The French region of Burgundy isn’t huge in size, but is incredibly influential in the world of wine. However, there is no need to be intimidated by it. Of course, it’s home to some of the most prestigious and expensive wines across the globe, but there are tasty and affordable ones as well.
While there are a lot of different grapes grown in the region like Gamay, Aligote, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, the primary focus of Burgundy is just two, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
To Burgundy winemakers, the region isn’t only the place where the world famous grapes were born, but also the terroir that expresses their character in the best way possible, complex, elegant and aromatic. So what is terroir? It’s the combination of everything around the grapes from soil and climate to human touch and vineyard placement.
Burgundy is located in the east center part of France, with five primary winegrowing areas and a lot of smaller ones scattered around the regions, which are Chablis, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais. Each region is famous for its type and character of wine.
The Chablis area is located farthest north and is set apart from the rest of the Burgundy region. It’s known for its cold winters, hot summers and spring frost, a lot like Champagne. The soil in the region is white and chalky in texture and great at retaining and reflecting heat. As a result, the grapes are able to ripen fully despite being this far north. All the wines coming from this region are white and only made with Chardonnay grapes.
Cote de Nuits
Cote de Nuits is home to the world’s most expensive vineyard real estate. Some of the Pinot Noir from this region can age for decades and cost well into the thousands of dollars! 80% of all wines made in the region are the world famous Pinot Noir and 20% can be either Rose or Chardonnay.
The Pinot Noir wines are notable for their classic Burgundy notes of cherry, spice, red fruits and earthy mushrooms. While they are far away from inexpensive, they are perfect for a special occasion!
Cote de Beaune
Cote de Beaune is well known for its rich Chardonnay grown in the vineyards. The popular names coming from this region are Corton, Corton Charlemagne, and of course, Montrachet.
Despite being most popular for its Chardonnay, Cote de Beaune produces both white and red wines. The former wines are filled with unique aromas of fresh apple, pear and soft white flowers with a touch of hazelnut. The latter ones have unforgettable flavours of cherrystone, plum and white tobacco, with an earthy touch and good acidity.
Cote Chalonnaise is the place where multiple different grapes are grown, a place of great diversity. They range from France’s signature Chardonnay and Pinot to white and rose sparklers to Aligote.
Aligote white grape grown in Burgundy is a perfect summer sipper that goes well with fish and shellfish. With notes of citrus and flint and a touch of honey, this wine is fantastic. White and rose sparkling wines of the region are made in a traditional method, identical to the one in Champagne. Both smooth and fruity Chardonnay and rustic and aromatic Pinot Noir made in Cote Chalonnaise are a good value for the money.
Southern and the largest region of Burgundy, Maconnais has a much warmer climate. In fact, the grapes ripen two weeks earlier than in Chablis, the area in the very north. The wines here are made of Chardonnay and show soft peach and pineapple aromas with notes of ripe fruits, citrus peel, honeysuckle and unique structure and freshness.
Burgundy Wine Classifications
If you are looking for quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Burgundy region, then you should probably also know how the wines are classified.
In total, there are four levels of quality:
Regional Wines account for approximately 52% of the wines from Burgundy. They are usually very affordable and can be made from grapes from anywhere in Burgundy.
Village Wines are account for 37% of wines from Burgundy and are generally more exquisite when compared to regional ones. All grapes for village wines must come from a specific town near to where the grapes are picked.
Premier Cru usually come from exceptional areas of Burgundy and are generally pricey, but still affordable. Nonetheless, 10% of all Burgundy wine is Premier Cru.
Grand Cru is the most expensive and high quality wine in Burgundy that only accounts for 1% of all the wine made in the region. Many wine enthusiasts are ready to pay top dollars for them.
As you can see, Burgundy wines can indeed get a little complicated, but it’s not hard to find the right wine if you know the region and classification basics!