Is there such a thing as affordable Burgundy?

in the vineyards above Pommard

After a recent weekend down there, I’d venture a hesitant ‘yes’. The first thing that was highly affordable was our B & B, Les Sept Nains near La Rochepot, a real find (not mine but one of our party’s) and a bare 20k +/- southwest of Beaune. It’s run by a young Bourguignon/Brazilian couple, Yvon and Silvia Remoissenet. For the magnificent sum of between €50 and €60 you get a small stylish room with tiny but serviceable bathroom, and a proper B & B breakfast (fruit, yogurt, decent coffee, home-made bread and jams) served at a big wooden refectory table with glimpses of Charolais cattle grazing contentedly in buttercup-infested meadows outside. Dinner is an optional extra, cooked up by Yvon and Silvia with help from their 3 kids.

First came gougères, the classic partner for a glass of crémant de Bourgogne. Can’t remember when I last ate – or baked – them and I’ve made a pact with myself not to wait too long till the next time. With just a waft of Yvon’s, freshly puffed from the oven, doors popped open all around the house and there was an ugly rush for the dining room. The menu (€28 for a salad with grilled goats’s cheese, boeuf bourguignon with gratin dauphinois, an awesome cheese plate (above) and crème anglaise with fragrant Gariguette strawberries and toasted almonds) ticked all the right boxes – real food, locally sourced and done with care and pride.

Meals out included lunch at Ma Cuisine in Beaune, a tiny, elbows-in bistro tucked away down a passageway off the Place Carnot owned and run by Fabienne & Pierre Escoffier (not a bad name for restaurateurs). It’s famous for Burgundy classics (in-house parslied ham, entrecote, snails, boeuf bourguignon et al) and a fabled wine list larded with loads of wholly unaffordable bottles and – for us – a decent Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er cru Aux Guettes from Pavelot at €29 for a half.

After a tasting at Aubert de Villaine’s domaine in Bouzeron – where we discovered that in the right hands with low yields and old vines, Aligoté doesn’t have to be lean and mean – we dined next door at Le Bouzeron. The Menu Découverte (€34) offers each course ‘en trilogie’, with the main ingredient done up 3 ways (e.g. tuna sushi/tartare with quinoa/carpaccio), lamb (braised shoulder/pink loin/slow-cooked nugget with tapenade) or beef (steak/en carpaccio/deconstructed bourguignon), and a final chocolate combo. Stylish presentation, good contrasts of flavours and textures and some dishes inevitably – given that the chef is young and probably alone in the kitchen – more successful than others.

We had lots of fun with the tasting lunch at Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet, which ended up around €40 a head for the menu plus a taste of 5 wines (bog-standard Bourgogne white, St Romain white, Puligny-Montrachet (village), P-M  (1er cru) and a Pommard). Lunch was preceded by an excellent cellar tour (by Olivier Leflaive and an Aussie ex-sommelier now working at the Domaine) which catered to all levels of wine knowledge/experience. The meal was patchy, redeemed by a lightly jellied tuna persillé starter and a fab cheese platter. The affordable wines were sharp, acidic and not thrilling, but the unaffordable ones didn’t blow me away either. Spitoons are provided, along with blow-in-the-bag breathalyser kits so you can check before taking the wheel if you’re fit to drive (and presumably call a taxi/appoint another driver if not).

With a slew of richly sauced Burgundian meals under (literally) our belts, the Grenier à Sel in Chagny (just around the corner from Lameloise) which majors on meat from a massive, baronial grill felt about right. We marvelled at the 3 young waiters (and joint owners) who staff the large, barrel-vaulted dining room with astonishing efficiency and panache, taking orders, fetching food from the kitchen, slapping steaks/sausages/chicken/pork on the roaring fire, pouring wine, taking more orders, remembering to turn the meat and bringing the [affordable] bill promptly when asked.

So much for the good-value B&B and the reasonably priced food; how about affordable wines? I’m happy to report that by dint of doing our homework, taking advice from seasoned Burghounds and tracking down bottles we’d enjoyed in restaurants, we found some trophies which are now squirrelled away in the cellar. The domaines where the welcome was especially warm and the tasting instructive (and productive) include:

2 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as affordable Burgundy?

  1. I recognized the photo of Pommard in my reader and therefore came here. I was born in Pommard’s German sister city Nackenheim. I love Burgundy. Great article and also blog. Looking forward to more!

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