Red burgundy, kind of a big deal

Col-head-ZalkinThe Burgundy region of France is the ancestral home of Pinot Noir. Red Burgundy is the most famous and renowned expression of the grape, and has spawned imitators all over the world.

Subtle and refined, with a delicate perfume and complex mineral notes, the finest bottles from the most famous makers can sell for thousands of dollars. But there is a burgundy for every budget, if you know how to look.

It is helpful to know a little bit about French wine classifications, which can be confusing. The smallest and most prestigious designation is Grand Cru, awarded to a small number of sites that have achieved extraordinary distinction. These wines are the finest and most expensive, and generally need to be cellared, even after aging for seven years before release.

Premier Cru (sometimes written as 1er Cru), are wines that have been designated for their exceptional quality. These vineyards may have a distinct microclimate that is particularly advantageous for growing Pinot Noir, well-established, old-growth vines. These wines will be aged three to five years before release. Village wines tend to be a good entry point; they will display some of the finer characteristics of Burgundian wines, but with a less steep price point.

These classifications can be useful as an indicator of quality, but there are many truly exceptional wines that are simply designated by one of the many renowned sub-appellations in the Burgundian region. Wines that are grown in Burgundy but can’t claim any of the sub-appellations, or villages, will often simply be labeled “Burgundy” or “Borgone.”

Burgundian Pinot Noirs will display more acidity than their new world cousins, with aromas of cherry, raspberry and earth. These are soft and nuanced wines, with complex mineral notes. Most will display good balance, and a long finish, and they are often aged in older barrels, resulting in a much subtler oak influence, lest the oak overpower the more delicate notes in the wine.

Pinot Noir is known as one of the great food wines, and of course the question on everyone’s mind right now is, What wine do I serve with Thanksgiving? Well, that depends on how you feel about serving a French wine on an American holiday.

Pinot noir and other light reds are an excellent match for turkey, but your choice ultimately depends on what your own family food traditions are. A good red Burgundy is a great choice for traditional New England Thanksgiving, with dishes composed of subtle flavors and savory herbs. But a particularly delicate wine will be overwhelmed by a fiery-hot sausage stuffing or candied yams smothered in marshmallows.

If you love Pinot Noir, and are looking forward to enjoying a fine Burgundy at your holiday dinner, you can split the difference, and enjoy a more costly, delicate wine with light appetizers as an aperitif, and pick up a few bolder bottles to serve alongside an eclectic holiday meal!

Here are a few featured red Burgundy wines for your enjoyment:

• Volnay 1er Cru Robardelle. Rich texture with smooth, round tannins. Rich cherries, dried figs and soft spice woven with aromas of flowers and a hint of licorice. Long, energetic finish.

• Albert Bichot — Gevrey-Chambertin. A deep garnet with notes of black cherries and spicy leather followed by wood smoke and a subtle earthiness. Beautiful body and firmness, great to drink now and will age nicely.

• Joseph Drouhin — Pommard. Powerful and intense, with notes of spicy black cherry and young leather. Full, firm tannins softened by harmonizing sweetness. Long finish.

• Germain Pere et fils Pommard. A rich, sensitive wine with blackberry, gooseberry and ripe plum. Chocolate and pepper add depth and nuance. Rich body and delicate structure.

• Vincent Sauvestre — Savigny Les Beaune. A rich perfume of red fruits, cherry and smoke. Mineral depth accented by bay leaf and savory herbs. Solid acidity and a lingering finish.

• Chanson Père & Fils — Gevrey-Chambertin. Elegant, aristocratic structure, with delicate woodland raspberry, red currant, and gentle smoky overtones. This perennial favorite consistently earns high marks.

You can find all of these delightful red Burgundy wines for purchase at our store, Old Greenwich Fine Wines & Cheese, located at 195 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich, or visit our website,, or call 203-990-3030 to place an order. When you stop in, we invite you to taste a number of our favorite wines while we help you find the right bottle for your palate.

Robert Zalkin is the owner of Old Greenwich Fine Wines at 195 Sound Beach Avenue. His column will be available weekly at

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