Burgundy, in north central France, is home to the world's most frustrating, unpredictable and—when everything goes right—glorious wines.

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The unpredictability of Burgundy wine is largely due to variable weather; it's hard to think of a region with as much difference between vintages. But people who love Pinot Noir (red Burgundy) or Chardonnay (white) owe it to themselves to investigate the Burgundy wine region—and not to forget Beaujolais, whose Gamay-based reds are some of the world's best wine values.

Burgundy Wine: Main Varietals

White Wines: Chardonnay

Red Wines: Pinot Noir, Gamay (in Beaujolais)

Burgundy Wine: Benchmark Bottles

For a sense of what Burgundy is about, try two wines from a great year: Olivier Leflaive's earthy '09 Meursault ($40) and Joseph Drouhin's firm, spicy '09 Pommard ($50).

Great Chablis

Good Burgundy wine is expensive; there's no way around that. But the steely Chardonnays of Chablis in the north remain under-valued. Both 2008s and 2009s are excellent. Here, four great village Chablis to try.

2009 Domaine Laroche Saint Martin Chablis ($22) Laroche's savory bottling has the chalky scent of classic Chablis.

2009 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis ($25) A family producer with a long history, Moreau is good at every level, from this green-appley wine to the estate's grand crus.

2009 William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis ($25) Fevre's entry-level Chablis bottling (above) is lemon-zesty, fresh and bright.

2009 Patrick Piuze Terroir de Courgis Chablis ($27) A stony note underlies the bright lime fruit of this up- and-coming producer's least-expensive bottling.

New Beaujolais

Renowned Burgundy producers are buying land in Beaujolais. One reason: An acre of cru Beaujolais costs $30,000; an acre of premier cru Côte d'Or vineyard is $570,000 or more.

2010 Henry Fessy Morgon ($15) Tart berry notes define this red from an estate now owned by Louis Latour.

2010 Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie ($22) This floral wine comes from a château purchased by Maisons & Domaines Henriot in 2008.

2010 Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent ($33) Maison Louis Jadot lends Burgundian power and ageability to its Beaujolais reds.


 Video: Burgundy Wine

Great Pairings for Burgundy Wine and More:

Cherry Tomato Tart with Basil
Credit: © Tina Rupp
Sizzling Shrimp Scampi
Credit: ©Con Poulos
Beaujolais Pairings