Everyone loves French wines, especially ones from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley. But we can't afford all of them. However, there are plenty of affordable wines from these regions. Here are fine examples of exceptional wines for under $50 a bottle.
Burgundies are among France's scarcest wines, especially those from the Côte d'Or. Here's what the various appellations cost these days.
Beaujolais - These are Burgundy's most plentiful wines. Produced from the Gamay grape, they run about $18 to $25 a bottle.
Côte Chalonnaise - The Pinot Noirs from the country around Chalon sur Saône, range in price from $30 to $45.
Côte d'Or - This is where wines get more expensive. The Villages wines of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune will run about $30 to $45. The Communal Appellations (Pommard, Beaune, Aloxe-Corton, Vosne-Romanée, Morey-St. Denis, Gevrey-Chambertin and others) will cost about $50 to $100. The Premier Crus, $70 and up and the Grand Crus $250 and up a bottle.
But let's look at what we can get for $50 or less a bottle.
2016 Domaine Michel Guignier Morgon "Les Ameythestes" ($24 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - This Cru Beaujolais offers a deep ruby color and attractive aromas of raspberry, cherry and black currant, with scents of red roses, tobacco and wood smoke. The flavors are supple, yet robust, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and woodsy earth. The chewy textured back picks up pressed berries, roasted nuts and toffee, followed by a persistently minerally ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Domaine Guillaume Chanudet Fleurie, "La Madone" ($26 - The Thief) - This Cru Beaujolais shows a ruby-crimson color and perfumed aromas of fraises de bois, blueberries, currants, crushed roses, violets and whiffs of incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with bright red and blue fruits intermixed with red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and earth. The back reveals pressed berries, fraise and creme de cassis liqueurs and graphite, followed by a juicy moderate tannin and acid finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Domaine Justin Girardin Savigny-les-Beaune, "Les Gollardes" ($28.99 - wine.com) - Situated between Aloxe-Corton and Beaune, the wines of Savigny can be excellent values. This one offers a ruby-garnet color and attractive aromas of wild strawberries, red cherries, red currants, rose petals, wildflowers and whiffs of white incense. The medium bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with bright red fruits that are accented by notes of red licorice, breakfast tea and earth. The charm continues on the back with gently pressed berries, creme de cassis and fraise liqueur, followed by a soft tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaune ($29.99 - wine.com) - Sandwiched between Aloxe-Corton and Savigny, the wines of Chorey are also fine values. This one is a charmer, with a brick red color and floral aromas of strawberries, currants and pomegranate, with scents of red roses and sweet pea flowers. The flavors are supple and medium bodied, with notes of red licorice, cocoa powder and light dusty earth. The back picks up creme de cassis, dried pomegranate seeds and a touch of toffee, followed by a soft tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Jean-Claude Boisset Maranges 1er Cru, La Fussière ($32.99 - wine.com) - Maranges is situated at the southern end of the Côte d'Or, just past Santenay. This bottling, from a respected Nuits-St. Georges negotiant offers a deep ruby color and intense aromas of raspberries, cherries, black currants, black roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors are robust for a Côte de Beaune, with layered red and black fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and minerals. The back palate is vigorous with definite Pinot Noir character. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château Premier Cru ($48.99 - wine.com) - An assemblage of various Premier Crus, this wine offers a deep brick red color and a smoky nose of fraises de bois, old tree cherries, wild black currants, pipe tobacco, orange peel, cedar and wood smoke. On the palate, the flavors display typical Beaune robust and velvety characteristics, along with notes of licorice root, cocoa, French roast and goût de terroir. The back picks up pressed berries, toasted nuts, cerise and cassis liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed by a lingering moderate tannin and acid finish. 19/20 points.
Like Burgundy, the most prestigious appellations are the most costly. In the North Rhone, Hermitage and Côte Rotie will cost upwards of $60 a bottle. In the South Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape sells for $50 and up per bottle. But wines that are almost as good can be obtained for $50 or less.
2015 Paul Jaboulet Ainé Crozes-Hermitage, "Domaine de Thalabert" ($43.99 - wine.com) - Deep ruby colored, this wine possesses an intense nose of blackberry, blueberry, black currant with scents of crushed roses, tobacco, lavender, olive and spiced incense. The flavors are deep and penetrating, with considerable Syrah purity, infused with licorice, dark chocolate and pervasive minerality. The saturation continues on the back with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, creme de cassis and finely ground charcoal, followed by a long, ripe sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Etienne Becheras Saint-Joseph, "Tour Jouiac" ($48 - The Thief) - Saint Joseph is situated south of Côte Rotie. This one shows a deep ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of wild blackberries, blueberries, black currants, wild roses, mulberry, tobacco, lavender, violets and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with thick, yet velvety black and blue fruits that are infused with black licorice, dark cocoa, roasted coffee beans and granitic hillside minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, sweet nuts, creme de cassis and charcoal on the way to a lingering ripe, sweetish tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas, "Les Sauteyrades" ($41 - The Thief) - This 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre combinations exhibits a deep ruby-crimson color and an intoxicating nose of wild fruits - raspberries, blueberries, black currants - with scents of black roses, tobacco, garrigue and spiced incense. On the palate, the flavors are thick and chewy, with notes of black licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and calcareous earth. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and burnt charcoal, followed by a vigorous yet elegant finish. Mouth-filling from beginning to end. 19/20 points.
See the Blog posting of 10 July below for more affordable Burgundies from the Côte Chalonnaise and the Rhone Valley, and the posting of 22 April for the Villages wines of Louis Jadot.