Bordeaux or Burgundy?

Great debates of Western Civilization: boxers or briefs, Ginger or Mary Ann, Rolling Stones or Beetles? Among oenophiles: Bordeaux or Burgundy?

Some draw battle lines over grapes. Bordeaux lovers enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and divide into those who think Cab is king (left bankers) and those who find Merlot more meritorious (right bankers). Five other grapes can contribute to Bordeaux blends and add arcane nuances to arguments.

On the other hand, Burgundy fans believe Pinot Noir rules in triumph of elegance and earthiness over Bordeaux’s ostentatious polish and power.

Others cite regions’ cultural differences. Port city Bordeaux is cosmopolitan, commercial, corporate. Price is holy grail: famed 1855 classifications based on price still define Bordeaux wines.

Burgundy is earthy, has much smaller production. Terroir—where the grapes grow—is the standard by which wines are judged, not grubby money.

Bordeaux has long been affluent, long embraced rich outsiders. Burgundy is a patchwork of family farms passed down through generations; land is not for sale no matter how much you can pay; you’re not from around here, are you, monsieur?

One critic wryly commented Bordeaux wine makers graduate from university, speak English, play tennis. Burgundians dismiss higher education, wear rustic clothes, and proudly celebrate peasant roots even after achieving multi-generational wealth.

As the story goes, Bordeaux makers spend time in the office and hire others to do manual tasks. Burgundians spend time in the vineyard and cellar; their children are the workers.

Different strokes, different folks. Let us spend our days debating the allures of each, while drinking them both.


• Viceux Chateau Landon Medoc. Left bank, maybe most famous wine district in the world. Red fruits; super value. $22

• Domaine Joseph Belland Santenay. Superb Burgundy Pinor Noir value. $24

• Chateau Brun Saint-Emilion. Largest right bank producing region. Bright red fruits, juicy delight. $30

• Chateau St. Georges St. Emillion. Lively, full-bodied, tight tannins. $36

• Chateau Batailley Pauillac. Slice of the Medoc. Blackberry, cherries, full body, silky tannins. $57