About the Burgundy Wine Region
The five wine districts of Burgundy start in the north in the town of Chablis. As you move south, you reach the area known as the Côte D’Or, which means “Golden Slope.” It is divided into two sub-regions, the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune. As you continue south, you enter the Côte Chalonnaise and then the Mâconnais. The fifth and final region in the south is Beaujolais.
Location is key in Burgundy, as the region is comparatively cool and sun exposure is very important. The finest vineyard sites face the sun, which is critical to assure that grapes fully ripen. Vintners pay careful attention to weather conditions and in years when sunlight is not in abundance, highly acidic and thin wines are the costly result.
In Burgundy, white wines are almost exclusively made from Chardonnay grapes and the red wines from Pinot Noir. Specific sub-regions within Burgundy are often specifically planted to either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, depending on the unique terroir of the area.
Burgundy Classification & Quality Levels
Burgundies are divided into four quality levels, listed in ascending order of quality and price:
AOC Bourgogne: This is the regional level and the level that imposes the fewest restrictions on wine-making. When balanced, these wines are good everyday values. On the labels, you will see the phrase Appellation Bourgogne Contrôlée, which is the most general AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in Burgundy. AOC is the term the French use to define products of distinct regional origin.
AOC Village: These wines offer a step up in quality with more focused flavors. They represent the majority of wines produced in Burgundy (36% of production). Examples are Côte de Beaune Villages or Côte de Nuits Villages, where wines from several villages are blended into a regional style. A slightly higher quality level would be reflected in a specific village name like, Appellation Volnay Controlée or Appellation Pommard Controlée.
Premier Cru: Premier Crus are from a specific vineyard that is listed on the label. They have more stringent restrictions (such as yield restrictions of 45 hectoliter/hectare) and represent 12% of total production. An example of a label is Appellation Volnay Premier Cru - Clos des Chênes, where Clos des Chênes refers to the specific vineyard. These wines should have a higher quality level than those with a village name and should usually age for three to five years. They begin to get expensive and, if chosen correctly, will reflect their increased cost in their level of quality.
Grand Cru: Grand Crus are wines selected from the 32 Grand Cru vineyard sites. These are the wines that have made Burgundy famous. They are seductive, rare and very expensive. They represent only 2% of the entire production with even more stringent production standards (35 hectoliter/hectare). Unfortunately, the integrity of producers or domaines varies greatly and wines need to be selected carefully. Grand Crus are wines for cellaring and need at least five to seven years before consumption. The greatest examples will mature for 30+ years. Great Grand Cru Burgundy is something every wine lover needs to experience. A Great Grand Cru Burgundy is an iron fist in a velvet glove and something every wine lover needs to experience.
Food Pairings With Red and White Burgundies
Chardonnay from Burgundy is one of the greatest food wines in the world. This is due to the colder climate that produces steely acidity along with more minerality. The wine acts just like a squeeze of lemon to cut through fattiness or rich sauces.
Leaner Chardonnay with citrusy notes:
Roast citrus chicken
Shellfish, simply prepared
Delicate fish, simply prepared
Roast chicken and mild game
Lighter mushroom dishes
Fuller bodied, richer styles:
Dover Sole Meunier
Butter Poached Lobster
Fuller bodied vegetarian dishes
Pinot Noir Pairings
Pinot Noir expresses itself very differently in Burgundy than it does in California. The cool climate creates lovely acidity that works so well in amplifying food flavors and cutting through rich sauces. The earthy notes in a Burgundy make it a perfect complement to a host of cuisine.
Mushrooms of any sort
Salmon (try Teriyaki)
Richly sauced pasta dishes
Beef stews and braises