Bottles from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti / Alamy
Scarcity and demand have always been at the crux of Burgundy’s fame. Whether Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, the unfortunate truth is that most of us will never encounter, let alone taste, many of Burgundy’s greatest wines.
Often strictly allocated to well-connected collectors and Michelin-starred cellars, these wines are rarely seen on store shelves or most restaurant lists. Add to that the ever-expanding global competition for Burgundy and successive years of small harvests, and these legendary wines become even more inaccessible to those without unlimited wine budgets.
Should you strike it rich someday, or find yourself adopted into an exceptionally well-drinking crowd, here are five of Burgundy’s most iconic producers and the flagship wines you’ll want to try.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, widely known as DRC, is singular in its centuries-long reign as the most hallowed estate in Burgundy.
Once owned by Prince Louis François de Bourbon-Conti, a cousin of King Louis XV of France, each of DRC’s grand cru vineyards represent an iconic climat. This Burgundy-specific term denotes vineyards boasting an extraordinary coalescence of optimum limestone soils, aspect, sun exposure and microclimate.
Its namesake vineyard, the Grand Cru La Romanée-Conti, is the jewel of DRC’s crown. A 4.5-acre monopole hidden behind stone walls and planted entirely with Pinot Noir dating to 1947, La Romanée-Conti produces less than 6,000 bottles annually. In 2018, two bottles of 1945 Romanée-Conti broke world records for the most expensive wines sold at auction, fetching $558,000 and $496,000.
The vines of La Romanée-Conti are so precious they were targets of a Hollywood-worthy extortion plot in 2010 and threatened with poison unless the estate paid a ransom of 1 million euros.
Arguably the sole challenger to the stratospheric pricing and reverence commanded by DRC, Domaine Leroy shares a complicated history and co-ownership with its storied rival. Founder Lalou Bize-Leroy is a former codirector and current shareholder of 25% of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Domaine Leroy, separate from Bize-Leroy’s family negociant operation, Maison Leroy, flourished in the early 1990’s after Bize-Leroy was voted off the board of directors at DRC.
Cultivated entirely under biodynamic principles and boasting some of the lowest yields in Burgundy (typically around 16 hl/ha), Domaine Leroy produces less than 7,200 bottles annually across nearly 30 vineyards throughout the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits.
Burgundy afficionados would be hard pressed to declare which of Domaine Leroy’s eight grand cru Pinot Noir is most iconic, but auction records indicate it’s the estate’s Musigny Grand Cru. In 2021, three bottles of Domaine Leroy Musigny, part of just 618 bottles produced in 2013, sold for nearly $47,333 per bottle.
The winemaking roots of the Leflaive family in Puligny-Montrachet trace to 1717. By the second half of the 20th century, Domaine Leflaive was firmly established as a leading producer of Chardonnay in Burgundy.
In recent decades, the preeminence of the domaine is often credited to the vision of Anne-Claude Leflaive, who took over the estate in 1990 and was an outspoken and early proponent of biodynamic viticulture before passing away in 2015.