With value for money being the most important thing for me when it comes down to purchasing wine, there’s one thing I’ve learned recently: cheap French wine from well-known regions is usually too good to be true and whilst you might be lucky with a Bordeaux, Loire or even Champagne wine, Burgundy simply can’t be done cheaply.
You’ll find Chablis at £8 and you’ll certainly find wines from Côtes de Beaune, de Nuits and d’Or priced at under £20 too. But, for the love of your wallet and tastebubs its best if you don’t.
Recently, in order to really get a feel for this region, I’ve been trying a wine or two from several of the miniscule AOCs Burgundy has to offer. Being the kind of man whose last few days in the month are difficult, I have to watch the other label about the wine, the one that finds itself on the dusty shelf below the bottle with large black numbers on it.
That’s obviously a shame that I can’t really experience this region in depth but maybe one day better times will come and I’ll be cracking open something decent from Montrachet, Pommard or Mersault. I'll be sure to let you know!
However Pinot Noir is a grape that I like a little bit of regularly and, if you read my latest entry about this wonderful grape over at Outline Magazine, you’ll notice that I’ve been taking a look at some German Pinot Noir.
I have a strange conclusion to make: all of the Pinot Noir I tried from Germany around the £15 asking price was a great deal better than that of Burgundy. Haha, I see the real wine world now turning away and saying ‘the kid doesn’t know what he’s talking about’. To those people I say, stop being so locked in tradition! Why shouldn’t German Pinots be as good as those from Burgundy for that price?
Okay, there are some fantastic Burgundies out there but they’re not realistically priced – the Germans have found a hole in the market there: great Pinot, properly priced and they’ve done it well.
I'll admit that some of the Northern Pinot Noirs in Germany do make difficult drinking – As much as I love Ortenau, I tend to find the wines there so engrossed in the local soil that, whilst it works with the whites, the reds have an acquired taste – one that I like but most people find it hard to get used to.
Let's drive down the A5 a bit, past Strasbourg and Freiburg into the Kaiserstuhl or the Markgräflerland though – hundreds of wineries each producing several Pinot Noirs and most of them fantastic. What’s more is that you can actually afford them. For what you’d pay for a similar quality Burgundy, you might get a case of wine for in Baden.
I’m not criticising Burgundy. I’m well aware that the French vintners are able to charge so much for their wines thanks to demand so they do. I’m just trying to find alternatives. New Zealand wine isn’t always affordable in Europe but German wine is.
I don’t think the Chinese businessman in his Beijing office is ever going to swap his Romanée-Conti for a bottle of Blankenhorn Spätburgunder but you don’t have to spend £20 on nearly undrinkable Burgundy if you invest your money in the German wine world.
White is, of course, a different matter although my personal taste buds favour Mosel Riesling over Burgundy Chardonnay and even here, the German produce is also greatly cheaper than the French stuff.
So no, I’m not saying the Germans are better at Pinot Noir – I really don’t think that, the French are probably miles bahead. The Germans are better though in the most important part of the industry for people like me: the pricing.
Check out the article over at Outline for some recommendations. One that didn’t make the page is Markus Schneider’s M Spätburgunder from Pfalz – priced at a tenner, its great and reflects the soil just as much as most Burgundy does.
But while I’m at it, I’d appreciate some tips on Burgundy – are there any good wines priced between £10-20? I’m not a cheapskate, but it takes me nearly three hours to earn £20…perhaps you can see where I’m coming from?