Burgundy, a small, almost secluded region in central eastern France, makes some of the world’s most sought after, expensive, and stunningly complex wines. There is a system of land ownership with thousands of tiny vineyards, each with multiple owners where two grape varieties dominate. All the top white Burgundies are made from Chardonnay. All the top reds come from Pinot Noir. Unlike in Bordeaux where the wines are blends, in Burgundy they are made with only Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Its’ small size does not prevent Burgundy from being one of the world’s most complex wine regions. For many centuries much of the land was planted by Benedictine and Cistercian Monks who established the tiny parcels that would become Burgundy’s best vineyards. The best Burgundies reflect their terroir, the unique environment (sun and soil) of the individual site where the vines grow. There is no single word in English for terroir, it’s the sum effect of soil, slope, orientation to the sun, elevation, rainfall, wind, fog, the average high and low temperature, etc. Wines from adjoining parcels using the same techniques, even made by the same winemaker, can show enormous differences. The only variable involved being place.
There are 562 Premier Cru vineyards and 33 Grand Cru vineyards with the most famous sub region being the Cote d’Or. There are four levels of quality in the Cote d’Or: The least expensive being Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, then Village wines, finally Premier Cru, and Grand Cru.
If you were to take a trip from Paris through Burgundy driving south the first sub region you would come to is Chablis. Chablis is entirely devoted to the growing of Chardonnay grapes. Next you arrive at the Cote d’Or. Most of Burgundies legendary wines come from there. It is divided into the Cote de Nuits (on the northern side) almost entirely Pinot Noir, and the Cote de Beaune (the southern half) planted in both red and white grapes. Just to the south is the Cote Chalonnaise, where being less famous then some other regions, some good values are to be found. Continuing south is the Maconnais, a fairly large region mainly devoted to white wine. The southernmost sub region of Burgundy, Beaujolais is devoted to fruity red wines made from the Gamay grape.
Burgundy’s cool climate makes it well suited to producing Chardonnays with elegance and nuance and Pinot Noirs with beguiling textures and sensual complexity.
I hope I’ve shed a little light on one of the most interesting wine regions in the world, and that you have the opportunity to try some of the wonderful wines produced there.
Quote of the month- “Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know” – John Keats
Our Wines of the Month are from StoneCap Winery in the Columbia Valley of Washington State. The 2012 Goose Ridge Estate Chardonnay is stainless steel fermented, to retain the fresh fruit and acidity.
A little Viognier is blended in to add some honeysuckle and softness to the melon and citrus notes of this beautifully balanced white wine. The 2012 Goose Ridge Estate Syrah has a full bodied flavor profile with dark berry and plum that blends with tobacco and mocha. Both wines will sell for $9 a bottle. Wine club members, please pick up your bottles before they’re gone.
Happy New Year!