What is the Secret to Burgundy Wine?
Burgundy’s wines are single-varietal wines made from grapes grown in the Burgundy region of France. This region lies southeast of Paris and runs south through Dijon, until just beyond Mâcon.
Anything but simple, the wines of Burgundy have become some of the most sought-after worldwide. While other countries craft excellent wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, only Burgundy contains the specific conditions for the pinnacle of expression of these grapes.
Grape Varieties Allowed in Burgundy Wine
Burgundy’s historic vineyards are home to the most revered expressions of Chardonnay (the most planted) and Pinot Noir in the world. But, other grape varieties thrive here, most notably the white Aligoté and the red Gamay (the grape of Beaujolais.) These four grapes make single-varietal wines and the sparkling wine, Crémant de Bourgogne.
The regions with their grape varieties:
- Chablis (Chardonnay only) & Grand Auxerrois (all four varieties)
- Châtillonnais (all four varieties + Crémant de Bourgogne)
- Côte de Nuits & Hautes Côtes de Nuits (primarily Pinot Noir)
- Côte de Beaune & Hautes Côtes de Beaune (primarily Chardonnay)
- Côte Chalonnaise & Couchois (all four varieties)
- Mâconnais(primarily Chardonnay, Gamay for the red)
Both the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune were named to the UNESCO World Heritage List, including the cities of Dijon and Beaune.
The Geology of the Burgundy Wine Region
Burgundy is unique due to its geology. Hundreds of millions of years ago, a shallow sea covered the area. The remains of sea creatures and shells plus the sandy soils were transformed over millennia into marl and limestone subsoil.
Sitting on a geological rift created during the formation of the Alps, gives the region its complex soils. This tumultuous geology resulted in the tiny distinct plots so well-documented by the monks.
The ultimate expression of terroir, these plots, or climats, are each individually unique, as are the wines that originate from each one.
Pinot Noir prefers marl and limestone soils, while Chardonnay benefits from added clay. The wines achieve complexity, richness, elegance, and minerality due to the underlying base of limestone.
The Climate of the Burgundy Wine Region
Most of the wine region does not border water directly. A nearby river, the Saône, which flows into the Rhône at Lyon, provides little direct influence.
Though described as a temperate climate, three climatic influences dominate this region: Mediterranean, continental, and oceanic.
These influences allow for warm days, cold nights, enough sunshine for ripening, plenty of rainfall, and enough wind to moderate the impact of humidity. The climate is much colder and wetter in the north, drier and warmer in the south.
Burgundy’s combination of geography, geology, and climate provides unique conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to reach such aromatic richness, depth, and complexity.
Appellation d'origine Contrôlée (AOC) of the Burgundy Wine Region
The Appellation of AOC system guaranteesthe “typicity” of the wine, not the quality. The concept of terroir plays out in Burgundy as nowhere else. The unique combination of factors, particularly the specific aspects of each plot of land, leads to the classifications. Wine from Burgundy stands alone like no other as expressed in the AOC system.
Classification levels the 84 AOCs in Burgundy:
- The most common classification with 50% of production, and 7 AOCs.
- Least regulated and least expensive.
- Wines from named villages, over 38% of production, and 44 AOCs.
Premier Cru Climats
- Wines from named vineyards, another 10% of production.
- Premier Cru are designated by the climats, of which there are 640!
Grand Cru AOCs
- With only 2% of production and 33 AOCs, highest-level vineyard-designated wines, and are the most expensive.
Burgundy and Big Hammer Wines
Burgundy is the most hallowed wine-growing region of France, and Big Hammer Wines is your expert guide through it.