BURGUNDY WINES

  • Sunday, Day 01/11/2020
  • Burgundy, also called Bourgogne, is a wine region in France that produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. The classic, Old World wines from Burgundy are considered benchmarks for the rest of the world.

    History of Wine in Burgundy  

    A basic guide to Burgundy wine would be incomplete without a little bit of history. A couple million years ago, Burgundy was covered by a sea, which created its limestone and marl {a limestone-clay mix} soils. This soil composition is responsible for creating the coveted minerality of Burgundian wines. 

    In the Middle Ages, Christianity was on the rise across the whole of France. Wine then became a sacred drink, symbolizing the blood of Christ. It was a key element in the celebration of Christian rites.

    During this time, religion was very important, and bishops and monks had a growing role in society. The religious communities of the Bourgogne region received gifts from local nobility, often in the shape of land. They established huge estates, which they then enlarged by buying up neighboring plots. The monks used their land to firstly produce the wine necessary for the celebration of mass. Gradually, through their hard work, they developed the art of winegrowing, improving both quality and yields. As such, they were then able to sell some of their wines. And by the 15th century, the quality of their wines was recognized across Europe. Each abbey and each monastery made certain to maintain the very highest quality production to ensure their reputation

    The Dukes of Burgundy ruled the region in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Pinot Noir wine was so beloved that Duke Phillipe outlawed the growing of Gamay grapes in 1395. Later, he also banned manure fertilization, which increased grape yield, but diluted the flavors. In the late 15th century, Burgundy became part of France, which was still a monarchy. After the French Revolution, the church’s land was confiscated and auctioned off to private owners. Over several generations, the land was divided multiple times due to Code Napoléon. This law required that inheritances be divided equally among each child. Today, it’s not uncommon for a chateau to have dozens of owners, with only a few rows each.

     

    Main Grapes of Burgundy

    There are two main types of grapes grown in Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

    Pinot Noir originated in Burgundy and these vines cover 34% of the region, accounting for 29% of overall wine production. The red grape does extremely well in limestone and clay soil, which helps create their complexity. Pinot Noir wines from Burgundy range in color from cherry to brick, are light in body, and typically have red fruit and spicy flavors. Gamay is a red grape also grown in Burgundy, but only makes up 10% of the vines.

    Chardonnay is the primary grape for white wines in Burgundy, making up 48% of the vines and 68% of production. Chardonnay appreciates Burgundy’s marl soil, which gives it delicate floral, fruit, and mineral aromas and full-bodied flavors. 

    Burgundy Wines have a Complex Classification System.

    To summarise:

    Regional – 52% of the total production

    These are all the appellations where “Bourgogne” is part of the label: Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Côtes Chalonnaise, Bourgogne Pinot Noir… They represent over half of the production.

    Village – 35.6% of the total production

    There are 44 of them, representing 36% of the production. The name of the wine includes the village where it has been elaborated such as Beaune, Chambolle-Musigny, Côtes-de-Nuits. Villages. If all the grapes in the wine come from a specific plot within the villages AOC, the winemaker might also add the plot name to the label, like Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Evocelles”.

    Premier Cru – 11% of the total production

    Inside a communal appellation, specific parcels (or climat) have been classified as Premier Cru, based on various criteria such as wine quality or soils. They can be small or large, belong to one (“Monopole”) or many different owners. There are 562 Premier Cru appellations out there, for 10% of the production. The name of the parcel does not have to be on the label, however you should find the words “Appellation 1er cru Contrôlée” and most winemaker will add the parcel’s name to the wine, for example Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru “Les Peuillets”

    Grand Cru – 1.4% of the total production

    Grand Cru wines are the top notch in Burgundy. Coming from small climat in only 33 AOC and representing about 2% of the production, they are elaborated from the best parcels of Burgundy. “Grand Cru” has to be shown on the label. The Grand Crus are only in 3 sub-regions: Chablis, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.

    MAIN WINE REGIONS OF BURGUNDY 
    Burgundy is located in the centre of France and spans from Auxerre in the north to Lyon in the South, a distance of some 300 kms. However, it is divided into five regions that have very different styles of wine.
    Côte d’Or

    The Côte d’Or, or golden slope, is the heart of Burgundy. It stretches for 60 kms along a limestone escarpment South-West of Dijon. This region is where the most famous wines from Burgundy come from, almost all produced from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. It is actually two different sub-regions: the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune.
    Côte de Nuits
    The Côte de Nuits is the northern half, where Pinot Noir is dominant. More than 90% of wines are made from Pinot Noir and this sub-region contains some of the most famous villages as well as the most famous (and expensive) red Grand crus. 
    The most important villages here are, from North to South, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Vougeot, Flagy-Echézeaux, Vosne Romanée and Nuits-Saint-Georges. 

    Côte de Beaune

    The Côte de Beaune is the Southern half of the Côte d’Or, centred around the town of Beaune. Compared with the Côte de Nuits, the Côte de Beaune is much more focused on white wines, though the majority is still red. It is slightly wider than the Côte de Nuits and while most of the vineyards in the Côte de Nuits face South East, the orientation of vines in the Côte de Beaune is more varied, which may be why the region is both a red and white region.
    The main villages, from north to south, are Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet. As was the case in the Côte de Nuits, villages have appended the name of their most famous Grand Cru to their name. Another fun fact: the Grand Cru vineyard of Montrachet straddles the villages of Puligny and Chassagne, which is why they have both appended the name.
    Reds from the Côte de Beaune can be very good, but they can be a little rustic and lack finesse, and prices are about 40% less expensive than their counterparts from the Côte de Nuits. Whites here can also be very good, verging on sublime (and also very expensive). Grand Cru Montrachet is usually more than $600 per bottle, while village wines from Chassagne or Puligny are usually $60 to $100.
    Searching for value is the Côte de Beaune is also possible. Look for red wines from Maranges, Santenay and Ladoix, while whites from Saint Romain, Saint-Aubin and Auxey-Duresses are a bit easier on the pocketbook.
    Chablis
    Chablis is the northernmost wine district of Burgundy, centred around the town of the same name. The cool climate produces wines with more acidity and flavours less fruity than Chardonnay grown in other parts of the region. These wines often have a flinty note, sometimes described as tasting of gunflint. 
    Wines can be labelled Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru Chablis or Grand Cru (there is 1 Grand Cru but 7 climats or vineyards within this Grand Cru).
    A special limestone soil with fossilized sea creatures, called Kimmeridgian, is the main feature of Chablis, which may help to explain why it goes well with oysters.
    All Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are located on Kimmeridgian Soil, with Chablis and especially Petit Chablis grown on Portlandian soil, a limestone soil that is younger with a higher clay and calcium content.
    Côte Chalonnaise
    In many ways, the Côte Chalonnaise is a continuation of the Côte d’Or, but with no Grand Cru vineyards. The villages of Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagne can offer very good value wines, and Premier Crus from these villages are usually less than the price of a basic Villages wine from the Côte d’Or. 
    They are less complex than wines from the Côte d’Or but do not require much aging. A Villages-level Cote Challonaise will cost between $20 and $30, while Premier Cruse can be had for $30 to $40. They are exceedingly good value.
    Much of the wines coming from the Côte Chalonnaise are usually declassified to basic regional Bourgogne because it’s usually better known than the village names of this region. It is also the source of much of the grapes used to make Crémant de Bourgogne, the traditional method sparkling wine of the region.
    Maconnais
    This region takes its name from the town of Mâcon. It is best known as a source of good value white wines made from the Chardonnay grape. Almost all the wine made in the Mâconnais is white wine.
    There are no Grand Crus or even Premier Crus in the region, although the wines from Pouilly Fuissé are not only much sought after, they can also rival some of the white wines grown in the Cote d’Or. Other wines of note are Saint Veran, and many wines with Macon in the name (Macon- Chaintré, Macon-Uchizy, Macon-Vinzelles are some of the best).
    Most Maconnais wines are priced between $15 and $25, but a good Pouilly Fuissé can run up to $40.

    Recommendation from WeWine line