The Basics of Burgundy
If any of you follow me on instagram, you know that I was shamelessly posting up a storm during my trip to France last week. During my time there, I had the opportunity to visit Burgundy and explore my all time favorite wine region in the world. It was truly a life changing experience. Just being able to experience the caves and to see the terroir and vineyards really helped me to understand what makes these wines so fantastic. As a result, I thought I would share with you three general facts about Burgundy to simplify this complex region and help you navigate any wine shop or wine list like a pro. And in case you missed my instagram pictures, I put them all in a little slide show below :) Enjoy!
Fact 1. The grapes:
Any White Burgundy you drink will be from the chardonnay grape. Any Red Burgundy you drink will be from the pinot noir grape. Boom.
Fact 2.The regions:
There are five basic regions in Burgundy that you should be familiar with. In order from north to south...
Chablis- geographically set apart from the rest of Burgundy. Chablis produces all white wine. The wines are almost always unoaked, crisp, acidic, with hints of lemon, lime and green apple. A great wine with which to start the night (or day)!
Cote de Nuits- this area is home to some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. It produces about 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. The Cote de Nuits is home to 24 Grand Crus including Chambertin and Clos de la Roche.
Cote de Beaune- this area is home to some of the best Chardonnay's in the world, including my personal favorite, Corton Charlemagne. It primarily produces Chardonnay's.
Cote Chalonnaise- this area is responsible for producing white, red and sparkling wines of great value. The wines will not be as complex as you might find in the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune but are still deserving of some credit and won't break the bank.
Maconnais- the largest and most southerly region in Burgundy. This regions produces all Chardonnay and is most notably known for producing the delicious Pouilly Fuisse wines.
Fact 3. The classifications:
Ok, things start to get a little tricky here so I'll try to keep it as concise as possible. There are 4 classifications that are essentially a ranking system of plots of land. In Burgundy it's all about land and in this system as the quality goes up, the quantity produced goes down. Let's start at the top-
Grand Cru- these account for about 2% of wines produced in Burgundy and are the cream of the crop. A wine labeled Grand Cru must come solely from that specific vineyard that has been labeled Grand Cru and will say Grand Cru on the bottle.
Premier Cru- these wines make up about 10% of the wine produced in Burgundy. The term '1er Cru' appears on all bottles and is certainly a sign of a high quality wine, however, these wines will have some variation in price and quality for several reasons. A Premier Cru wine can either be comprised of grapes from one Premier Cru vineyard OR a combination of Premier Cru vineyards from the same village. This will be noted on the bottle. For example, if a wine is labeled 'Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru' it's safe to assume that this wine is a combination of Premier Cru Vineyards from the town of Chassagne Montrachet. However, if it says 'Chassagne Montrachet- Clos Saint-Jean Premier Cru' this means that all of the grapes came from the Clos Saint-Jean vineyard.
Village- these wines make up about 37% of wine produced in Burgundy and only have the name of the village on the bottle. These are made up of any combination of grapes from vineyards in same village. There are certainly great quality Village wines, however, watch out for some marketing tactics that make these wines look much more appealing than they might be. For example, a wine labeled 'Gevrey-Chambertin' simply means that all the grapes are sourced from a combination of vineyards in Gevrey Chambertin. They are not necessarily the high quality grapes that the region is known for. Look out for top quality Burgundy producers and don't be afraid to ask for a suggestion at your local wine store. You don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a good quality Burgundy wine!
Regional- these wines make up 51% of wines from Burgundy and are comprised of any combination of grapes from Burgundy. If you see a wine labeled Bourgogne Rouge or Bourgogne Blanc, these means the grapes have come from several different vineyards in Burgundy. Like Village wines, there are some delicious Regional wines available, you just have to do your research!
I have one more tip to avoid getting sucked in by the marketing powers that be. A lot of the time you will see the producers name on the bottle and under it, you will see the town in which the producer resides. This does not mean the grapes are from that town. Lets take a look at this label:
This is a 2012 Village wine from Marsannay. All of the grapes are sources from the vineyard En Ouzeloy. René Bouvier is the producer and his winery is in Gevrey Chambertin, however, none of the grapes are from Gevrey Chambertin. Many people see this on the label and immediately gravitate toward it because they know that Gevrey Chambertin is known for producing top quality wines.
Ok, I know this did not seem super concise but hopefully it did seem simplified! If you think you're not a chardonnay or a pinot noir lover, think again! These wines are a true expression of what these grapes taste like at their best. Cheers!