Conference Preview: Exploring the Backroads of the Côte d’Or

Photo credit: Don Kinnan

Photo credit: Don Kinnan

Today we have a SWE Conference preview about the “Exploring the Backroads of the Côte d’Or” session to be held on Saturday, August 13th. The presenter for this session is Don Kinnan, CSS, CWE.

Why pay for glamor?

Who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars for premier and grand cru wines like those from Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée, and Volnay?  Even at the village-level classification, wines from these villages can easily exceed $60 a bottle, especially if coming from a notable producer.

There is a kinder, gentler side to Côte-d’Or pricing, if you are willing to explore the backroads.  Burgundy insiders have long known that certain lesser-known Côte-d’Or appellations can provide wine experiences at the level of their more illustrious neighbors, and at a fraction of the price.  Appellations which come to mind are Marsannay, Fixin, Pernand-Vergelesses, and Savigny-lès-Beaune.  There are others but we will focus on these four for our upcoming session at this year’s SWE Conference, Exploring the Backroads of the Cote d’Or.

Vineyards of Fixin - photo credit: Don Kinnan

Vineyards of Fixin – photo credit: Don Kinnan

A recent review showed village wine pricing as follows:

  • Marsannay Rouge– less than $20/bottle
  • Fixin Rouge–$30/ bottle
  • Pernand-Vergelesses Rouge–$34/ bottle
  • Savigny-lès-Beaune–$37/ bottle
  • Gevrey-Chambertin–$57/ bottle
  • Chambolle-Musigny–$66/ bottle
  • Vosne-Romanée–$60/ bottle
  • Volnay–$60/ bottle

The price differential can be much greater at higher classification levels.  One might ask why such a differential exists if quality is nearly comparable.  The explanation is not always simple.  Ultimately, pricing is a function of the market.  Supply and demand normally drive pricing of a product.  With regard to these wines, supply is a relatively fixed number, determined by AOC regulations and vintage variables.  Demand, on the other hand, is influenced by many factors, including wine critic reviews, product distribution, promotion, and availability, celebrity endorsement, and peer recommendation.

Photo credit: Don Kinnan

Photo credit: Don Kinnan

Does the fact that Napoleon’s favorite wine came from Gevrey-Chambertin and that a current vintage of Romanée-Conti from Vosne-Romanée is selling for $13,000/bottle create demand or add glamor to these appellations?  Perhaps so.

Conversely, who can even pronounce or spell Pernand-Vergelesses?  Yet, Pernand-Vergelesses has 42 acres of the prestigious Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru vineyard within its communal boundaries.  Certainly this is a testimony to the high general terroir quality of the village’s vineyards.

Thus, while Pernand-Vergelesses has substance, it lacks glamor.  Similar circumstances apply to Marsannay, Fixin, and Savigny-lès-Beaune.  For many Burgundy wine lovers, these relatively obscure wines appellations are waiting to be discovered.  Burgundians themselves have long cherished these less renowned wines, savoring them while reserving their more expensive brethren for special occasions.

During our session at the conference, we will delve into the back stories of these overlooked appellations, and taste some excellent examples which exude their unique substance.  Come join us.  Don’s session, Exploring the Backroads of the Côte d’Or, will be presented on Saturday, August 13th at 3:00 pm as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference, to be held in Washington DC.


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