7 Burgundies For Beginners

Louis Max has a collection of basic Burgundies — starter Burgundies, if you will — that goes beyond the issue of whether the wine glass is half empty or half full. The question is more like is the glass plain empty or is the glass overflowing?

For people who know and love Burgundies, these 7 wines that feature the region's signature chardonnay and pinot noir grapes will probably seem quite simple and lacking the complexity for which Burgundies are known. Moreover, they may be a little too fruity or juicy, sometimes a tad sweet and they may not have the characteristics of the sub-region.

But those who are value-conscious and care little about a label's pedigree might think, "Are you snobs crazy? Here are seven clean, well-made wines that differ slightly from bottle to bottle, are not alcohol bombs (13% and under) and are all under $20 each. Or put it another way: with these Louis Max wines, I can have a bottle of legitimate Burgundy every night for a week for $120 — about $17 a pop."

For those who want to learn the basics of Burgundy on limited budgets, these wines are a good place to start, as long as you realize you're only getting a small sample of how complex Burgundy can be for just a few dollars more per bottle.

2012 Louis Max "Beaucharme" Bourgogne chardonnay ($13). Most of the Louis Max whites have a characteristic that, surprisingly, you seldom find in wines: they taste more like grapes than any other fruit. Not "grapey" like processed grape juice, but fresh grape flavors similar to biting into one in a vineyard or tasting fermenting juice before it evolves into wine and tastes like something else. That is the case here — simple, fresh-grape flavors, a little sweet with only mild acidity.

2012 Louis Max "Saint Jean" Chablis ($20). Grape and apple flavors, lots of refreshing minerality with a lovely, crisp finish like green apple skins.

2012 Louis Max Saint-Veran ($18). Very light green flavors — gooseberries — with a wan finish and little aftertaste. Some candied sugar notes.

My Pick of the Litter: 2012 Louis Max Pouilly Fuisse ($20). Quite nice creamy apple flavors, good intensity, buttery corn notes that chard often has and a good finish.

2012 Louis Max Macon-Villages ($16). An enjoyable white — slightly earthy, rounded mellow apples, some minerality and moderately full on the palate.

2011 Louis Max Bourgogne rouge ($13). A full, straightforward red with ripe cherry flavors, mild tannins and a slightly gamey edge that pinot often exhibits. As wine sellers like to say, "It certainly over-delivers for the price."

2011 Louis Max Mercurey rouge ($20). It tries for elegance, but doesn't quite make it. It's very light and simple with ripe cherries and a tart edge. When we were drinking this at dinner, my wife pegged it: "A good carafe wine at a café."