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Our top alternative wines to Burgundy from across the globe

February 24, 2022

Our top alternative wines to Burgundy from across the globe

For many wine lovers, there is nothing quite like Burgundy. The spiritual home of the illustrious grape varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, picturesque villages surrounded by a patchwork of vineyards all with unique characteristics and history. At Corney & Barrow we adore Burgundy just as much as you do, but the inclement weather experienced by growers during the 2021 vintage has devastated vineyards (particularly Chardonnay), which sadly means there just isn’t enough wine to go around. Predictably demand remains insatiable and prices have skyrocketed, which has got us thinking about some of our favourite producers from around the world who are making wines of comparable style and quality to Burgundy. The selection will of course include some delicious examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but we have also chosen to highlight varietals that have a stylistic, historic or genetic connection to Burgundy and its native grapes.

Carmel Road Pinot Noir
Californian Pinot Noir from Carmel Road

Pinot Noir Carmel Road 2019

For our reds, we begin by crossing the pond to the Golden State of California. In the heart of Monterey County lies the Salinas Valley and the boutique winery of Carmel Road. One of the most important influences on Carmel Road’s wines is the proximity of the Pacific Ocean, which funnels cool, moisture-laden air from the world-famous nature reserve of Monterey Bay through the vineyards. This combination of generous Californian sunshine and oceanic influences, give the wine a ripe fruit character and bright crunchy acidity. As an alternative to your usual Bourgogne rouge Carmel Road’s silky Pinot brings some much-needed Cali charm to your cellars!

A. Christmann Pinot Noir - Spatburgunder from Germany
A. Christmann’s elegant Spätburgunder

Pfalz Spätburgunder Trocken Weingut A Christmann 2017

Although Germany is the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world, Its Spätburgunders a.k.a Pinot Noir, aren’t always at the forefront of people’s minds when considering alternatives to Burgundy. Quite simply, they should be! Corney & Barrow’s flagbearer for German Spätburgunder is the wonderful Weingut A Christmann, whose modern and dynamic approach is producing some beautiful wines in the Pfalz region. The winery is situated in the village of Gimmeldingen and is run by father and daughter Steffen and Sophie Christmann, who have overseen several important changes to both viticulture and winemaking. The estate places huge emphasis on sustainability and harmonisation with the natural environment— no herbicides, insecticides or synthetic fungicides—and has been certified biodynamic since 2002. Stylistically, the wines have an appealing ripeness to them and possess a pure red fruit character with superb aromatic lift (in part due to the practice of whole bunch fermentation introduced by Sophie in 2017), whilst also bringing a marked freshness typical of estate. Our advice to all Pinot lovers out there would be to explore these great wines, as we believe the estate has a very bright future indeed!

Gamay at its best from Moulin à Vent
Moulin- à -Vent Clos du Moulin-à-Vent Monopole from Domaine Labruyère

Moulin- à -Vent Clos du Moulin-à-Vent Monopole Domaine Labruyère 2017

Despite being Burgundy’s most southern outpost, Beaujolais and its ten Cru villages don’t always receive the same plaudits as their Pinot-centric neighbours to the North. However, it is interesting to observe the amount of recent investment in the region, particularly the significant acquisitions being made by some of the Côte d’Or’s top producers (notably Domaine Liger-Belair in Moulin-à-Vent and Volnay’s Domaine Michel Lafarge in Fleurie). Of course, great quality wines have been made by Beaujolais’s native producers for generations, but investment from the Côte d’Or’s elite reinforces the long-held view, that Beaujolais is a compelling wine region with very serious terroir. For Domaine Labruyère, the region’s quality has been evident throughout its 200-year history, but unlike the above producers the domaine is actually based in Beaujolais’s Moulin-à-Vent, with the Labruyère family purchasing the majority share of the Côte d’Or’s Domaine Jacques Prieur in 1988.

The pinnacle of Domaine Labruyère’s vineyards is Le Clos de Moulin-à-Vent, the only monopole (vineyard in sole ownership) in the village. The 0.92 hectare vineyard sits beside the village’s iconic windmill and the soils are arid, rocky and largely comprised of granite and sand with little to no topsoil, which forces the vines to grow deep to find nutrients and water. This unique terroir, in the hands of celebrated winemaker Nadine Gubelin (the first female winemaker to be named ‘Winemaker of the Year’ by leading French wine publication La Revue de Vin de France) produces wines with immense aging potential, concentration and complexity. Serving this wine blind has become a favourite experiment among members of the C&B fine wine team, as the wine possesses an elegance and texture reminiscent of Pinot Noir from the Côte d’Or, but also an almost Syrah-like spice. Cerebral wines of the highest calibre!

Arboleda Chardonnay
Magnificent Chardonnay from Chile’s Arboleda

Arboleda Chardonnay

Starting in Chile, we have the stunning Arboleda Chardonnay. Viña Arboleda was created in 1999 by the great pioneer of Chilean fine wine Eduardo Chadwick, whose goal was to craft single-vineyard wines to express the unique terroirs of Chile’s top wine regions. Meaning “Grove of Trees”, Arboleda is situated in the sub-region of Aconcagua Costa within the Aconcagua valley, both taking their name from the mighty Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas. Arboleda’s Chardonnay is styled in the image of white Burgundy, and has a delicate pure-fruited character with superb freshness. The sensitive introduction of French oak and partial malolactic fermentation gives a creamier texture. Next time you get that white Burgundy urge, swap in this for your favourite Bourgogne Chardonnay and enjoy!

Öreg Király Dűlő Dry Furmint Barta 2018
Öreg Király Dűlő Dry Furmint from Barta

Öreg Király Dűlő Dry Furmint Barta 2018

I know, it’s not Chardonnay… but we just had to include Barta Winery’s Öreg Király Dűlő Dry Furmint as it is not only a superb wine that will appeal to lovers of white burgundy, but because the great Hungarian varietal Furmint is actually a relative of Burgundy’s beloved Chardonnay. In fact, Furmint is a half-sibling of Chardonnay and Riesling through its parent grape Gouais Blanc. However, there is much more to this wine than just a family connection. Barta Winery was founded in 2003 by Károly Barta, a businessman who adored the wines of Tokaj, and saw the potential of the imposing hillside in the village of Mád. Known as the Old King Vineyard (Öreg Király Dűlő), historical records have referred to this as the equivalent of a Grand Cru site. After the end of World War II, the vineyard was abandoned and fell into a state of neglect under the Communist Regime. Now in the talented hands of winemaker Vivien Ujvári and her team, this great vineyard is producing wines of exceptional quality. Drawing on her experience in the Napa Valley, New Zealand and Australia, Vivien is producing wines of great purity, complexity and freshness, fermenting in large (500 litre), light-toast oak barrels then maturing the wines on the fine lees, to enhance flavour and textural complexity. If you want to step outside of the Burgundy bubble and try something totally unique, this will be perfect!

Elephant Hill Chardonnay
Refined New Zealand Chardonnay from North Island, Hawkes Bay – Elephant Hill

Elephant Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2016

When we consider the wines of New Zealand, some people may think of mouth-wateringly fresh and tropical-fruited Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough, or juicy and intense Pinot Noir from Central Otago. But tucked away on New Zealand’s North Island is the viticultural oasis of Hawke’s Bay, where the inspired team at Elephant Hill are creating some breathtakingly good Chardonnay. Hawkes Bay is a little warmer than Marlborough, which allows Chardonnay to reach perfect levels of ripeness, and even satisfy heat-seeking Syrah. However, the key to this special region is its unique landscape and geology — the result of two enormous earthquakes and a cyclone, which raised the ocean shore by several feet, sculpted hills where none existed, and changed the entire course of the local river, revealing scintillating gravel beds. Elephant Hill’s Reserve Chardonnay is made from the coastal Te Awanga vineyard, where the Pacific Ocean’s cooling influence slows the grape’s maturation and preserves the lively acidity of the wines. Driving quality even further is the Elephant Hill team’s distinctively international approach, many of them drawing on their experience of making wine all over the world—including Burgundy— and bringing this to bear in the winery. One of the team’s most important projects was the highly detailed research they conducted into their vineyards in Hawkes Bay, systematically analysing each block, row and in some cases individual vines. Vinifications of these micro-batches were then carried out, in order to better understand the specific character of each site and fast-track the team’s understanding and mastery of their terroir. The Reserve Chardonnay 2016 exemplifies Elephant Hill’s meticulous approach to all aspects of winemaking and viticulture, as well as its international influences. The team have both harnessed the time-honoured methods of Burgundy, but have also adapted and refined these methods to suit their own vineyards, fruit and terroir. The wine is stylistically reminiscent of Puligny–Montrachet in its elegance, purity of fruit and complexity and is arguably a more classical example of white Burgundy than many wines produced in Burgundy itself. It is no surprise that these beautiful wines have received such critical acclaim given how much care and attention they receive.

Neville Kirkpatrick, Fine Wine Sales Executive.

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