With Burgundy 2014 En Primeur proving extremely popular, Camilla Bowler explains that bargains are still to be had – if you’re willing to search.
As long as you have a fair amount of money, plenty of time on your hands and sufficient patience, it is easy to buy good Burgundy. Follow the famous producers, build up your allocations, buy en primeur, buy on the secondary market, buy where you can, and you will have a lot of fabulous bottles to look forward to in time.
What is much more difficult to do is to buy good value Burgundy. This, by definition, comes from domaines that are less well-known. They may have some critical recognition but they will not share the hype that surrounds the superstars. They are simply making very good wine and the world hasn’t found out yet.
You might well ask why these producers continue to exist. It is a good question and there are two reasons. The first is the nature of the market. Burgundy is not an open market (in fact it is pretty much the opposite) and it is also not a perfect one. There are around 1,300 growers who bottle their own wines and the distribution for these is governed by webs of relationships that are labyrinthine in their complexity. There are agents, brokers, exclusivities etc, all over the place. Some domaines are inevitably going to slip under the radar in certain markets.
The second reason is the producers themselves. A husband and wife team running a small domaine will have more than enough to do simply managing the vineyards and making the wine, with precious little time left over for selling the wine let alone ‘managing’ distribution, meeting journalists or ‘marketing’. It may be quite a few years after a rise in quality before they can devote the attention to telling the world about it.
They are not going to come to you, in short, which means that you have to find them. This takes some time and effort, and probably a fair amount of driving around the Cote d’Or. The rewards, though, are well worth it.
Take Pavelot, for example. From the under-the-radar village of Savigny in Beaune, they produce fantastic wines that sell for a fraction of the price of the more fashionable 1er Crus from further North. Described by Neal Martin as the “go-to address for great Savigny”, Pavelot’s elegant, understated wines represent some of the smartest buys in the whole of the region.
“The Savigny Les Beaune La Dominode is the synthesis of all they work for and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If the price were to double again, it would still be below that of most Vosne premier crus, and the comparison is not a stupid one.”
Bill Nanson, The Finest Wines of Burgundy
Pavelot is living proof, in fact, that good value does still exist.