A self-described “newbie to Burgundy” posted on the Wine Berserkers forum asking members whether there is a consensus about the top-quality wines from this region. As a beginner, he wasn’t sure where to start. To add to the confusion, he got a range of different answers from other forum members. One said that wines from Vosne-Romanée make almost every collector’s favorite wine list, while another mentioned Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin. Ultimately, most of the members told him to look at tasting notes and find wines that matched his own preferences.
The reason it’s so hard to rank the best grand cru Burgundy is that personal taste plays a huge role. It also comes down to what you value most. Are you looking for a wine with a high quality-to-price ratio (QPR)? Is flavor complexity the most important factor? Or do you want to buy wine that you can resell for a profit? No matter which quality you value most in a wine, this guide will sort–and in some cases rank–grand cru Burgundy according to a few different criteria:
- The quality of wine made in each appellation
- The secondary market value of individual wines and appellations
- The best years for Burgundy wine
While these rankings are by no means definitive, they can help you make more informed decisions about your wine investments, allowing you to select the best grand cru Burgundy for your collection and lifestyle.
The Best Grand Cru Burgundy Appellations
Ranking the best grand cru Burgundy by taste is impossible; the task is simply too subjective. However, you can still determine whether the style of wine made in a given grand cru appellation matches your own preferences. For example, my favorite white Burgundy comes from Bâtard-Montrachet because the area tends to produce rich Chardonnay that still has some freshness and acidity. Producers like Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Etienne Sauzet, and Domaine Ramonet make excellent examples of Chardonnay in this style. My spouse, on the other hand, prefers an even richer, more intense style of white Burgundy. His favorite appellation is Corton-Charlemagne and some of his favorite producers from this area are Maison Louis Jadot and Maison Henri Boillot.
Terroir has a major impact on the flavor of grand cru Burgundy.
The biggest mistake that beginners make when they start a Burgundy collection from scratch is that they look too closely at the name of the producer on the bottle without considering the actual style of the wine inside. Terroir has a major impact on the flavor of grand cru Burgundy. In fact, some producers make wine in multiple vineyards in Burgundy, but wine from each area tastes very different despite being made by the same producer. For this reason, you can’t just look at the producer’s name when you rank the top Burgundy wines. The vineyard tells you much more about the wine.
There are 37 grands crus in Burgundy, so to narrow down the list to the producers you’ll enjoy most, it’s a good idea to consider what the typical style is for each terroir.
White Burgundy Grands Crus
- Chablis: Dry, pure, aromatic, and very little oak.
- Corton-Charlemagne: Rich, flinty, fruit-forward, and intense.
- Bâtard-Montrachet: Complex, structured, and requires a great deal of aging to reach its full potential.
- Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet: Rich, plump, with great minerality.
- Chevalier-Montrachet: Structured, full-bodied, and very concentrated.
- Puligny-Montrachet: Floral, with plenty of acidity and minerality.
- Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet: Complex, rich, and aromatic.
Red Burgundy Grands Crus
- Chambertin: Powerful and elegant, with notes of violet.
- Chambertin-Clos de Bèze: Intense, concentrated fruit and perfumed aromatics.
- Chapelle-Chambertin: Very light and delicate.
- Charmes-Chambertin: Fragrant, with ripe fruit flavors.
- Griotte-Chambertin: Soft, velvety, and dark in color.
- Latricières-Chambertin: Smoky, earthy, and peppery.
- Mazis-Chambertin: Wines vary in style, but are usually earthy and full of minerality.
- Mazoyères-Chambertin: Tannic, with dark fruit and spice.
- Ruchottes-Chambertin: Pure, vibrant, and slightly smoky.
- Bonnes-Mares: Full-bodied and tannic.
- Clos de la Roche: Rich and concentrated, with dark fruit flavors.
- Clos des Lambrays: Vibrant, with dark fruit flavors; the style varies by producer.
- Clos de Tart: Ripe, rich, and weighty.
- Clos Saint-Denis: Very aromatic, with sweet fruit flavors.
- Musigny: Delicate, elegant, and perfumed.
- Clos de Vougeot: Robust and dense.
- Échezeaux: Light, with prominent oaked flavors.
- Grands Échezeaux: Complex and silky, with a long finish.
- La Grande Rue: Delicate, fruity, and fresh.
- La Romanée: Powerful and well-balanced, with violet notes.
- La Tâche: Pure, with an intense depth of flavor.
- Richebourg: Full-bodied, powerful, and heavy.
- Romanée-Conti: Elegant and well-balanced, with flavors of spice.
- Romanée-Saint-Vivant: Light, tannic, and peppery.
- Corton: Intense and tannic, with red fruit flavors.
A good way to find the “best” appellations according to your own preferences is to identify some of the flavors and characteristics you tend to enjoy most and find a region or group of regions that make wine with those characteristics. Then seek out producers from each vineyard and identify the estates that make wines that best fit that particular style. Some regions, like Mazis-Chambertin, vary in climate and soil composition, so trying just one producer won’t tell you much about the area as a whole. In these cases, you’ll want to try wine from multiple producers in the area in order to find the best grand cru Burgundy for your palate.
Ranking Grand Cru Burgundy by Market Value
Ranking the best grand cru Burgundy by market value is a more exact science, as rankings can be based on the latest market statistics and projections being reported by trustworthy organizations like Liv-ex. If you consider wine a financial investment and plan on selling your bottles on the secondary market for a profit, then this ranking will likely be the most important to you.
- 2015 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche
- 2007 Maison Leroy Chambertin
- 2016 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays
- 2014 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts
- 2010 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin
- 2007 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart
- 2013 Domaine Leroy Aux Allots Nuits-Saint-Georges
- 2015 Domaine Leroy Musigny
Liv-ex based these rankings on its Power 100 criteria, which ranks brands by factors like traded value, average trade price, volume traded, and price performance. The wines in this list are expected to continue to perform well in the future due to their high quality. Moreover, in general, wines from Burgundy are increasing in value. Liv-ex’s Burgundy 150 index has grown by 168.8 percent since 2010 and grand cru wines are among the best-performing wines on the secondary market.
Market statistics can also be used to calculate a wine’s quality-to-price ratio in order to ensure that the asking price is reasonable.
Although these market statistics are important to consider if you plan on reselling your bottles, they’re not as useful if you want to drink your wine or are looking to pick out the perfect gift for a Burgundy enthusiast. Other factors, like style and vintage quality, will matter more in these cases. But market statistics can also be used to calculate a wine’s quality-to-price ratio in order to ensure that the asking price is reasonable. In this sense, value can also be a matter of personal preference for collectors. For example, on the Wine Berserkers forum, one member posted a survey asking other members to name the best value appellations for red grand cru Burgundy. From those responses, three regions stood out:
- Corton: This region received 20 percent of the total votes because wines from this area tend to be high in quality but not overpriced.
- Chambertin adjuncts (not including Chambertin or Chambertin-Clos de Bèze): These regions received 12 percent of the total votes because they produce wines in a variety of different styles which are less expensive than their peers in Chambertin or Chambertin-Clos de Bèze.
- Clos des Lambrays: This region received 11 percent of the total votes and members noted that the quality of wines from this area depends largely on specific producers.
While most respondents considered these regions the best in terms of value, every region on the survey received at least one vote. This supports the idea that value, too, can be subjective and that it’s still up to individual collectors to decide which wines are worth the investment.
The Best Grand Cru Burgundy Vintages
Nearly all of the best grand cru Burgundy producers make wines of spectacular quality every year. That’s because, in order to be given the grand cru distinction, producers must be consistent. However, although the best grand cru Burgundy producers maintain strict quality standards, they can’t always completely overcome a difficult vintage. Poor weather conditions, natural disasters, and other factors can affect a wine’s taste or can greatly reduce production. For example, in 2016, Burgundy experienced a frost that severely impacted the grapes. Some producers were able to save a good deal of their crop, but others were not so lucky. Jancis Robinson wrote that Domaine Michel Lafarge, Domaine Roulot, and Domaine Bernard Moreau lost around 70 percent of their 2016 crop.
You may enjoy the slightly lower-quality vintage just as much as the perfect vintage but pay much less for it.
Looking at vintage scores for grand cru Burgundy is a great way to find only the absolute best vintages from among those made by the top producers. It’s also a good place to look if you’re interested in wine with an excellent quality-to-price ratio. A vintage that received a perfect score (100 points) could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than an excellent, but not quite perfect, vintage (94+ points). You may enjoy the slightly lower-quality vintage just as much as the perfect vintage but pay much less for it.
Whether you’re looking for top-rated Burgundy vintages for investment purposes or you simply want to find a few new high-quality wines to drink, here are the best recent grand cru Burgundy vintages, according to The Wine Advocate:
- 2014: 97 points
- 2010: 94 points
- 2008: 94 points
- 2015: 96 points in Côte de Beaune and 97 points in Côte de Nuits
- 2010: 94 points in Côte de Beaune and 96 points in Côte de Nuits
- 2009: 95 points in both Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits
- 2005: 96 points in Côte de Beaune and 98 points in Côte de Nuits
- 2002: 92 points in Côte de Beaune and 94 points in Côte de Nuits
The list above isn’t comprehensive. The Wine Advocate considers these vintages to be either extraordinary or outstanding, but there are many other excellent years for red and white Burgundy that are worthy of consideration. A particular wine could also receive high scores from critics despite being made in a difficult year. This is why it’s a good idea to look at individual tasting notes and ratings for every bottle you buy.
How Important Are Rankings?
Because the best grand cru Burgundy is, by definition, higher in quality than most other wines made around the world, rankings aren’t the be-all and end-all. “Best of” lists can help you identify new wines to add to your collection or ensure that you’re paying the best price for your bottles, but they are ultimately just suggestions. The reality is that virtually any grand cru Burgundy can be worth the investment. The key to building a successful collection is to decide which rankings matter most to you and to keep an open mind.
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