Wine News The World's Best Burgundies

The World's Best Burgundies

You'll never get a nice property in Burgundy by selling cheap wine.
© | You'll never get a nice property in Burgundy by selling cheap wine.
When it comes to Pinot Noir, there are the greats, and then there's Burgundy.
By Don Kavanagh | Posted Thursday, 24-Dec-2020

If ever there was a region synonymous with opulence it has to be Burgundy.

The region produces wines that make the critics reach for the superlatives and the rest of us reach for the smelling salts once we see the price tag), and it has the luxury of not simply being famous for one grape variety but two.

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Pinot Noir and Chardonnay reach the most rarefied of heights here along the spine of land known as the C?te d'Or – the northern part, the Côte de Nuits, produces some of the most exclusive Pinot on earth, while the Côte de Beaune to the south is better known for its Chardonnay. Some of the most sought-after wines in the world are produced in vineyards surrounding the villages of the C?te d'Or

Elephant in the room, of course, whenever Burgundy is mentioned is the price. While it is possible to buy wine from some of Burgundy's better vineyards for relatively modest sums (and "relatively modest" is an extremely relative term, here) there is no escaping the fact that the region bottles some of the world's most expensive wines. The global average price of a bottle of the 2014 Domaine Arlaud Clos de la Roche Grand Cru is $166. Not cheap, but not impossible, either and a sound option for a 94-point wine. Domaine Leroy's 2014 vintage from the same vineyard will set you back more than $4000, again for a 94-pointer.

It's all about the producer in Burgundy – and one in particular, as we shall see.

A question of money

Why are Burgundy wines so expensive? Well, that's a complex equation that takes into account supply (Burgundy produces about a quarter of what Bordeaux does in a year), demand – from collectors and investors, who have pushed prices into the stratosphere – and from the status associated with Burgundy's best wines. These are uncommon wines that are rarely consumed by the common folk, unless they happen to have had a kindly relative who collected these wines when they were still within the reach of mere mortals.

There is also the received wisdom of generations of wine critics to take into account. As each generation of critics passed on their knowledge to the next, the supremacy of Burgundy was passed along, too, which gives us today's rather strange situation of wine writers raving about wines 99 percent of people will never even get the opportunity to taste. That raises the question of the value of wine ratings for these stratospheric wines, but that's an argument for another article.

So, let's talk about how we arrive at our scores. Wine-Searcher collates scores from a wide range of critics, from influential single palates like Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson to publications like Wine Spectator, all adjusted for the 100-point scale. To generate a wine's aggregate score, Wine-Searcher uses a Bayesian methodology to calculate a weighted average, since not all critics are equal. This score is calculated for specific vintages of a wine, as well as across all vintages.

We measure this score to four decimal places (even though we only display the rounded, two-digit total), so even wines with the same rounded score are in strict order.

The World's Best Burgundies on Wine-Searcher:

A few years ago, this list would have looked different. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) would have had more entries, for a start, and the name Jayer might have been more prominent. However, since Lalou Bize-Leroy's difference of opinion with the rest of the board of DRC spurred her to new heights, her reward has been rich indeed. Apart from two DRCs and an Armand Rousseau, her various estates' wines simply dominate this list.

Last year, we ran a list of the world's best Pinot Noirs, which basically doubled as a best Burgundy list, and Leroy's contribution was six wines. We can only wonder what the number will be next year. 

Prices have risen in the past year, too, as you'd expect. Some rises have been relatively small  – DRC's Romanée-Conti went up by $554 dollars in average price, but that's just a 2.75 percent rise; the Leroy Latricières-Chambertin rose by almost 25 percent.

And quality would appear to have gone up, too – this year there are five 97-point wines on the list, one better than last year.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to afford to make such a judgment yourself?

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