The Burgundy Wine Region

Burgundy Ariel

Exploring the Prestigious Burgundy Wine Region: An In-Depth Guide

Burgundy, a prestigious wine region nestled in the world of viticulture, boasts a rich history and exceptional grape varieties. Dijon, the region’s capital, lies in northeastern France along the Saône River valley, with inhabitants dating back to at least 4200 BC. Home to Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Chardonnay grapes, Burgundy produces exquisite red, white, and sparkling wines that have earned it a reputation as one of France’s best-known wine regions[1].

Self-Guided Wine Tour of Burgundy Pinot Noir Grape, What is Pinot?, pinot noir wine tasting

Understanding Burgundy Wine Labels

Burgundy wines are known for their exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, with the vineyards’ land considered indispensable for creating some of the world’s finest wines. To help wine enthusiasts navigate the region’s diverse offerings, Burgundy classifies its wines into four levels, each marked on the wine’s label.

Grand Cru

Grand Cru wines consist of grapes sourced exclusively from a single designated Grand Cru vineyard, which represents the best vineyards in Burgundy. These vineyards, producing the highest quality grapes and wines, account for around 1% of all vineyards in the region[1].

Premier Cru

Premier Cru wines feature grapes from a single designated Premier Cru vineyard, reflecting excellent quality just below the Grand Cru level. These vineyards make up around 10% of all plantings in Burgundy[1].

Village Wines

Of the 44 villages in Burgundy, each produces high-quality grapes and wines, earning the right to display their village name on the wine label. To achieve this distinction, all grapes used in the wine must originate from that specific village. Village Wines represent 37% of Burgundy’s wine production[1].

Regional Wines

As the lowest-ranked product, Regional Wines are crafted using a blend of grapes from vineyards located in unrecognized villages or a combination of villages. Labeled as “Bourgogne,” the French translation of Burgundy, these wines account for just over half of the region’s wine production[1].

A Glimpse into Burgundy’s Wine History

Burgundy’s long history with wine dates back to at least 50 BC, when the Celts were already producing wine in the region. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church assumed control of wine production in the area. Priests and monks, primarily from the Benedictine and Cistercian monastic orders, tended the vineyards and produced the necessary wine for their traditions and rituals[1].

The Cistercian monks, who believed that labor brought them closer to God, spent countless hours improving vineyards and wine production. Their precise records and observations on which vineyards produced the best grapes and wine continue to influence the region’s modern-day wine production. Many vineyards they considered top quality, such as Clos Vougeot, still maintain their prestigious status today[1].

Pinot Grapes during Verasion
Pinot Noir grapes during Verasion

Diverse Grape Varieties in Burgundy Wine

Pinot Noir, the star of Burgundy’s red grapes, accounts for 34% of the region’s vineyards and 29% of the total wine yield[2]. With flavors of cherry, black currant, mushroom, and cloves, Burgundy Pinot Noir wines offer a light to medium body. Gamay, the region’s other red grape, grows exclusively in the Beaujolais subregion in southern Burgundy[2].

Chardonnay, Burgundy’s most renowned white wine grape, constitutes 48% of plantings and 68% of the total yield[2]. Known for their delightful botanical, natural, and mineral fragrances, Burgundy Chardonnay wines possess a medium to full body. Aligoté, another white grape variety found in Burgundy, grows in a small subregion and represents just 6% of all the wine produced in Burgundy[2].

Pairing Burgundy Wine with Food

Burgundy wines, known for their elegance and diverse flavors, pair well with a wide array of dishes. When enjoying a glass of Burgundy Pinot Noir, consider pairing it with duck, roast beef, or mushroom-based dishes. The earthy and fruity flavors of the wine complement these foods perfectly[3].

For a delightful combination with white Burgundy Chardonnay, pair it with dishes like roasted chicken, creamy pasta, or seafood, such as scallops or lobster. The wine’s balanced acidity and rich, full-bodied character enhance these dishes’ flavors, creating a harmonious dining experience[3].

Did you know: Burgundy is subdivided into five subregions: Chablis, Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, and Beaujolias. The Côte d’Or has made Burgundy famous, but their wines are now often too expensive for the average consumer. Venture into Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais, or Beaujolais to find more accessible wines, that are still very high quality.

Map of Burgundy

Exploring the Subregions of Burgundy

Burgundy consists of several subregions, each offering unique wines and terroir. Some notable subregions include:

Chablis

Located in the northernmost part of Burgundy, Chablis produces world-renowned white wines made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. Chablis wines are known for their bright acidity and distinct mineral flavors, often attributed to the region’s limestone-rich soil[4].

Côte de Nuits

As part of the larger Côte d’Or subregion, the Côte de Nuits is famous for its exceptional Pinot Noir wines, including some of the world’s most sought-after Grand Cru reds. The area’s terroir, with its limestone and clay soils, contributes to the complexity and depth of the wines[5].

Côte de Beaune

Also part of the Côte d’Or, the Côte de Beaune subregion focuses on both red and white wines, with a particular emphasis on Chardonnay. The area is home to some of the most highly-regarded white wines, such as Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet[5].

Côte Chalonnaise

The Côte Chalonnaise, located south of the Côte d’Or, produces excellent red and white wines at more approachable price points. The region’s diverse terroir and slightly warmer climate contribute to the distinctive flavors of the wines[6].

In Conclusion

The Burgundy wine region offers a diverse range of exceptional wines that are highly sought after by wine enthusiasts around the world. Its rich history, unique classification system, and varied grape varieties make Burgundy a captivating and rewarding region to explore for both novices and seasoned wine lovers alike.

Sources:

[1] Burgundy Wine Region. Wine-Searcher.
[2] Wine Grapes in Burgundy. Wine Folly.
[3] Food Pairing with Burgundy Wines. Wine Folly.
[4] The Wines of Chablis. Wine Folly.
[5] The Wines of Côte d’Or. Wine Folly.
[6] The Wines of Côte Chalonnaise. Wine Folly.

Want to read more about Burgundy? Try out these books!

The Wines of BurgundyThe wines and winemakers at the heart of Burgundy

For Further Study

The Wines of Burgundy Hardcover – Illustrated, Clive Coates, May 12, 2008

The Original Grands Crus of Burgundy Paperback, Mr. Charles Curtis MW – October 17, 2014

Big Macs & Burgundy: Wine Pairings for the Real World Paperback, Vanessa Price and Adam Laukhuf – October 13, 2020

Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France (25th Anniversary Edition) Paperback, Kermit Lynch – Illustrated, May 7, 2019

Book Now

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