Grapes and Wine in Burgundy
What makes BURGUNDY so SPECIAL?
The Burgundy wine region begins 100 kilometres south from Paris and stretches 360 kilometres down to Lyon. It is a patchwork of tiny vineyards in villages strung along a narrow valley and divided in numerous districts: Chablis, Côte d'Or (divided into Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais. So let's go and discover more about the grapes and wines of Burgundy.
Terroir is most important in Burgundy with immense attention paid to the area of origin, and in which of the region's 400 types of soil the different grapes are grown. However, in regional terms, the soil is largely old limestone from various period with some marlstone, apart from Beaujolais where the soil is acidic and sandy, lying over granite rock. Burgundy has a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy. Most vineyards lie on slopes facing east or south-east for better ripening.
Burgundy has a huge and deserved reputation for quality red wines with some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world, however production is 65% dry white wine, mainly from Chardonnay, and 35% red wine from Pinot Noir.
The region is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards. The best wines - "Grand Crus" - from this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the "Premier Crus" come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary "Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages.
The main Burgundy classifications, in ascending order of quality, are:
AOC Bourgogne classification refers to wines that can be sourced or blended from anywhere in the Burgundy region. These wines make up 50% of production.
Village wines can be a blend of wines from supposedly lesser vineyard sites within the boundaries of an individual village, or from one individual but non-classified vineyard. Village wines make up 36% of production.
Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as the Grand Cru sites. Premier Cru wines make up 12% of production.
Grand Cru refers to wines produced from the small number of the best vineyard sites in the Côte d'Or. Grand Cru wines make up 2% of the production.
Principal BURGUNDY Grape Varieties
A grape that when grown in the right terroir and with careful winemaking, produces wines of great character with good structure, sound aging ability and typically aromas of cherry and blackcurrant.
The grape of Beaujolais where on the granite soils where it can assumes character and dimensions of a quality red wine. Benefits from oak-cask aging.
The white grape of Burgundy producing often well-structured elegant wines with aromatic complexity, strength, firmness and mellowness
Used mainly to produce Bourgogne Aligoté, a dry white wine that requires little or no aging. Largely grown in the south of Burgundy.
BURGUNDY Wine sub-regions
The Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines are found, is split into two parts:
Côte de Nuits: Villages: Marsannay, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagey-Echézeaux, Vosne-Romaneé, Nuits-St-Georges
The most famous of all the Burgundy regions, The Côte de Nuits starts just south of Dijon and extends to a few kilometres south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges. In this region red wine accounting for over 85% of production. The great Côte de Nuits reds are reputed for their ageing qualities, their structure and their powerful flavor. They make a perfect companion for game or mature cheese.
Côte de Beaune: Villages:Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Savigny-les-Beaune, Chorey-les-Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, St-Romain, St-Aubin, Santenay and Auxey-Duresses
The region produces 55% red wine with quality in both reds, that are well fruited, tasty, sometimes quite elegant affairs, if perhaps a little lighter than their northern neighbours. The whites tend to be rich, intense, buttery chardonnays with good structure.
Côte Chalonnaise: Villages: Côte Chalonnaise, Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagny, Bouzeron, Givry, Buxy
The region lies south of the Côte de Beaune, and to the south again is the Mâconnais. Production spread roughly equally between red wines (55%) and whites including Crémant. We have found this to be an area for respectable Chardonnays and tasty Pinot Noirs at a fraction of the prices claimed for wines further north. Taste around and you will also find acceptable Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise and Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc at bargain prices.
Mâconnais: Villages: Viré, Clessé , Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Pouilly-Loché
The Mâconnais lies south of the Côte Chalonnaise, north of Beaujolais, and is the most southerly region in Burgundy where the classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are to be found. Here you will find some of the best value Chardonnay in Burgundy. Appellation wines from Pouilly-Fuissé have an international reputation for quality.
Beaujolais: Villages: St. Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Regnié, Morgon, Brouilly, and Cote de Brouilly
The Beaujolais region lies between the Mâconnais to the north, and, to the south, the city of Lyon, with the Rhône valley beyond. It is an intensely pretty region, with rolling hills gently sloping down to the Saône valley. The soil is mainly granitic, more so in the north, and also quite poor. The wines are mainly red, made from the Gamay grape, which really comes into its own on the granitic soils here. The wines from the Beaujolais region can be classified in three groups:
Beaujolais: a light red wine from the southern part of Beaujolais. Wide range of styles from light to fruity. Not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau, the November released new wine.
Beaujolais Villages: from the northern Beaujolais a wine with more body and structure and once again a lot of different styles.
Beaujolais Crus: from the 10 cru status villages/areas, each wine has its own distinctive character and style with the ability to improve with aging.
FACTS ON GRAPE GROWING & WINE-MAKING in BURGUNDY
Name: Appellation Controlée - 99 wine appellations!
Location: In the heart of France, between the cities of Dijon and Lyon
Vineyards: 5,200 wine growers 85% of the vineyards are smaller than 10 hectares (25 acres)
Places: 9,000 wineries
Size of the vineyards: 25,000 hectares (60,000 acres)
Production volume:180 million bottles 65% dry white wine - 35% red wine
Soil: Various: Limestone, clayey-limestone and marl
Weather: Continental with cold winters and warm summers