Charles Curtis MW recently stopped by the Daily Meal Test Kitchen in NYC to talk about Burgundian wine. Here, he expands on some of the “Hidden Gems of Burgundy” with specific examples, and why they are extraordinary in both quality and value.

The system of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée made its debut in 1936. Today it regulates all aspects of wine production in France and establishes the hierarchy of the vineyards of Burgundy. For two centuries prior to this, however, a number of authors ranging from learned amateurs to experienced professionals weighed in with their thoughts.  In my forthcoming book The Original Grands Crus of Burgundy I translate some of their works and look at how they relate to today’s appellation contrôlée system.
There are definite surprises that emerge.  Even a cursory glance shows that the order has changed considerably over time.  A savvy (and budget-conscious) wine lover can use this information to unearth wines that sell for a fraction of what other comparable wines do.  Here are some of the most surprising conclusions:
  1. In former times, the Clos de Vougeot was considered to be at the very summit of Burgundy quality.  Today’s wine lovers do not rank it as highly, and even though it’s a grand cru, the wines are much less expensive than other top grand crus.  To see what the fuss was about, try the 2009 Clos de Vougeot “Musigni” from Gros Frère et Soeur.  (Wine-Searcher average price $114)
  2. The “Les Saint-Georges” vineyard in Nuits Saint-Georges was considered a “tête de cuvée” by all commentators.  It was not promoted to “grand cru” in 1936 because some growers didn’t want to pay the higher taxes that go along with grand cru status.  The 2007 Nuits Saint Georges “Les Saint-Georges” from Robert Chevillon is a highly accessible (and affordable) wine – average price: $119
  3. The Clos de la Perrière was planted by Cistercian monks more than 1,000 years ago.  Today, it languishes, nearly forgotten, as a Fixin premier cru.  Pick up the 2009 to see what we’ve been missing (average price: $54)
  4. The best vineyards in the town of Beaune today produce only premier cru wines; formerly both Les Fèves and Les Grèves were considered têtes de cuvées.  You can find the flagship Bouchard Beaune Grèves “Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus” for less than $100 in some vintages.
  5. Volnay was once full of têtes de cuvées!  Today there are no grands crus at all in this village.  The vineyards called Caillerets and Champans were considered among the very best.  Try the 2008 Volnay Champans from the Marquis d’Angerville for a beautiful introduction to the style.
  6. Further south in Santenay, the Clos de Tavannes was once renowned.  The version from the Domaine de la Pousse d’Or is a fantastic value: the average price for the 2010 is only $49
  7. Savigny-les-Beaune not only had a tête de cuvée – Les Vergelesses – but one section of it was considered particularly exquisite.  Today Savigny Les Vergelesses “Bataillère” is a monopole of Domaine Albert Morot, and you can get the 2010 for an average price of just $44
  8.  It would be a mistake to forget about the whites.  Meursault has no grands crus today, although many would consider Meursault Perrières worthy of the honor.  Some are quite expensive, but the 2008 Meursault Perrières from Château de Puligny-Montrachet, run by star winemaker Etienne de Montille, is a comparative steal: the 2008 averages just $80
More than a dusty history lesson, The Original Grands Crus of Burgundy provides a roadmap for the discovery of forgotten gems, hidden in plain sight. Crucial reading for all who love Burgundy.