore a settling of prices in 2025.
“You have seen with the Hospices de Beaune wine auction that there have been some drops in prices with the 2023, which sends a message to the viticulteurs that they need to lower prices,” he said, adding, “We have now had two vintages in a row with normal volumes, so something will happen with 2023.”
However, when it comes to the impending releases, he stated, “Stocks are so low after the 2021 vintage, that we had no option but to buy the 2022s at the prices we were given.”
Suggesting that the base level prices for Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc have got too high, he commented, “The regional appellation is 50% of production, and the price needs to come down.”
Nevertheless, within the range of wines offered by Domaines Albert Bichot, Mangenot picked out some places for good-value whites and reds from the 2022 harvest.
One of these concerns Burgundy’s other grapes, which in red, would be Gamay as opposed to Pinot Noir, but in white, means considering Aligoté in place of Chardonnay.
With this less-famous grape enjoying a renaissance in the region, driven by a group of vignerons known as Les Aligoteurs, the variety can be a source of value and quality too – something Mangenot drew db’s attention to with the 2022 expression of Bichot’s Domaine Adelie Bourgogne Aligoté ‘Champ Renard’, which retails for a little over £20, but is “treated like a village wine with a bit of oak treatment”.
Also among white wines from Burgundy, but this time for Chardonnay, Mangenot suggested looking to southern Burgundy’s Mâconnais, where he said there are “several interesting places”, such as Mâcon Milly-Lamartine, “which is higher, and that brings freshness to Mâcon, which can be fruit-driven, on the tropical side,” he said.
Within Burgundy’s heartland, he then drew attention to the region’s relatively new Bourgogne Côte d’Or classification, which was created in 2017 to recognise wines from this famous part of the region, as opposed to the broader ‘regional’ Bourgogne Blanc or Rouge.
Bichot make a white and red wine using the Bourgogne Côte d’Or name, which is called ‘Secret de Famille’, and like the Aligoté, made to the same standards as a ‘village’ wine, but without the higher price that this more site-specific classification would fetch.
At higher prices, he picked out the relative value of the white and red wines of Mercurey in the Côte Chalonnaise – a cooler area that performed particularly well in a hot vintage like 2022. Then, back to the Mâconnais, he drew particular attention to the premier cru whites of Pouily Fuissé.
After 20 years of studies and negotiations, this upper tier was launched in 2020, with the premier cru expressions around the village of Chaintré being picked out as being especially fine by Mangenot and his colleagues at Bichot. Indeed, the producer’s head winemaker Alain Serveau commented, “The famous appellations like Chassagne-Montrachet have become very expensive so people are coming to Pouily Fuissé because it is more affordable, and its premiers crus are very good.”
Concurring, Bichot commercial director Benoît Bruot, said, “The prices of Burgundy have been tough, especially for the whites, and it’s not just the price, but wines like Puligny and Chassagne are almost impossible to find, so we need to look for alternatives: and Pouily Fuissé is a good one: it is well known in places like the US, and with premier cru, it becomes more exclusive and premium.”
Such wines, he added, “are good for keeping people in Burgundy.”
Continuing he said, “80% of Burgundy is still affordable, and we want to show you that; it is important to understand that Burgundy is still a drinkable wine even if there are exceptions within the top appellations.”
Among the reds, areas of comparative value for Morgenot include the crus of Beaujolais, such as Moulin à Vent, where Bichot have produced a fine and concentrated 2022 expression of Gamay from Domaine de Rochegrès, where 80-year-old vines grow from extremely rocky granitic sites.
Like the elevation of certain areas of Pouilly Fuissé to premier cru status, Morgenot said that he expects to see parts of Moulin à Vent, Julienas and Fleurie achieve this classification, and commented that, “We know that Rochegrès will be one of the premiers crus.”
Concerning Pinot Noir, Morgenot then selected a range of villages he said are “under the radar with prices that are still affordable,” mentioning Santenay, Savigny, Chorey and Fixin.
Commenting further on the latter, he said, “Fixin is a location we are paying great attention too, it is a beautiful place, up north, just beyond Marsannay.”
Concluding, he told db that Albert Bichot would not be looking outside Burgundy to expand operations, but would continue to invest in the region, despite the high price of land and wines.
“We are not buying vineyards in the Côtes de Nuits and Beaune, but taking out 25-30 year leases, and will soon make an announcement; it is another way to get the product without buying land,” he said.
He also told db that the producer is spending €25 million on a new bottling line and boxing facility in Beaune that should be ready in the summer of 2025, while admitting that Albert Bichot would continue to keep an eye on vineyards in the south of Burgundy.
“The Mâconnais is still affordable, so if there are opportunities, we will take them,” he said.
“But we have no strategy to buy anything outside Burgundy,” he assured db. “Our focus is Burgundy, and there are so many places, like Mâcon Milly-Lamartine that are still under the radar; there is still so much to do.”