Top Burgundy Red Wines

France's Burgundy wine region produces some of the world's truly great wines.  This is a region completely dedicated to terroir and tradition.  Even the grapes planted in Burgundy are restricted to a few traditional varietals, with pinot noir and chardonnay holding pride of place – as they have for many, many centuries.

view counter

Burgundy's Winemaking History

Burgundy's winemaking history dates back at least to ancient Roman times, possibly earlier, although documentation is scanty prior to the Romans' arrival.  Catholic monks cultivated vineyards during the Middle Ages, and the ruling Dukes of Burgundy involved themselves in the grape-growing process in an effort to improve the quality (and, no doubt, export value) of Burgundy wines.  It was during this period that pinot noir became the red wine grape of choice in Burgundy.  Vineyards shifted from Church ownership to individual owners during the Renaissance, and, in the aftermath of the French Revolution some 300 years later, all remaining Church vineyards were privatized.  These privately-owned vineyards were divided and re-divided under Napoleonic law, which forced families to split holdings among heirs instead of willing all inheritable property to one descendant.  This division of the vineyards led directly to the system used in Burgundy today; hundreds of growers sell their grapes to négociants, or buyers, who use the grapes to make wine.

The 1861 Classification

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Following Bordeaux's 1855 Classification, Beaune's Agricultural Committee developed its own classification system for the area now known as the Côte d'Or.  This system was modified and expanded to include all of Burgundy in 1936, when France developed the Appellations d'Origine Contrôllee (AOC) system.  According to this expanded classification, the most prestigious Burgundy wines are classified as Grand Cru appellations.  There are 33 Grand Cru AOCs in Burgundy (one in Chablis, the remainder in the Côte d'Or); 1.4% of all Burgundy wines are Grands Crus.  Grand Cru wines are made from grapes grown in specific, top-quality vineyard plots, or climats.  The second-highest classification level is Premier Cru (10.1% of total production).  Premier Cru is followed by Village appellations, with Regional appellations, the lowest level, completing the classifications.[1]

Burgundy Reds Today

Burgundy's Grand Cru wines fetch top prices on the world market, and their popularity is growing, particularly in Asia.  Burgundy's reputation for high-quality wines that hold their value has lasted through the centuries, even during times of economic downturn.  Burgundy's growers and négociants attribute this quality to the attention each grower pays to the effects of terroir on the grapes.  The climats of Burgundy – over 1,200 in all – have applied for UNESCO World Heritage Site status under the auspices of an organization created specifically for this purpose, citing the centuries-old tradition of growing grapes in highly-defined, painstakingly-maintained areas with specific microclimates – in short, the climats.[2] 

True to tradition, Burgundy's top red wine grape growers continue to plant pinot noir grapes and cultivate them with meticulous care.  Let's find out more about Burgundy's top red wines.  For price comparison purposes, we'll use the 2005 vintage, with one notable exception.

Top Burgundy Reds

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti routinely appears on lists of the world's most expensive wines.  Its best vintages command insanely high prices.  Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's prized pinot noir wines are made with grapes grown in historic Grand Cru vineyards (eight in all), the oldest of which has been cultivated since 1241.  According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's website, the combination of terroir, best-quality vines that are perfectly suited to their climat, humble dedication and meticulous attention to every detail of the winemaking process make DRC  wines unique.  Wine lovers emphatically agree.  Expect to pay from $13,000 to upwards of $16,000 for a single bottle of 2005 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti.

Domaine Leroy

Domaine Leroy creates biodynamic wines under the expert direction of Lalou Bize-Leroy.  Domaine Leroy's nine Grand Cru appellations speak for themselves; they are consistently rated among the very best of Burgundy's top red wines.  Bize-Leroy began cultivating vines using biodynamic techniques long before the practice was well-known or understood.  Because she carefully supervises every phase of growth, harvest and production, Bize-Leroy's wines are of the best quality, and their prices reflect this fact.  You'll pay $3,600 to $5,000 for a bottle of 2005 Domaine Leroy Chambertin.

Domaine Dugat-Py

Thirteen generations of winemaking experience, four Grand Cru appellations, old vines and organic processes combine to create the essence of Domaine Dugat-Py.  Bernard Dugat and his wife Jocelyne, along with their son, Loïc, produce exceptional wines using organic methods.  Domaine Dugat-Py wines are meant to be held for several years.  A bottle of 2005 Domaine Dugat-Py sells for $3,500 to $3,800.

Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils

Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils, another of Burgundy's legendary family-owned wine producers, creates top-notch wines using traditional methods and precise decision making throughout the production process.  The domaine holds over eight hectares (almost 20 acres, a large area by Burgundian standards) of Grand Cru appellations.  Harvesting is done by hand.  Much of Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils' production is designated for the export market.  Expect to pay $900 to $1,650 for a single bottle of Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin Clos de Bèze.