Start a conversation about Burgundy with some casual wine enthusiasts, and you can be reasonably sure that within the first minute, you will hear that Burgundy is too expensive and that the quality is too hit-or-miss. Old reputations sometimes die hard, and this badly outdated image of Burgundy is like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction – it refuses to die. Here's the reality: The very finest Burgundies are crazy expensive (upwards of $1,000 per bottle), but there are lots of Burgundies that are both delicious and affordable, and the quality has never been better or more reliable. Thanks to improved farming and more consistent weather, France's Burgundy (Bourgogne) region is turning out terrific wines at all price points these days. No, you won't find a good Burgundy for $8, but if you are willing to pony up a bit more than that, you can drink seriously well.
A case in point is the 2010 Domaine Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru Il des Vergelesses ($50). Translation: This is a premier cru red Burgundy (premier cru being the second-highest designation in Burgundy, after grand cru) from the Pernand-Vergelesses appellation, which is located in the heart of the Côte d'Or, home to Burgundy's best vineyards. Like nearly all red Burgundies, it is made entirely of pinot noir, and it was produced by Chandon de Briailles, a winery that has become something of an insider's favorite – not least because the wines marry outstanding quality to great value. The 2010 Ile de Vergelesses has a knockout nose evocative of red berries and wet stones; if you didn't know otherwise, you'd think you were sniffing a grand cru. It is an elegant, deeply flavored wine with excellent tannins and acidity to parry the fruit and a long, mineral-inflected finish. This is the kind of wine that can turn you into a Burgundy nut and is testament to the high quality being produced now in this fabled French wine region.