Top Burgundy Wine Producer Talks About Amazing Value Wines That Often Get Overlooked

Food & Drink

As the head winemaker for the legendary Burgundy wine house, Maison Louis Jadot (Jadot), Frédéric Barnier gets many incredible benefits. One of them is traveling around the world, selling some of the most famous wines around the globe, rooted in a long history of high-quality wines that goes back over 150 years. On one such visit, before Covid even existed, he was able to bring his wife on a trip to New York City, and he found himself having dinner with his wife and a bottle of Bourgogne Pinot Noir. The wines labeled with Bourgogne on the front, without any other area following it, represent regional wines from the esteemed Burgundy wine region that can come from anywhere within that region. Yet Frédéric has another great benefit as he gets to taste Jadot 1er Cru (Premier Cru) and Grand Cru wines all the time because, as the head winemaker, he needs to know these wines backward and forward which can be astonishing as these wines can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands.

But on that particular night, he just wanted to drink the wine, which is the best one to “first discover Burgundy Pinot Noir,” and he was taken aback by how much he enjoyed it. The Bourgogne Pinot Noir that Frédéric drank that night with his wife was fresh, balanced and elegant, with fresh fruits and flowers that had a hint of minerality. “We forget that it is a very good wine,” said Frédéric, as winemakers have to spend most of their time, especially if they work for a top fine wine producer, analyzing all the aspects of their past and present ultra-premium wines. But when it came to wanting a delicious wine representative of Burgundy, there is no better wine than Bourgogne.

But Frédéric realizes that it has been a blessing yet also a curse to be known as one of the top fine wine regions in the world, as Burgundy’s reputation in such a category has been cemented for centuries. Still, it suffers from those consumers, looking for everyday drinking wines, overlooking the region as its value wines are not known among most people outside of France.

Relationship Between Burgundy and Beaujolais

“We consider Beaujolais a part of Burgundy,” exclaimed Frédéric and it is a statement that would throw any serious Burgundy wine collector into cardiac arrest! But he went on to explain that, yes, they are very different regions in many ways, but Burgundy has had a long relationship with Beaujolais, which is located just immediately south of Burgundy. One example he gave was a wine, which is often drunk by locals, called the Côteaux Bourguignons. The red can be made from Pinot Noir and Gamay from either Burgundy or Beaujolais; recently, it has gained a small wine geek following in the U.S. Another way these wine regions are connected is by the idea of Gamay coming from the name of a small village in the illustrious Côte d’Or, where the iconic wines from Burgundy are grown, and so, Maison Louis Jadot made the natural choice of making wine in Beaujolais many years ago.

But when it comes to Beaujolais, there is an image problem, according to Frédéric, as even though Beaujolais Nouveau brought recognition to the wine region and helped many grape growers survive, it is an intentionally quaffable wine that gives people around the world the experience of the young wine drunk traditionally after finishing the grape harvest in Beaujolais, and hence, it has given the region as well as their main red grape Gamay a simplistic image that doesn’t represent the full potential of the wines. And so “cheap and cheerful” many times is associated with the wines of Beaujolais.

Yes, there has been a rebirth among savvy wine drinkers when it comes to their love for Beaujolais. Still, that love is geared toward the Cru wines of Beaujolais, as Burgundy has their Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny village wines, Beaujolais as their Morgon and Fleurie Crus. Often it is thought among wine consumers outside of those wines that the rest is like Beaujolais Nouveau. But a major category, that gives excellent value and a true sense of place (a.k.a. terroir) that is usually associated with Burgundy, needs to be included: Beaujolais-Villages.

Beaujolais-Villages has stricter guidelines regarding sourcing as it can only come from vineyards on steep vineyards on hills with granite soils and some volcanic sedimentary rock. And the Beaujolais-Villages wine that Frédéric makes for Jadot has all the elements that make people love Gamay, juicy fruit and silky texture, yet it also has structure and mineral notes. Even though Burgundy Pinot Noir is known as the Holy Grail of wines to many wine drinkers around the globe, Frédéric said many times in blind wine tastings, people will pick the Beaujolais over the Burgundy as it is just so delectable from the first sip.

White Wines Offering Value

When finding value in Burgundy whites, one can go down to the South of the region to the Mâconnais sub-region for their white wines made from the Chardonnay grape. Due to the weather being slightly warmer in southern Burgundy, Mâcon wines can focus purely on the fruit without any oak, such as the Mâcon-Villages that Frédéric makes for Jadot. Also, since the word “Villages” is added to Mâcon, it has stricter guidelines, such as Beaujolais-Villages, and hence, it is typically higher quality fruit than just a “Mâcon” wine.

“It is all about respecting the purity of the fruit,” noted Frédéric when it came to him discussing his Mâcon-Villages wine. Even the appellation within the Mâconnais, known for the highest quality wines, Pouilly-Fuissé, has real value. Starting with the 2020 vintage, Pouilly-Fuissé is now allowed to classify some vineyards as 1er Cru. Since Jadot has been working with many grape growers within Pouilly-Fuissé who farm many of these 1er Cru sites, their regular Pouilly-Fuissé, which is priced a lot lower than a 1er Cru wine, has 1er Cru vineyards within the blend. Unlike the Mâcon, the Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé is fermented and aged in a mixture of new and older French oak, so, there are spice and nutty aromas on the nose and a textural element on the palate.

Frédéric often thinks about that moment when he took his time, over a lovely meal, to drink a Bourgogne Pinot Noir with his wife, as it is an important reminder that many would enjoy such a wine for an approachable price, and these same people have no idea of its existence. The wine offers anyone the opportunity to begin an understanding of Burgundy, and it is a wine that locals often drink. Bourgogne is a wonderful representative of the Burgundy wine region for many reasons; it is such a good representative that it displays the French pronunciation of Burgundy, which is known as Bourgogne in France.

2021 Maison Louis Jadot, Mâcon-Villages, Burgundy, France: 100% Chardonnay. Fresh white peach and floral aromas with juicy nectarine fruit on the palate.

2021 Maison Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France: 100% Chardonnay. Hints of spice and hazelnuts on the nose with bright acidity on the textured palate with a long length with richer stone fruit flavors.

2021 Maison Louis Jadot, Beaujolais-Villages, Beaujolais, France: 100% Gamay. Pretty violets on the nose with blueberry fruit on the palate with a touch of added complexity with wet stones and good acidity giving it lift.

2021 Maison Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France: 100% Pinot Noir. This wine was singing and truly impressive for only being at a Bourgogne classified level. A slightly complex nose with cherry blossoms and cinnamon sticks with black cherry flavors and a nice backbone of chalky minerality on the palate; lots of vitality and harmony to this wine.

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