Best Values for Red Burgundy: Appellation Suggestions

On the heals of back-to-back excellent vintages of 2009 and 2010, the “second-tier” appellations have produced some exciting wines that begin to enter the realm of affordable, a term that is rarely associated with red Burgundy. We’ve listed below a few of our favorite appellations in Burgundy that (outside of Beaujolais) are offering the best price-to-value ratios.

Map of Burgundy's Wine Regions

Map of Burgundy’s Appellations & Crus

Best Burgundy’s appellations and crus

  • Auxey-Duresses (Côte de Beaune). Like those of Monthélie to its north, the wines of Auxey-Duresses offer hints of the delicacy and high aromatics characteristic of those of its famous neighbor to the north, Volnay, although they tend to lack their concentration, complexity, and intensity. Although some of the Premiers Crus can develop bigger profiles, wines are typically medium-bodied with red fruit-biased flavor profiles. To take the comparison further: While the Premiers Crus of Auxey-Duresses often do not consistently rival those of neighboring Monthélie (they can lack the polish), its basic Village wine (labeled simply as Auxey-Duresses) often surpass those of its neighbor; accordingly, this is an appellation in which to seek out its basic Village wines (branded simply as ‘Auxey-Duresses’). We advocate a ‘Village strategy’ in the best vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Bas de Duresses, Les Breterins, *La Chapelle, Climat du Val, *Clos du Val, *Les Duresses, Les Ecusseaux, Les Grands-Champs, and Reugne.
  • Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Beaune’s Premiers Crus are medium-bodied and approachable; tannins and earthy elements are held in check, allowing their bright aromatics and soft, red cherry fruit characters to stand front-and-center. To put the wines of Beaune into stylistic perspective, they sit between those of its more famous neighbors to the south, Pommard and Volnay: Pommard’s wines are bigger and more concentrated, while those of Volnay are more refined and delicate. The basic Village Beaune wines are lighter and more straightforward than the Premiers Crus; they are grown on flatter plots where clay levels are slightly higher. The Premiers Crus should be given five years to age; the Village wines, however, are ready for immediate consumption. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Aigrots, Les Avaux, Le Bas de Teurons, Beaux-Fougets, Bellisand, Blanche Fleur, Les Boucherottes, *Les Bressandes, *Les Cent Vignes, Champs Pimont, Les Chouacheux, Clos de la Feguine, Clos des Avaux, *Le Clos des Mouches, Le Clos de la Mousse, *Clos du Roi, Clos des Ursules, Aux Coucherias, *Aux Cras, A l’Ecu, *Les Epenottes, *Les Feves, En Genet, *Les Greves, Sur les Greves, Les Longues, *Les Marconnets, La Mignotte, Montee-Rouge, Les Montrevenots, En l’Orme, Les Perrieres, Pertuisots, Les Reversees, Les Seurey, *Les Sizies, *Les Teurons, Tielandry (Clos Landry), Les Toussaints, Les Tuvilains, and *Les Vignes Franches.
  • Blagny (Côte de Beaune). Blagny reds are generally aggressive wines, packed with flavors of game and earth. Although less so than those of Pommard, they are nevertheless powerful wines. Further, as they are generally well made and relatively little known, they represent particularly good values. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : *La Piece sous le Bois, La Jeunelotte, and *Sous le Dos d’Ane (These crus can be can be called ‘Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru’ if white and ‘Blagny Premiers Crus’ if red.). Sous le Puits, La Garenne, Hameau de Blagny, and Le Trezin (These crus can be called ‘Puligny-Montrachet’ if white, yet only basic ‘Blagny’ if red.).
  • Chorey-lès-Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Chorey-lès-Beaune is known for straightforward, easy-drinking, everyday wines that have pleasant, fruity profiles; they are light-bodied, yet with noticeable tannins. We recommend looking to this appellation in the best vintages for very good values (some of the lowest price points in Burgundy). These wines should be drunk within five years of the vintage. Most of the village’s wines are actually sold as ‘Côte de Beaune Villages’, rather than as Chorey-lès-Beaune. There are no Premiers Crus vineyards, but a few select climats (named vineyards) produce high quality wines (favorites are marked with asterisks): Les Beaumonts, Les Bons Ores, *Les Champs-Longs, Aux Clous, Les Crais, *Piece du Chapitre, Poirier-Malchaussee, and Les Ratosses.
  • Fixin (Côte de Nuits). These pinot noir-based wines display good red and black fruits — leaning slightly more toward the latter — with distinctive gamey and earthy notes. Fixin’s wines are often called ‘sauvage’, meaning that they are powerful and tannic, and therefore require some aging in order to soften up; this is quite a change from the appellation’s neighbor to the north, Marsannay. Fixin is a particularly good area to look for good values in Burgundy, particularly in quality vintages, when the favorable conditions round out characteristic rough edges. While Clos du Chapitre and Clos de la Perriere (marked with asterisks below) are generally regarded as the best Premiers Crus, they are quite powerful in their youths and require aging. That said, if you are looking for something to drink young, lean toward the more delicate Premiers Crus: Les Arvelets and Les Hervelets. The non-Premiers Crus vineyards are also meaningful contributors to the affordable wines of Côte de Nuits-Villages; these are also worth being on the lookout for. Premiers Crus vineyards : *Les Arvelets, *Clos du Chapitre, Clos Napoleon, *Clos de la Perriere, and *Les Hervelets.
  • Givry (Côte Chalonnaise). Givry’s pinot noir-based reds strike a balance between those of its neighbors to its north, Rully and Mercurey: They are a bit more intense and full bodied than Rully’s light reds, yet hold back from the bold, earthy profile characteristic of those from Mercurey. That said, these medium-bodied wines have a persistent quality and intense aromatics; as you might expect, they favor the red side of the spectrum, display brisk acidity, and have an earthy, peppery finish. The wines are also typically good values. Of all the appellations in the Cote Chalonnaise (which includes Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny), Givry gets our vote for the consistently best wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Berges, Bois Cheveaux, Bois Gauthier, Clos de la Barraude, Clos du Cellier aux Moines, Clos Charle, Clos du Cras Long, Clos Jus, Clos Marceaux, Clos St-Paul, Clos St-Pierre, Clos Salomon, Clos de la Servoisine, Clos du Vernoy, Grands Pretants, Les Grandes Vignes, Marole, Petit Marole, Petits Pretants, Vaux, En Vignes Rouges, and Le Vigron.
  • Maranges (Côte de Beaune). The appellation’s heavy clay soils serve to yield wines of great power that possess a characteristic earthiness. In their youth, Maranges’ wines pack quite a punch and typically require years of bottle aging to soften them up. That said, wines are made to a high quality standard and represent good values. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Le Bourg, *Le Clos de la Boutiere, *Le Clos des Loyeres, Le Clos des Rois, *Les Clos Roussots, La Crois aux Moines, *La Fussiere (aka Fuissiere), Les Loyeres, En Marange, Maranges, Les Plantes de Maranages, and Aux Roueres.
  • Marsannay (Côte de Nuits). Reds based exclusively on pinot noir lead the charge in Marsannay, accounting for two-thirds of total production. Compared to the wines from its better known neighbors to its south, Marsannay reds are relatively simple affairs, tasty but not overly layered or complex: they are medium-bodied and low in tannins, with notes favoring the red fruit (cherry, raspberry, and strawberry) over black fruits, often with an inkling of earth and game. Marsannay is actually best known for its high quality and attractively-priced roses, which account for 15% of total production; they are juicy wines, reminiscent of strawberries and peaches. Marsannay is unique in that it is the only Village-level appellation that is allowed to produce a rosé under its own designation; all other Burgundy rosés are restricted to the regional appellation Bourgogne. These pinot-based pinks are some of the tastiest, food-friendly versions available and get our vote. There are no Grands Crus or Premiers Crus vineyards in this appellation, only about 20 lieux-dits (named vineyards).
  • Mercurey (Côte Chalonnaise). Mercurey is a good source of value-priced, red Burgundy. Due to higher clay and iron levels in its soils and slightly warmer temperatures, Mercurey’s reds are fuller bodied, deeper in color and possess greater aging potential than other appellations in the Côte Chalonnaise. Stylistically, they tend to be rather earthy wines, with their cherry fruit flavors often taking a back seat to those of wet soil, stone, and mineral; further, while there are some excellent winemakers, there is some inconsistency in this appellation, owing chiefly to its large size. We advise only opting for red wines from Mercurey in the best vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : La Bondue, Les Byots, La Cailloute, *Champs Martins, La Chassiere, *Clos des Barraults, Clos Chateau de Montaigu, *Clos l’Eveque, Clos-des-Fourneaux, Clos des Grands Voyens, Clos-Marcilly, *Clos-des-Montagus, Clos des Myglands, Clos de Paradis, *Clos-du-Roi, Clos Tonnerre, *Clos Voyens (Les Voyens), Les Combins, Les Crets, Les Croichots, Les Fourneaux, Grand Clos Fortoul, Grifferes, Le Levriere, La Mission, Les Montaigus, Les Naugues, Les Puillets, Les Ruelles, Les Saumonts, Sazenay, Les Vasees, and *Les Velley.
  • Monthélie (Côte de Beaune). The wines of Monthélie share much of the delicacy and high aromatics characteristics of those of its well-regarded neighbor to the north, Volnay, although they tend to lack their concentration, complexity, and intensity. That said, overall they are impressive, sophisticated wines, particularly for the price; they exhibit medium-bodied profiles and red fruit-biased flavor profiles, with subtle notes of underbrush, earth and spice. Overall, Monthélie is a little known appellation producing consistently good quality wines; as a result, we believe it is a highly recommendable source for very good red Burgundy values; seek out wines from Premiers Crus vineyards (particularly those we have highlighted with asterisks below). Premiers Crus vineyards : Le Cas Rougeot, *Les Champs Fulliot, Le Chateau-Gaillard, Le Clos Gauthey, Les Duresses, *Le Meix Bataille, Les Riottes, La Taupine, *Sur La Velle, *Les Vignes Rondes, and Le Village.
  • Pernand-Vergelesses (Côte de Beaune). The red wines of Pernand-Vergelesses have seen great improvement, and as they are relatively unknown, offer good values. Most resembling those of neighbor Savigny-lès-Beaune, they are bigger wines than others in the Côte de Beaune; further, they are more polished, exhibiting less earthy rusticity and more bright fruit. The iron-heavy soils create wines that are medium- to full-bodied, with concentrated flavors of black fruits (think blackberries and black cherry); the Premiers Crus have more polish than the Village level wines. We recommend looking to these wines as excellent values; however, these wines should generally only be sought out in high quality vintages; in less favorable vintages winemakers can have difficulties bringing pinot noir to optimal ripeness (yielding less attractive, green, herbal flavors), due to the less than favorable northeasterly exposure of most of the vineyards. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Les Basses Vergelesses, En Caradeux, Clos Berthier, Clos Le Village, Creux de la Net, Les Fichots, Ile des Hautes Vergelesses, *Ile des Vergelesses, Sous Fretille, and Les Vergelesses.
  • Saint-Aubin (Côte de Beaune). Stylistically, the reds of Saint-Aubin resemble those of neighboring Chassagne-Montrachet, however they are lighter, have a bit more acidity, and display a greater bias toward the red fruit side of the flavor spectrum (think cherries, raspberries, and strawberries). These are very pleasant and well-made reds that should appeal to price-sensitive wine lovers (aren’t we all?) seeking a relatively lighter-bodied style of red Burgundy. We advise seeking these wines out, particularly in high quality vintages. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Bas de Vermarin a l’Est, *Les Castets, Les Champlots, Le Charmois, La Chateniere, Ez Champs, Les Combes au Sud, Les Cortons, Derriere Chez Edouard, Derriere La Tour, Echaille, En Creot, En Vollon a l’Est, *Les Frionnes, Le Bas de Gamay a l’Est, Sur Gamay, Marinot, En Montceau, Les Murgers des Dents de Chien, Les Perrieres, Les Petangerets, Les Puits, En la Ranche, En Remilly, *Sous Roche Dumay, *Sur le Sentier du Clou, Les Travers de Marinot, Vignes-Moingeon, and Le Village.
  • Savigny-lès-Beaune (Côte de Beaune). Overall, the reds of Savigny-lès-Beaune are a relatively light style, with a seductive aromatic profile, offering notes of violet and red berry fruit, often with some earthy flavor notes. While all wines generally share the prior character, those on the Pernand-Vergelesses side are medium-bodied, intense, fruity, and can be drunk younger; those on the Beaune side are fuller-bodied, earthier, and require aging to soften up their more aggressive profiles. In our opinion, Savigny-lès-Beaune is an excellent appellation from which to seek out very good red Burgundy values, particularly from the northern portion; production levels are high (which keeps a lid on pricing), but quality levels are consistently good.To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Northeast side (towards Pernand-Vergelesses) : Basses Vergelesses, *Batailliere, Les Charnieres, Aux Clous, La Dominode, *Aux Fourneaux, *Aux Gravains, *Aux Guettes, *Les Lavieres, Petits Godeaux, Les Rouvrettes, *Aux Serpentieres, Les Talmettes, *Aux Vergelesses, and Les Vergelesses. Southwest side (towards Beaune) : *La Dominode, Les Hauts Jarrons, Les Jarrons, Les Marconnets, Les Narbantons, Les Peuillets, Redrescul, and Les Rouvrettes.
  • Santenay (Côte de Beaune). Although wines are more sophisticated and restrained in the highlighted Premiers Crus, Santenay’s medium-bodied reds tend to be powerful and spicy, with tannins that are abrupt in youth; flavors favor the red fruit side of the flavor spectrum, e.g., cherries and strawberries. While the distinctive earth and mineral component characteristic of Santenay’s wines can overpower the fruit in some cases, this is typically not the case. These wines are good values and are appealing options for those who find a sophisticated, earthier style red appealing. To help further with wine selection, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the most consistently high quality red wines. Premiers Crus vineyards : Beauregard, Beaurepaire, Le Chainey, *Le Clos Faubard, *Le Clos de Mouches, *Le Clos de Tavannes, *La Comme, Comme Dessus, Les Fourneaux, Le Grand Clos Rousseau, *Les Gravieres, La Maladiere, *Passetemps, and Le Petit Clos Rousseau.

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Beaujolais’ Chiroubles AOC: Great Wines, Superb Values

Beaujolais, the largest and southernmost region in Burgundy, lies roughly midway between Burgundy’s famed Côte d’Or and the Northern Rhône Valley.   For the most part, Beaujolais wines — 99% of which are based on the red gamay grape variety — are light to medium bodied, high in acidity, low in tannins, and deliver big, up-front red fruit flavors. They have a high capacity for soil and site expression, which makes for an exciting range of flavors and styles across the region. While most Beaujolais is made for immediate drinking and best served with a light chill, some of the region’s ten best village cru producers offer fuller-bodied, more structured styles.

The ten elite crus (villages). There are ten villages in Beaujolais whose wines stand above all others; they have been afforded cru status and account for roughly 25% of total production. The Cru Beaujolais villages include (listed by the style of wine they produce, from lightest bodied to fullest bodied): Chiroubles, St-Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent.

Map of Beaujolais

Map of Beaujolais

We wanted to profile one of our favorites of these Cru Beaujolais appellations for you: Chiroubles.  This appellation offers some of the best price-value wines in the market today.

Chiroubles is positioned mid-way along the strip of hilly land in northern Beaujolais that is home to these ten select villages; soils are primarily of rough granite. Chiroubles is situated at the highest elevation of the Beaujolais crus (400 meters); the resulting relative coolness afforded by this higher elevation affords them a characteristic delicacy. These lighter-bodied wines have an expansive bouquet (violet, orange blossom, and peony are often referenced); they are fruit-forward (think raspberry), yet sophisticated, often with delicate notes of game, stone, currant, and tea that add complexity. Wines are designed for immediate drinking. This appellation gets our vote for the best of lighter style Beaujolais.


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Understanding Alsace Grand Cru

Alsace’s Grand Cru covers fifty-one individual vineyard sites and the AOC laws dictate which grapes can be grown in each. The yield specifications are much lower than regular AC wines (60 hl/a). In general, Grand Cru sites must be made from one of the four ‘noble varieties': riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris or muscat; though exceptions have been made for Zotzenberg, where sylvaner is permitted, and for Altenberg de Berheim where blends are permitted.

Map of Beaujolais

Map of Beaujolais

The Alsace Grand Cru wines are controversial and the convention is not accepted by all growers in the region. Some producers elect to forgo the Grand Cru appellation they are entitled to in favor of traditional or brand names. Theoretically, a Grand Cru should be a guarantee of quality, but this is not necessarily the case. The rule of thumb here is similar to the one in Burgundy: find a producer you trust. There are many sub-par wines grown on Grand Cru sites and many exceptional wines that do not use the Grand Cru system.

That said, we have provided a list of all fifty-one cru vineyard sites in Alsace, with their prevailing soil types and vineyard areas (in hectares) in order to give readers an efficient means of assessing the general profiles of the wines produced therein. Larger Grand Cru sites have more variable conditions throughout the vineyard and are less likely to be consistent throughout the site. Further, we have placed asterisks by those crus that are producing the highest quality wines.

Remember the following basic rules when trying to gauge the wines from the list below:

  • In general, rockier flint, granite and schist soils tend to give wines an oily, petrol and gunflint character (especially with riesling).
  • heavy clay and marl give weight and broad fruit flavors.
  • sandy limestone soils give wines with finesse.

Listing of Grand Cru Vineyard Sites:

Altenberg de Bergbieten : marl – limestone – gypsum, 29 ha.

Altenberg de Bergheim : marl – limestone, 35.1 ha; very good riesling and gewürztraminer.

Altenberg de Wolxheim : marl – limestone, 31.2 ha.

*Brand : granite, 17.7 ha; exceptional gewürztraminer.

Bruderthal : marl – limestone, 18.4 ha.

Eichberg : marl – limestone, 57.6 ha; particularly good gewürztraminer.

Engelberg : marl – limestone, 14.8 ha.

Florimont : marl – limestone, 21 ha.

Frankstein : granite, 56.2 ha.

Froehn : clay – marl, 14.6 ha; muscat wines are exceptional.

Furstentum : limestone, 30.5 ha.

Geisberg : marl – limestone – sandstone, 8.5 ha; very good riesling.

Gloeckelberg : marl – limestone, 23.4 ha.

*Goldert : marl – limestone, 45.4 ha; excellent muscat.

Hatschbourg : marl – limestone – loess, 47.4 ha.

*Hengst : marl – limestone – sandstone, 75.8 ha; exceptional gewürztraminer.

Kaefferkopf : granite – limestone – sandstone, 71.7 ha.

Kanzlerberg : very heavy clay – gypsum – marl, 3.2 ha.

*Kastelberg : shale, 5.8 ha; very good riesling.

Kessler : sand – clay, 28.5 ha.

Kirchberg de Barr : marl – limestone, 40.6 ha.

*Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé : marl – limestone – sandstone, 11.4 ha; very good riesling and muscat.

Kitterlé : sandstone – volcanic, 25.8 ha.

Mambourg : marl – limestone, 61.8 ha.

Mandelberg : marl – limestone, 22 ha.

Marckrain : marl – limestone, 53.4 ha.

Moenchberg : marl – limestone – gravel, 11.8 ha.

Muenchberg : stone – sandstone – volcanic, 17.7 ha.

Ollwiller : sand – clay, 35.9 ha.

Osterberg : marl, 24.6 ha; very good riesling.

Pfersigberg : limestone – sandstone, 75.5 ha; good muscat.

Pfingstberg : marl – limestone – sandstone, 28.2 ha.

Praelatenberg : granite – gneiss, 18.7 ha.

*Rangen : volcanic, 18.8 ha; outstanding pinot gris and riesling.

Rosacker : dolomitic limestone, 26.2 ha; site of Trimbach’s Clos Ste-Hune; Trimbach does not support the Grand Cru classification, so the wine made from this site only indicates Clos Ste-Hune and will not say ‘Grand Cru Rosacker’.

Saering : marl – limestone – sandstone, 26.8 ha.

Schlossberg : granite, 80.3 ha.

Schoenenbourg : marl – sand – gypsum – limestone, 53.4 ha.

Sommerberg : granite, 28.4 ha; very good riesling.

Sonnenglanz : marl – limestone, 32.8 ha.

Spiegel : marl – sandstone, 18.3 ha.

Sporen : stone – clay – marl, 23.7 ha; very good pinot gris and gewürztraminer.

Steinert : limestone, 38.9 ha.

Steingrubler : marl – limestone – sandstone, 23 ha.

Steinklotz : limestone, 40.6 ha.

Vorbourg : limestone – sandstone, 72.6 ha.

Wiebelsberg : sand – sandstone, 12.5 ha.

Wineck-Schlossberg : granite, 27.4 ha.

Winzenberg : granite, 19.2 ha.

Zinnkoepflé : limestone – sandstone, 68.4 ha.

Zotzenberg : marl – limestone, 36.4 ha; only Grand Cru site allowed to use sylvaner; very high quality sylvaner produced.


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A Wine to try: Bonarda from Italy

The bonarda (aka croatina) grape variety offers great wine values in Italy
Bonarda is the local name for the croatina grape in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna and bears no relation to the bonarda grape varieties found in Argentina and Piedmont. The mid- to late-ripening grape delivers wines with dark color, gushing fruit, low acidity and soft tannins, often resembling montepulciano or dolcetto in expression.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

Where to find bonarda wines

In Lombardy

The bonarda grape achieves its highest levels in Lombardy’s Oltrepò Pavese DOC (and the Casteggio DOC sub-area), located in the foothills of the Apennines mountains on limestone-rich clay soils. In wines alternatively labelled as Oltrepò Pavese Rosso, Sangue di Giuda or Buttafuoco, it is mixed chiefly with barbera and typically remains over 50%; it is also made into varietally-labelled wines in which it makes up at least 85% (riserva wines are aged for a minimum of 24 months). They often represent very good price-value. Look for it also in the blends of the San Colombano al Lambro / San Colombano DOC.

In Emilia-Romagna

Bonarda delivers exceptional results — dark, fruity and low in acidity — in the sandy clay soils of Emilia-Romagna’s Colli Piacentini DOC, where it is made into varietally-labelled wines (minimum 85% croatina). It also makes up a portion of blends, typically taking a secondary position to barbera or pinot nero, in the Colli Piacentini’s Gutturnio and Novello sub-areas.


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AG Wine Pick: Pigato from Liguria, Italy

The wines of the Liguria region of Italy can be difficult to find — only the reclusive Valle d’Aosta region produces and exports less bottles. Plus, given the naturally high costs of production in Liguria (due to its mountainous landscape), its wines can tend to the more expensive side. While the reds are certainly good, the real strengths of Ligurian winemaking lay in its whites, both the world-class vermentino and the distinctive pigato.

You will find that the wines from the Ponente (western Liguria) are typically derived from indigenous grapes, while those from the Levante (eastern Liguria) lean toward Tuscan varieties; that said, we would point you toward the Ponente for truly distinctive, Ligurian wines.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

About Pigato

While pigato is genetically identical to the region’s trademark vermentino (and Piedmont’s favorita), it nevertheless achieves unique expression: pigato favors the earthy side of the flavor spectrum, is a bit more acidic and has a touch more body weight; by contrast, vermentino shows more exotic fruit and has more developed aromas. In addition, pigato is inclined to have more pronounced saline notes, making it ideal for local seafood and shellfish. While it might not prove to be your favorite everyday wine, pigato is sure to be a unique experience and might pair so well with seafood dishes that you will be sure to return to it again.

Look for varietal wines from the Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC. In this denomination, there are two primary sub-areas: Albenga (at lower elevation, where wines assume fruitier, fuller-bodied profiles) and Ranzo (at higher elevation, where wines take on more restrained, aromatic qualities).


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Guide to Godello: Galicia’s Great White Wine

Early-ripening, normal-skinned godello (aka verdello) is another up-and-comer and one of our favorite whites. Godello-based wines have the big fruit and acidity of albariño (peaches, citrus, apple), but with a bit more body and slightly higher alcohol. While Galicia’s star albariño grape has become increasingly well known internationally, godello continues to fall below most consumers’ radar screens; this has served to make godellos excellent values. The best are from Galicia’s Valdeorras and Monterrei DOs and Castilla y León’s Bierzo DO, although quality offerings can also be found in Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra and Ribeiro DOs.

Map of Spain's wine regions

Map of Spain’s wine regions

Wines from Galicia, Spain

Galicia is one of our favorite regions in Spain, due in large part to its tremendous whites based on the albariño and godello varieties. Look to the excellent Rias Baixas DO for albariño and the Valdeorras DO for godello. However, red lovers need not despair: the mencía variety produces high quality wines, with a rich, earthy character. The best mencías are from the Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras DOs.


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Four Little-Known White Grapes From Piedmont

When you think of Piedmont, its world-class reds — Barolo and Barbaresco — naturally come to mind.  But Piedmont has got some lesser-known whites that are worth giving a swirl.  Here are some great white options from Piedmont.

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

Nascetta

The rare nascetta, potentially related to favorita/vermentino/pigato, is indigenous to Piedmont’s Langhe and was only recently saved from extinction. Early to mid ripening, the grape delivers full-bodied, often unctuous wines with flavors of wildflower, white peach, herb, honey, sage, salt and mineral. Despite their rich characters, these aromatic wines possess sufficient structuring acidity to maintain balance, making them pair well with richer seafood dishes. Look for varietally-labelled wines in the Langhe DOC.

Timorasso

The rare timorasso is planted chiefly in Piedmont’s Colli Tortonesi and Monferrato DOCs. Brought back from near extinction by winemaker Walter Massa, the grape is making a comeback among wine aficionados (although perhaps only 20 hectares are under vine). The thick-skinned, early- to mid-ripening grape yields massive wines with a distinctive creaminess. Flavors include candied fruit, toasted hazelnut, honey, spice, bitter mountain herb and mineral. Timorasso’s rich, full-bodied character allows it to pair with dishes that most other whites simply cannot, such as poultry, pork, veal, smoked meats and sausages. It is worth seeking out for lovers of powerful whites that are looking for a new favorite.

Arneis

Thin-skinned arneis is Piedmont’s finest white, grown chiefly in the Langhe and Roero. Arneis-based wines offer low acidity, floral aromas and a rather strong fruit-driven palate that includes ripe pear, orange, apricots and peaches. You may also get an edge of smokiness and a touch of bitter almond on the finish. Due to the grape’s relative obscurity outside of Italy, these full-bodied whites are often great values. Arneis is a perfect accompaniment to heavier pasta dishes. Wines reach their greatest heights in varietal offerings from the Roero Arneis DOCG.

Erbaluce

Thick-skinned, early- to mid-ripening erbaluce is indigenous to northern Piedmont — the Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG and Canavese DOC zones northeast of Torino — and this is where you will find the best pure varietals. The grape produces wines with high acidity and delicate flavors of wildflowers and green apple, coupled with a distinctive minerality. They are ideally paired with simply grilled fish. Erbaluce also makes for very tasty sweet and sparkling wines. Made to consistently high standards, they are a reliable option. Look for it also in varietal wines from the Colline Novaresi and Coste della Sesia DOCs.


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Italy’s Valtellina Wines: Chiavennasca (aka Nebbiolo)

Italy’s Valtellina denomination, based in the region of Lombardia, offers some great, under-appreciated value wines. Although they do not quite reach the same heights as in Piedmont, nebbiolo-based wines from Lombardy are impressive and worth trying. If you are a lover of nebbiolo, this zone is worth exploring!

Map of Italy's wine regions

Map of Italy’s wine regions

About the Valtellina

  • The Valtellina. The best area for chiavannasca, the Valtellina zone located in the mountainous northern reaches of the region, along the Adda river in the province of Sondrio, where rocky clay-based soils prevail.
  • Classifications. The denomination’s basic wines — labelled as Rosso di Valtellina DOC — are made from a minimum of 80% nebbiolo and aged for six months in wood barrels. The premier wines — labelled as Valtellina Superiore DOCG% — are made from grapes grown on the premier plots within the same geographic area, comprised of at least 90% nebbiolo and aged for a minimum of 24 months (12 in oak barrels).
  • Versus nebbiolo from Piedmont. As compared to those from Piedmont, Valtellina nebbiolos lack the same dark fruit punch due to the modestly cooler temperatures that make it challenging for this very late-maturing variety to reach optimal ripeness. What they lack in power and harmony, however, they make up for in finesse, aroma and earthy concentration. Further, they typically hit more attractive price points, which makes them worth checking out.

While all Valtellina wines are of generally high quality, look for the following five Valtellina Superiore DOCG sub-areas for the best experience:

  • Grumello. Fruit forward and aromatic with notes of almonds due to small amounts of the local brugnola grape in the blend.
  • Inferno. Most powerful, concentrated and austere versions.
  • Maroggia. Lowest production with medium- to full-bodied, fruity versions.
  • Sassella. Viewed as the best of the Valtellina, richer and fuller-bodied versions requiring 3-5 years of aging.
  • Valgella. The most delicate, floral-perfumed expressions of nebbiolo.

What about Sforzato

Made from a minimum of 90% nebbiolo grapes, sforzato wines (aka Valtellina Sfursat) are unique to Lombardy’s Valtellina. Following a similar process to that used with the Veneto’s Amarone, they are made by drying out the grapes until they are raisins and their sugars are concentrated. Since all of the sugar is allowed to convert to alcohol, the resulting wine is totally dry; this results in high alcohol levels, usually around 14%. As with Amarone, the final result is a rich, almost syrupy, wine with low acid levels. While slightly less mouth filling, sforzato wines deliver a greater level of spiciness. Look for them in the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG.

About the nebbiolo grape (chiavennasca)

Nebbiolo, known locally in Lombardia as chiavennasca, produces the most sophisticated red wines in Italy.

  • Trademark characteristics. The light-colored wines are characterized by large amounts of acidity and tannin, which typically require many years of bottle aging to balance and integrate. Despite their power, nebbiolo-based wines are never dense, jammy or distinctly fruity. Showcasing powerful aromas redolent of red cherries, roses and truffles, they also have notes of eucalyptus, violets, pine needle, herbs, mushrooms and cinnamon spice. As the wines age, they take on darker notes of tar, tobacco, leather and earth.
  • Name origin. The name nebbiolo is derived from the Italian word for fog, nebbia. The grape’s fog association could be derived from one of two possibilities: the fog that typically settles over the area of the Langhe in October or the characteristic white-colored coating that appears on the skin of the grape late in the growing season. The grape is also known by the following names: chiavennasca (Lombardy’s Valtellina), picotendro (Valle d’Aosta) and spanna (northern Piedmont).

Learn about the wines of Italy with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Italy’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Discovering Wines from Spain’s Balearic Islands

While most of the wines from the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera; located off the east coast of Spain) are nothing to actively seek out, the distinctive, full-bodied manto nero grape variety is an exception to this rule and worth trying. We would recommend wines from the Mallorca’s Binissalem DO, specifically. If you are looking for a white, try the local prensal blanc grape which yields light, herbal white wines.

Map of Spain's wine regions

Map of Spain’s wine regions

About the Balearic’s Binissalem DO

Created in 1991, the Balearic Islands’ Binissalem DO is located on Mallorca, occupying the center of the island.

  • Vineyards. Vineyards sit on a flat plateau at elevations of 250-300 meters.
  • Soils. A rich topsoil of sandy alluvium covers a limestone and clay base; the limestone is critical as it absorbs much-needed moisture for the vines during the island’s dry summer months.
  • Climate. The climate is mild and Mediterranean, with relative stability in intra-day temperatures.

Red Wines

Binissalem is oriented toward red wines, which account for 60-70% of total production.

  • The best reds are based on the indigenous manto negro, which accounts for nearly 40% of total vineyard planted area; all of the denomination’s red wines must include at least 30% of this variety. They are well-suited for extended aging in oak barrels; there is a wide selection of wines at crianza, reserva and even gran reserva designations. They are bold wines with smooth tannins.
  • The denomination also grows cabernet sauvignon, callet, tempranillo, monastrell, syrah and merlot. They are typically blended in varying degrees into manto negro-based wines to add tannins, body and aromatic complexity.

White Wines

Despite its red focus, Binissalem delivers some quality whites wines.

  • The best are based on the indigenous prensal blanc (aka moll), which represents approximately 60% of total white production. Generally simple wines made for immediate consumption, they nevertheless reveal pleasant white fruit aromas and subtle flavors of green apple, ginger, honey, almond and herbs.

Learn about the wines of Spain with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Spain’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.

Wines from Casablanca Valley (Chile)

First planted in the early 1980s, the Casablanca (ka-sa-BLAHN-ka) Valley sits northwest of Santiago along a dry area of Pacific coastline on the western side of the Coastal Range. Only 18 kilometers / 11 miles from the coast, Casablanca is well known as one of Chile’s premier cool-climate regions, as its growing conditions are directly impacted by the sea. Heavy, cool fog enters in the evening and does not burn off until early afternoon, adding to the region’s already cool temperatures.

Although varied, soils are comprised of clay over a decomposed granite base in the flat areas and granite pebbles and sand on the hills. Further, since no major rivers run through Casablanca, the loose quality of the ancient soils allows vines to penetrate and establish deep root systems, which affords the resulting wines greater subtlety.

Casablanca can be informally divided into three sub-areas, all of which experience varying exposure to the sea’s influence:

  • Lower Casablanca sits on the lowest lying land in the far west of the region. The center of Casablanca’s production, it has the greatest exposure to ocean winds and is therefore the coolest. To draw a distinction: the region is less impacted by the sea’s temperature-stabilizing effects than neighboring San Antonio — another exceptional region for cool-climate style wines — so it experiences greater daily swings in temperature (slightly warmer days and slightly cooler nights).
  • Upper Casablanca sits at the highest elevation on the eastern edge of the region. The least impacted by the sea, it gets the greatest amount of sunshine and experiences the widest daily fluctuations in temperature.
  • Central Casablanca has a mix of the conditions experienced in the Upper and Lower sub-areas.
Map of Chile’s wine regions

Map of Chile’s wine regions

White Wines of the Casablanca Valley

Casablanca has built a reputation for attractively-priced whites that are simple, fruity, and crisp, perfect for everyday consumption.

However, more recently, there is a new class of white wines emerging that is serious and very high quality. Further, they continue to hit attractive price points, making them tremendous values.

  • For the absolute best wines in this elite category, go with those based on sauvignon blanc, some of the best in Chile.
  • The bar is also similarly being raised for chardonnay; excellent steely versions prevail.
  • Aside from its two focus varieties, Casablanca is actively exploring a number of new white grape varieties, including riesling, viognier, and gewürztraminer, all of which have the potential to yield interesting results in the cooler temperatures.

Red Wines of the Casablanca Valley

While Casablanca’s cooler climate has led its innovative winemakers to focus on white wines, there are still some high quality reds being made.

  • Syrah is a variety of particular interest, delivering consistent, complex wines, packed with spice and herbs.
  • Cabernet sauvignon also yields respectable results in a cool-climate style.
  • Finally, in a very positive development, pinot noir is beginning to yield good results from select vineyards in cooler Lower Casablanca. Executed in an Old World style, they are the region’s most exciting new wines.

Learn about the wines of Chile with Approach Guides wine app for iPhone and iPad. The app profiles all of Chile’s winemaking regions, grape varieties, appellations, and vintages, giving you everything you need to know to choose a wine that meets your preferences.