Affordable wines like Beaujolais, Lemberger and more give Burgundy Pinot Noir a run for its money

The price of Burgundy wine, especially red, has increased so much that it’s often beyond the reach of the average wine lover. While there is no replacement for Burgundy, there are certainly more affordable alternatives that are just as attractive.

Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio as a Burgundy Pinot Noir alternative

My favourite Pinot Noir alternative is wine from Mount Etna in Sicily, known as the Burgundy of the Mediterranean. Blessed with unique soil and an exceptional climate, the vines there are mostly grown on the slopes of the volcano at an altitude of between 450 and 900 metres, with some even planted higher than 1,000 metres. The mineral-rich black volcanic-lava soil, combined with the continental microclimate with its mountain–high diurnal temperature and low rainfall in summer, give the wine freshness and elegance.

The two red varieties grown on Mount Etna are Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Nerello Mascalese is an elegant, light- to medium-bodied red wine reminiscent of Pinot Noir with floral and fruity notes, a hint of earthiness, fine tannin and firm acidity, whereas the latter is more aromatic and softer in structure. Both can be made into varietal wines, but they can also be blended in order to combine their relative merits.

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Lemberger from Germany as a Burgundy Pinot Noir alternative

Then there is Lemberger from Germany, also known as Blaufränkisch in Austria and Kékfrankos in Hungary. Lemberger is dark in colour, has cherry and berry notes, high acidity, moderate tannin and long ageing potential. I would describe its style as between Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo from northern Italy. Along with Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, this variety has high acidity, giving it both freshness and ageing potential.

Beaujolais as a Burgundy Pinot Noir alternative

Just south of Burgundy is Beaujolais, a French wine region known for its Beaujolais Nouveau made from Gamay, a wine with an early release on the third Thursday of November. This wine has overt banana and bubblegum aromas because of its production method and is often dismissed by serious wine lovers. However, seriously made Gamay, under the classification of Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Crus, is reminiscent of its genetic cousin Pinot Noir, with notes of red fruits and herbs and lively acidity.

Of course, there is also Pinot Noir from outside Burgundy to consider. Baden, a wine region in Germany east of Burgundy, has a similar climate. Its Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), especially bottles from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards, is as elegant and long-living as its Burgundian counterpart.

Another region to check out is Hemel-en-Aarde in South Africa. Cooled by the Atlantic Ocean, the Pinot Noir there ripens slowly to develop multilayered flavours without sacrificing acidity. This wine has a slightly bigger structure than Burgundy’s but is just as graceful.

Burgundy Pinot Noir is irreplaceable, but you might actually prefer these alternatives after you taste them. It’s time to explore now!

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A marketer turned winemaker, I make, promote, judge, write about and drink wine.

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