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The Best Next Door Appellations One of our time-tested hacks for identifying great wine values is to look for under-valued real estate—which is often right next door to a much-more-famous growing zone.

March 16, 2022
Vineyard shot.

After a two-year hiatus, I finally enjoyed a fancy restaurant meal recently—along with a first-in-a-while perusal of a fancy restaurant wine list. The group wanted white Burgundy, and the restaurant had plenty of white Burgundy to choose from, most of it in the high three-figure/low four-figure range. Wanting to keep the budget reasonable, I knew that blue-chip communes like Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet were out of the question, so I ventured a little south, to the Côte Chalonnaise, and found a Rully from the great Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey for a relative song. Great producer meets outer-borough region: My time-tested method for finding wine-list bargains!

I could have gotten even closer to the big time: There was a Saint-Aubin I had my eye on, too, and as savvy Burgundy drinkers know, you can’t get closer to Meursault/Chassagne/Puligny than Saint-Aubin. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time I referred to some of the best Saint-Aubin vineyards as being a “five-iron away” from the Montrachet Grand Crus…well, I’d be able to afford Montrachet. Among our favorite Saint-Aubin producers at SommSelect are Henri Prudhon, Hubert Lamy, and Bouard-Bonnefoy—names to remember for your next restaurant excursion!

So, let’s talk about some of the other Saint-Aubins of the wine world: The “next door” appellations everyone needs to know. Although this requires some knowledge of wine geography, the payoffs can be huge. In Old World Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Spain, etc.), wines have always been labeled with their place of origin most prominently featured. Historically, the first consideration when buying a bottle of wine was where it came from, and certain wine “appellations,” or place names, became powerful “brands” of worldwide recognition: Bordeaux and Burgundy in France; Rioja in Spain; Barolo in Italy…the list goes on.

These famous place names reflect a reverence for the concept of “terroir,” which posits that the unique climate, soil, and positioning of a vineyard (or group of vineyards) is the main determinant of wine quality. We believe in terroir, too, but some appellations have such outsized reputations that prices follow suit. The trick is finding undervalued neighborhoods right next door (or darn close) to the big-ticket addresses. Here are a few of our favorite next-door appellations around the world, and the grapes/wines they do as well as the blue chips—for less!

If You Like: The citrusy, mineral-laced Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre & Pouilly-Fumé, in France’s Loire Valley…

You Will Also Like: The remarkably similar, and more reasonably priced, wines of Menetou-Salon, a growing zone which borders Pouilly-Fumé to the west. You’ll find Kimmeridgian limestone soil here, as in Sancerre, and plenty of racy Sauvignon goodness. Look for producers such as Domaine des Brangers, Jean-Max Roger, and Remoortere (all featured here at one time or another).

If You Like: The tangy, textured Chenin Blancs of Vouvray

You Will Also Like: Their close cousins from Montlouis-sur-Loire, right across the Loire River, where vines root in the same limestone tuffeau and often eclipse their more-famous Vouvray counterparts. Producers to look for: François Chidaine; Domaine de la Taille aux Loups; Le Rocher des Violettes.

If You Like: Luscious Merlot-driven Bordeaux reds from the star-studded appellation of Pomerol

You Will Also Like: The similarly luscious, and much less expensive, Merlot-driven wines of Lalande-de-Pomerol, which is—you guessed it—right next door. Some other great next-door appellations in Bordeaux include: Moulis-en-Médoc (just west of Margaux); Côtes de Castillon (bordering Saint-Émilion to the east); and Cérons (right next door to Sauternes/Barsac).

If You Like: The palate-coating, powerhouse reds of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

You Will Also Like: An assortment of excellent reds from close neighbors such as Gigondas and Vacqueyras. Our favorites include Domaine du Terme, Domaine la Bouïssiere, and Domaine Santa Duc.

If You Like: Bold, woodsy Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany…

You Will Also Like: The increasingly excellent Sangiovese-based reds coming from the nearby Montecucco DOC, which extends southward from Montalcino. Producers to try: Colle Massari; Assolati.

If You Like: Nebbiolo from Barolo

You Will Also Like: Nebbiolo from Roero, which borders Barolo to the northwest. Soils are a little sandier in Roero, but the reds are every bit as noble and long-lived (and are catching up to Barolo in price in some instances). Top Producers: Malvirà; Matteo Correggia; Deltetto; Cascina Val di Prete; Marco Porello.

If You Like: The silky, earthy, aromatic reds of Rioja

You Will Also Like: The Tempranillo/Garnacha-driven reds of Navarra, right next door! Producers to seek out: Viña Magaña; Azul y Garanza; Bodegas Ochoa; Artazu

If You Like: The Luscious Grenache/Carignane blends of Spain’s vertiginous Priorat region…

You Will Also Like: The similarly succulent reds of its immediate downslope neighbor, Montsant, where the soils also contain the fractured slate known locally as llicorella. Producer options abound here: Buil & Giné; Joan d’Anguera; Celler de Capçanes; Venus La Universal; Sindicat la Figuera.

Check out a few of our favorite next door appellations in our store!