About The Burgundy Wine Region

Take a look at a map of Burgundy and you would be forgiven for finding it a little confusing. There is a secret to Burgundy however; due to our old friend, Appellation Controleè, there are only two grape varieties that dominate in Burgundy wine production – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which certainly simplifies the situation!

Key Burgundy Grape Varieties
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
  • Gamay
  • Aligoté

Facts about Burgundy Wines

In the wine trade, a sentence we hear so often is “I hate Chardonnay, but I love Chablis” even though Chablis is made from Chardonnay! So there you have it pub quiz fans, one for you to remember.

Sticking with the Chablis theme, Burgundy strongly relies on terroir to provide the key characteristics to the wines. Many would be forgiven for thinking Chablis isn’t part of Burgundy as it’s not connected to the rest of the region – you have to head slightly North West to find this sub-region. The soil here is primarily Kimmeridgean which is made up of mainly limestone and clay. Combine this with the cooler northern positioning of the vineyards and this terroir helps to create the minerality that is found in classic Chablis.

Prime Pinot Noir plots include: Côte de Nuit (Vougeout, Vosne-Romanee, Nuit-St Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin) Côte de Beaune (Pommard, Volnay) Côte Chalonnaise (Givry, Rully Rouge)

Classic Chardonnay plots include: Chablis, Côte de Beaune (Pernand- Vergelesses, Saint-Romain, Mersault, Puligny-Montrache, Chassagne-Montrachet, Santenay, Rully Blanc) Mâconnais (Viré-Clesssé, Mâcon-Villages, Saint-Véran, Pouilly-Fuissé)

Beware of HAIL! This unpredictable weather can destroy an entire vintage in minutes. The stones, sometimes as big as golf balls, hammer down and split the delicate grapes (Pinot Noir especially as it has a very thin skin), leaving them susceptible to disease and no longer of wine making quality.

The controls in place mean that growers aren’t allowed to put nets over their vines to minimise the damage…some say this is the beauty of vintage variation, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Burgundian grape grower that agrees!

Don’t forget Beaujolais; technically, this little sub-region is officially part of Burgundy, although the grape variety primarily grown here is Gamay. Gamay is famous for producing light and fruity styles that are massively undervalued and sometimes best served chilled!

Classifications (the technical bit)

Burgundy is a little simpler than Bordeaux as we have four main categories to focus on, look out for these key words on the label as an indication of quality level:

Grand Cru: The crème de la crème of Burgundy, almost always oak influenced and the best grapes from the best plots.

Premier Cru: Wines awarded this classification are very close to the top and often attract a higher price tag. The better quality grapes go into these bottles and equate to around 12% of Burgundy production.

Village wines: The wines are sourced from different vineyards in one village (think Mâcon for example). Negociants work together to source good quality grapes from the permitted area to produce consistent style and quality – often the best value wines can be found here.

Regional wines: Wines that are ready to drink now and can be sourced from grapes across the entire region rather than in one specific vineyard. These wines are simply labelled Bourgogne and attract the lower price point.

Hennings Wine Says

Burgundy produces some incredibly interesting wines, taking influences from terroir and winemaking techniques such as oak ageing, but perhaps most of all – from each other.

Certainly treat yourself to a Grand Cru but some of the co-operatively made Bourgogne wines are not to be sniffed at and can often offer a better level of consistency.

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