Even in the world of fine wines, there are still bargains to be found if one knows exactly where to look. Whether you happen to be searching for value in Burgundy or for top-quality Champagne without the corresponding price tag, here are a few tips to help you get the most for your money without sacrificing premium quality.
Look out for big names expanding into other regions
There are increasing numbers of world-class producers to be found deploying their exceptional resources and expertise in lesser known regions, where the potential is huge but the expense of making great wine much lower.
Chapoutier’s Bila Haut operation is one of the benchmarks, with exceptional, expert winemaking and handpicked terroirs resulting in wonderful (and very high scoring) wines without the corresponding price tag.
Take proximity into account
Whilst the great Grand Crus, best villages and top Chateaux may produce the most sought-after wines, there are often wonderful sites not far away that produce wines with similar character, available for only a fraction of the price.
Malconsorts, Brulees and Chaumes are all worth seeking out in the billionaire’s hunting ground of Vosne Romanee, while for the Rhone fans, Cornas, Gigondas and Vacqueras are value hot spots.
Look around the flagship sites and you are bound to find some neighbouring Premier Crus or villages with some very special wines to offer.
Great Vintages Mean That Everyone Can Show at Their Best
2009 and 2010 were benchmark years in Bordeaux, universally acclaimed across the board and with a host of hugely-scoring wines between them. Whilst the top rung of wines from these years are sublime (and unsurprisingly expensive), there is a lot to be said for taking a look at the more affordable wines from exceptional years, as even at lower levels, these can punch well above their weight and taste much more expensive than they actually are – often performing better than some very famous names do in lesser years.
As an example, here is a list from 2009 Bordeaux at under £300 a case, including some absolute gems and, in many cases, the best ever from their respective Chateaux. Great value fine wines from this most famous of regions.
Don’t Discount Negociants in Burgundy
Once derided for lacking the character, charm and perhaps romance of the small artisanal grower/producer, these large-scale winemaking operations have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with many now responsible for some of the most consistent quality in the region.
Buying in produce from a variety of growers and winemakers, the best negociants are able to cherry-pick ideal parcels and sources, whilst their state-of-the-art winemaking facilities allow them to hugely improve on quality and finesse.
Jadot and Faiveley in particular are now making spectacularly good wines across the board, crafting very good wines in lesser vintages where many struggle and simply superb ones in the great years.
Bourgogne** Blanc – An Affordable Window into Some Absolute Icons**
Bourgogne Blanc can provide a fantastic and accessible insight into the house style of many of the best Burgundian names and at its best, can offer serious value and quite exceptional quality.
Usually dominated by Chardonnay, Bourgogne Blanc not infrequently contains declassified grapes from top villages, meaning that a basic Bourgogne Blanc can often contain all the elements of a hugely superior wine crafted into a recognisable house style.
Look out for Henri Boillot, Leroy, Etienne Sauzet and one of our ‘house’ favourites; Mischief & Mayhem. All offer that rarest of things: a true bargain from Burgundy.
The Grower Champagne Phenomenon
A trend on the rise in the Champagne Market, "Grower" Champagnes are fast becoming the shrewd buyer's first choice for fine wine value. Stemming from fruit growers who keep some (often the best) stocks back to bottle under their own labels rather than sell to the big players, these are small-scale, artisanal efforts of frequently immense quality and style, particularly for the price.
There is an almost limitless range of styles to be found, but look out for Tarlant for Krug-style, long barrel-aged complexity without the premium price and Paul Bara - a rich and creamy F+R favourite.