Burgundy, also known as Bourgogne, is one of the smaller regions in France, yet that certainly doesn’t stop it from being one of the most important wine regions in the world. Wines from Burgundy are complex and somewhat difficult to make, with some of the priciest wines in the world coming from this area.
Types of Wine
When it comes to grape varietals, Burgundy primarily only focusses on two types; Chardonnay, which is used for white wine, and Pinot Noir, which is used for red. Burgundy is where these varietals originated, and the terroir of the region helps to express their aromatic and complex nature. While Burgundy can be associated with the red colour that takes its name from the wine, the region actually produces far more white wine than it does red! Around two-thirds of the wine made in Burgundy is white, made from Chardonnay grapes, with the other third of the wine being red from Pinot Noir grapes.
Burgundy Red Wine
Red Burgundy is unlike other reds available, with a lighter colour, lower level of tannins but a higher level of acidity; a great contrast to the richer reds produced in Bordeaux, another of the most popular wine regions in France.
Burgundy red wines will often be a little pricier than those produced in other regions, and this is largely down to the use of the Pinot Noir grape. As we mentioned in our grape varietals guide, pinot noir is exceptionally difficult to get exactly right, and the quality of the grapes declines the higher the yield is. Therefore, to make a good quality Burgundy, fewer grapes will be grown in a vineyard that could hold double, or even triple, the amount of grapes of another variety, pushing up the prices.
Burgundy White Wine
A wider range of cheaper white wines will be available in comparison to the reds of the region, especially with the warmer southern areas producing riper and larger yields of Chardonnay grapes. Often the taste of white wines from this area will be a reflection of their growing conditions, as chardonnay grapes tend not to have any typical distinctive flavours or aromas.
Located east of central France, Burgundy contains 5 main wine growing areas, including Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Beaune and Mâconnais. Between them, there are over 3,000 individual wine producers and 100 different appellations, which are the approved wine growing regions.
Chablis is the northernmost area of Burgundy and is geographically separate from the rest of the Burgundy area. Despite being a part of Burgundy wine region, it is actually closer both geographically, and in terms of terroir, to the Champagne region! Grapes have been grown in Chablis since the 12thcentury when vineyards were planted by the Cistercian monks. All of the wines made in Chablis are white and made from Chardonnay grapes.
Côte de Nuits
24 Grand Cru vineyards find their home in Côte de Nuits, where some of the most expensive vineyards in the world can be found. The vast majority, around 80%, of the wine made in this area is Pinot Noir, while the rest is made up of Chardonnay and Rosé. Some of the Pinot Noir’s from this area can get pretty pricey, reaching into the thousands, especially for more renowned bottles that can be aged for decades.
Côte de Beaune
In the heart of Burgundy, Côte de Beaune is known for its white wines, with 7 out of the 8 Grand Cru vineyards producing whites from Chardonnay grapes. The white wines from Côte de Beaune are aromatic, like all Burgundy wines, with floral and fruity notes present. This area is one of the most important regions in Burgundy, and alongside the Côte de Nuits the two areas are known as the Côte d’Or.
Further south sits the Côte Chalonnaise, where the winemaking is a little different from the rest of the region. Originally a poorer part of the region, Côte Chalonnaise does not contain any Grand Cru vineyards. While Chardonnay is the white grape of choice for the rest of Burgundy, Bouzeron, a village in this region is the only appellation to focus on producing wines with the Aligoté grape instead! Another difference in winemaking techniques can also be found in the village of Rully, where white and rosé sparkling wines can be found.
The southernmost region, Mâconnais, has a much warmer climate than the other Burgundy regions, producing an earlier harvest with ripe fruit notes. More than 85% of the wines made here are white, made from Chardonnay grapes. The most famous area of Mâconnais, Pouilly-Fuissé, is found in the south.
Image Credit: Pierre LANNES
Burgundy Wine Classifications
The appellations are divided into four divisions that signify their quality; Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village Wines and Regional Wines.
These wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere across the region, and are likely to be simply labelled as ‘Bourgogne Rouge’ or ‘Bourgogne Blanc’, depending on if the wine is red or white. Just over half of the wines made in Burgundy will be regional wines.
These wines are named after the towns closest to where the grapes were grown. Around 37% of the wine made in Burgundy is village wine, and these will be a little more complex than regional wines, but cheaper and less intense than the Cru wines.
Premier Cru wines make up 10% of the wine in Burgundy and come from better areas within a village. This means that they have better growing conditions or production techniques, and so create a more intense wine.
Only 1% of wines made in Burgundy are worthy of being classified as a Grand Cru, with only 33 vineyards reaching this standard. Made for cellaring, these wines will be the boldest and most complex available in Burgundy.
If you are looking to expand your wine collection to include some bottles from Burgundy, then make sure you have a Climadiff wine cabinet to ensure each bottle is stored perfectly!
Image Credit: Shunichi kouroki