Contrary to popular belief, not all wines from Burgundy (also known as Bourgogne) break the budget. Instead, some of its lesser-known wine regions offer quality on par with their pedigreed counterparts, for a fraction of the price.
The village of Épineuil (ehp-ee-NEYE) is a quick 20-minute drive east of Chablis. Though new to consumers, Épineuil isn’t new to winemaking.
During the Middle Ages, monks established a network of abbeys and vineyards nearby, including a grange, or country house, in Épineuil, the current site of Domaine Dominique Gruhier.
“Certainly, Épineuil is a unique terroir,” says vigneron Dominique Gruhier, adding that as with all of Burgundy’s terroir, it was discovered early on by the Cistercian monks. “It’s a very mineral subsoil from Kimmeridgian, with more clay than in Chablis.”
Unlike in Chablis, however, Pinot Noir predominates in Épineuil’s chalky soils. The resulting wines yield a surprising, energetic lightness. “It becomes very interesting, and it gives very pleasant and gorgeous fine wine,” says Gruhier. “So different than Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.”
Les Pierres Dorées
Dubbed Bourgogne’s “Little Tuscany,” Les Pierres Dorées lies about 30 minutes north of Lyon. While Gamay thrives in Beaujolais’ granitic soils, some Bourgogne winemakers prefer to use Les Pierres Dorées to produce more affordable Pinot Noirs.
“Often people think of granite when they think of Beaujolais,” says Christophe Deola, Director of Maison Louis Latour. “But the southern part of Beaujolais is limestone — the same kind of limestone as Côte d’Or — and is called ‘les pierres dorées’ because it’s that very beautiful golden stone.”
In addition to limestone, the area also boasts affordable land and a well-established wine community. And despite Beaujolais’ warmer climate, Pinot Noir thrives among the cooler, higher elevation sites.
Luckily, the Coteaux Bourguignons regional designation established in 2011 allows for the production of diverse grapes from Chablis to Lyon, including Pinot Noir in Les Pierres Dorées.
An hour west of Lyon sprawls the Cru du Beaujolais appellation Moulin-à-Vent. The name nods to the region’s symbol — a 300-year-old stone windmill that straddles the hill of Les Thorins.
Here, clay and mineral-rich granite soils and gnarly winds fashion intense Gamays that are deemed the “King of Beaujolais.” Indeed, the 1869 Budker Beaujolais Classification ranked eight first-class “lieux dits,” a French term for a named parcel within a commune denoting a unique topographical or historical feature, such as a particular soil type, from Moulin-à-Vent alone.
“The granite gives the wines a more ‘gourmand,’ mouth-watering characteristic,” says Edouard Parinet, co-proprietor of Château du Moulin-à-Vent, a domaine that boasts unusual pink silica and iron-rich granite soils, called “le lard” or “gore.” “Terroir and diversity have always been here.”
The small village of Fixin (fees-SAHN) falls between Marsannay and Gevrey-Chambertin in the northern reaches of Bourgogne’s Côte de Nuits.
The soils include marly clay and limestone. Wines here include mostly red Villages and Premier wines referred to locally as “winter wines,” because they require more bottle aging.
“Fixin sits somewhere in between Marsannay and Gevrey-Chambertin in terms of quality, reputation, and price,” says Deola. “It’s one of the more affordable Villages in Côte de Nuits.”
It’s also worth visiting for the charming 10th-century church of Saint-Antoine, Cistercian summer manor “La Perrière,” as well as a famous statue of Napoleon in Parc Noisot.
Five wines to Try:
A fun, easy-going wine with lots of Beaujolais-style fresh fruit aromas and crunchy, cherry freshness with lovely structure and finesse.
A ruby-robed, delicate scene stealer, with appealing floral –violet, rose, lavender– and herbal aromatics, plus notes of red raspberry, bramble berry, and cherry.