Why Is Everyone Still So Obsessed With Burgundy?

Burgundy is booming, with prices doubling in the last ten years and up 26% the first six months of 2022. What gives?

Why Is Everyone Still So Obsessed with Burgundy?

“When I started out in auctions in 2004, Bordeaux was king. Now it’s like, let me pop off with some Burgundy,” says Jermaine Stone, who worked at Zachy’s and Wally’s Auctions before he created The Original Wine & Hip Hop

While Bordeaux is hardly suffering — U.S. sales totaled $395 million in 2021 — Burgundy is definitely ascendant. Over the last decade, the French region has emerged as “the cool thing,” says Stone, with bottles increasingly popular among sommeliers, celebrities, collectors, and casual wine drinkers.

That is, provided any of us can afford them. The cost of Burgundy wine has steadily grown over the last decade, and bottles especially thrive on the secondary market, where buyers purchase older vintages from private sellers. In January 2022, Liv-ex, a global wine marketplace, reported that Burgundy trades were up 29%, ahead of Bordeaux’s 25.7%

So, how did Burgundy become such an investment piece and object of desire? As with everything in wine, nuances abound. Burgundy owes its popularity to a combination of changing tastes, markets, and communication strategies; plus the economics of supply and demand. Fortunately, as winemakers and drinkers evolve, there’s still value to be found in corners of the region.

Who’s Buying?

With approximately 69,000 acres planted to vines, and an average domaine size of just 17.3 acres, Burgundy produces some 185 million bottles of wine each year. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the production of Bordeaux (440 million liters annually) and Tuscany (360 million liters). 

In recent years, dramatic storms and the rapidly changing climate have reduced Burgundian yields further, says Shoshana Filene, the managing director of fine wine sales and advisory at Acker Wines. “We’re talking about one of the smallest wine regions in the world, tiny vineyards, and decreased production. All of that increases the scarcity of the wines available.” 

As yields decrease, new geographic markets are emerging. In addition to France and the U.S., “Brazil, Mexico, and parts of Asia all want in on the action,” says Filene. “There’s increased pressure on Burgundian producers to deliver to all these different markets that are clamoring for their wine.”

Unsurprisingly, increased demand and diminished supply are helping drive Burgundy prices skyward. “You pay a premium on release because you may never see it again. And, if you do see it again, it’s going to be ten times the price,” says Filene.

Audience Engagement

It’s not just deep-pocketed collectors hyping the region, though. Burgundy wine has what a marketer might call “good organic social,” meaning it’s prominent and positively regarded on all sorts of digital and social networks.

Matt Bilge, a millennial wine enthusiast, says he got into Burgundy some fifteen years ago while planning a trip to Turkey to visit his uncle, a wine collector. “I didn’t know anything about wine and wanted to impress him with a couple of bottles from Napa,” says Bilge. 

Instead, he fell down an internet message board rabbithole and became enamored with posts about the 2005 Bordeaux and Burgundy vintages. He now collects wine himself, and estimates a third of his bottles are from Burgundy. 

“There’s this shift in the buyer of these benchmark regions, in part because our media has shifted as well,” says Tonya Pitts. “There are so many voices that are amplifying these regions and brands, and there’s so much more that’s being shown to people.” 

One of Burgundy’s most influential advocates is LeBron James, who frequently posts bottles like this 1979 Chambertin Clos de Beze (estimated retail price: $1,299) to his 134-million-follower Instagram account. “You can’t ignore that,” says Pitt. 

Other boldfaced names with Burgundy on the brain include Jay-Z and Nas, both of whom mention Burgundian producers in their lyrics. “Pop culture can have a big influence… People are coming into wine with a working knowledge of Burgundy,” says Stone. 

Is There Still Value to Be Found in Burgundy?

Mediageneity and marketability aside, Burgundy wine also just so happens to be really good. All those tiny plots, renowned soils, long traditions, and strict regulations produce distinctive bottles. 

“The idea that every single vineyard has a different quality and a different taste, and you can feel the terroir from vineyard to vineyard? There’s very few wine regions in the world that have that in such a small area of land, and as explicitly, and for as many hundreds of years,” says Filene. Burgundy also checks boxes for those who prioritize transparency, including many natural wine fans. “When they drink something, they want to know where it comes from,” she says.

Fortunately, although bottle prices continue to rise, it is still possible to find value in Burgundy. Filene recommends seeking out the entry-level bottles, called Bourgogne Blanc or Rouge, from top producers like Domaine des Comtes Lafon

Or, head to lesser-known regions of the area, like Viré-Clessé or Macon for white wines, and Marsannay for reds. Pitts says that wines from Cote Chalonnaise can have similar characteristics to those from Volnay, but with much lower price tags. 

“In Burgundy, there’s this concept that wine is for drinking,” says Filene. “Even as prices have gone up, Burgundian producers want to make wines that you don’t hide in your cellar and are afraid to open.” Consider that a call to action.

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