The Bourgogne Wine Region

The Bourgogne wine region is located in the Eastern part of France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône River, a tributary of the Rhône, on a primary commercial axis linking Northern Europe with the Mediterranean Basin, a historical trading route since the Middle-ages. The Romans were the first to introduce viticulture into the area during their settlement of Gaul sometime during the 3rd century BCE. The Benedictines at the Abbey of Cluny, and the Cistercians, at the Abbey of Citeaux, have had an important influence on the development of Burgundy wines through the dark ages, relayed later on, by the Dukes of Burgundy until the French revolution.

Today, there are 29,000 hectares of vines planted in Burgundy, accounting for 4% of all commercial winegrowing in France. The average yearly production is 170 million bottles per year, 59% white wines, 30% red wines and 11% sparkling wines. The Grand Crus vineyards represent only 1% of the Burgundy production, while the Villages and Premiers Crus represent 46% and the Regional appellation Bourgogne represents 53% of the production.

The Climats and lieux-dits give Bourgogne wines their unique identity. Their origins lie in the environment, local heritage, know-how and human history. The Climats confer their own unique organoleptic qualities onto the wines of Bourgogne, such as their appearance, aromas, flavours and texture. In 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word “Climat” and on 4 July 2015, the Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Although most people are focusing their attention on the “Route des Grands Crus”, along the Côte d’Or, from Marsannay in the North to Santenay in the South. The Bourgogne wine region can be divided into 5 areas:

1) Chablis

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Chablis, the northernmost district of Burgundy, lies about 15 km east of Auxerre in the Yonne department, situated roughly halfway between the Côte d'Or and Paris. For many wine drinkers, Chablis has become synonymous with Chardonnay, which covers 100% of the appellation. There are 4 different appellations. At the top of the classification are the 7 Grand Cru vineyards, which are all located on a single hillside near the town of Chablis, from northwest to southeast: Bougros, Les Preuses, Vaudésir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. Together, the Grand Cru vineyards account for 3% of Chablis annual production. Second in quality are the 40 Premier Cru vineyards, which are covering an area of 750 ha. All of the Chablis Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are planted on Kimmeridgean soil which imparts a distinctively mineral, flinty note to the wines. Next is the generic AOC Chablis with 2,860 ha. At the lowest end of the classification is "Petit Chablis" which includes the outlying land with 560 ha planted out of 1800 ha permitted.

2) The Côte de Nuits

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The Côte de Nuits, is located in the northern part of the Côte d'Or, the limestone ridge at the heart of the Burgundy wine region, and stretches over 20km from Dijon to Nuits-Saint-Georges. The Côte de Nuits is most famous for its red wine made from pinot noir. The Côte de Nuits covers 14 communes.

Uniquely in Burgundy, Marsannay-la-Côte produces wine of all 3 colors - red and rosé from Pinot Noir (180 ha), white from Chardonnay (28 ha). The Marsannay appellation extends into Couchey and Chênove. The Marsannay AOC was created in 1987, and is the most recent addition to the Côte de Nuits. The wine production corresponds to just under 1.3 million bottles of wine, of which just over 850,000 bottles of red wine, 200 000 bottles of rosé, and 200 000 bottles of white wine.

The village of Fixin has its own appellation, but the area of Brochon Côte de Nuits Villages extends into the commune 5 Premier Cru vineyards (14 ha). The Fixin vineyards cover 96 hectares (96% red and 4% white). The wine production corresponds to 500,000 bottles of red wine and 20,000 bottles of white wine.

Burgundy Cote d'Or

Only 6 villages produce 24 grand cru wines (from North to South):

- Gevrey-Chambertin has more Grand Crus than any other village, with nine. Chambertin and its extension Chambertin-Clos de Beze are widely recognized for the quality of their red Burgundy, highly colourful and potent. The other Grand Crus are Mazis-Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyeres-Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin, Latricieres-Chambertin and Ruchottes-Chambertin. 26 climats are classified as Premier Cru vineyards. There are 409 hectares of vineyard in production, making it the largest village-named appellation of the Côte de Nuits, and the second largest of the Côte d'Or, just behind Beaune AOC, corresponding to just over 2.3 million bottles of red wine.

- Morey-Saint-Denis, is a small commune noted for its full-bodied red wines with 4 Grand Crus: Clos de la Roche, Clos St. Denis, Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart, forming a continuous band across the commune, along the “Route des Grands Crus”. 20 climats are classified as Premier Cru vineyards (39 ha). There are 96 hectares in production for Morey-Saint-Denis at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 500,000 bottles of red wine (96%) and 20,000 bottles of white wine (4%).

- Chambolle-Musigny, are particularly chalky, giving the wines a lighter body and finer edge of aromas that complements the usual Côte de Nuits backbone. There are 25 Premier Cru vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny, and two Grand Cru vineyards: Musigny (10 ha) and Bonnes Mares (16 ha, a portion is shared with Morey-Saint-Denis). Musigny is the only Grand Cru vineyard in Côte de Nuits which may also produce white wine from Chardonnay (about 10%). 152 hectares are in production at village and Premier Cru level corresponding to slightly over 800,000 bottles of wine, mostly red wine.

- Vougeot has just one Grand Cru vineyard - Clos Vougeot that is massive by Burgundy standards (while Corton in Côte de Beaune is the largest grand cru in Burgundy as a whole), and produces 3 times as much wine as the rest of the commune. But the variation in terroir over its 50 hectares and the different winemaking styles of its 75+ owners, mean that wines labeled Clos Vougeot show as much variation as the wines from entire communes elsewhere. There are 15 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level (4 climats) corresponding to 50,000 bottles of red wine and 20,000 bottles of white wine.

- Flagey-Echezeaux is best known for its 2 Grand Crus of Grands Echézeaux (9 ha) and Echézeaux (37 ha), most of the other vineyards of the commune is part of the Vosne-Romanée appellation, and there is no "Flagey-Echézeaux" appellation.

- Vosne-Romanee, contains some of the most famous names in the wine world, there are a total of 15 Premier Cru vineyards, as well as 6 Grand Cru vineyards, notably Romanée-Conti (1.8 ha) and La Tâche (6 ha), 2 monopoles of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The other Grand Crus are Richebourg (8 ha), La Romanée (the smallest AOC in France at 0.84 hectares and monopole of Comte Liger-Belair), Romanée-St. Vivant (9 ha) and La Grande Rue (1.6 ha monopole of Domaine Lamarche). There are 153 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level corresponding to almost 800,000 bottles of wine. In the firmament of the Cotes de Nuits, Vosne-Romanee is the brightest star, the greatest Pinot Noir style with a delicate but well-defined bouquet, a stylish, velvety depth of flavour and lingering but firm finish.

The appellation Nuits-Saint-Georges is produced in the communes of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Premeaux-Prissey. There are 306 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level corresponding to 1.5 million bottles of red wine (97%) and 40,000 bottles of white wine (3%). There are 41 Climats classified as Premier Cru vineyards (146 ha) and no Grand Cru vineyards.

The Côte de Nuits and Hautes-Côtes de Nuits (657 hectares, 3 million bottles of red wine and 800 000 bottles of white wine) are 2 appellations for wines from several communes, including some which don't have a specific village appellation of their own. Both are typically seen as simpler appellations than those named after individual villages.

3) The Côte de Beaune

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The Côte de Beaune, extends over 25km from Pernand-Vergelesses to Les Maranges. Around the town of Beaune, the vineyards are mainly planted with Pinot Noir (Volnay, Pommard, Ladoix), although the Chardonnay grape produces a few marvels on the Corton hill (Corton, Corton-Charlemagne). From Meursault onwards, the Chardonnay grape dominates, producing legendary Grand Cru appellations such as Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and less well-known villages such as Saint-Aubin and Santenay.

There are 18 villages appellation in the Cotes de Beaune, from North to South:

- Pernand-Vergelesses has 135 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 400,000 bottles of red wine and 350,000 bottles of white wine. There are 8 climats in Pernand-Vergelesses classified as Premier Cru (44 ha red and 18 ha white). There are 3 Grand Cru: Corton, the Côte de Beaune's only Grand Cru appellation for red wine and the largest Grand Cru of Burgundy (95 ha, 380 000 bottles of red, 20 000 bottles of white), Corton-Charlemagne (52 ha and 300 000 bottles of white wine) which includes the lieu-dit Charlemagne (0.28 ha and 875 bottles only). Bonneau du Martray is the largest single owner of vines within the Corton-Charlemagne vineyard with 9.5 hectares (plus 1.5 ha in Corton red).

- Ladoix-Serrigny has 94 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 400,000 bottles of red wine and 150,000 bottles of white wine. There are 11 climats classified as Premier Cru (16 ha red, 8 ha white). The Grand Cru AOCs of the Corton hill are partially overlapping in 3 communes: Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton (the largest part) and Ladoix-Serrigny (Le Rognet et Corton, Clos des Cortons…).

- Aloxe-Corton has 117 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level corresponding to 600 000 bottles, including 10 000 bottles of white wine. There are 13 climats classified as Premier Cru vineyards. The major part of the Corton hill with the 3 Grand Crus is located within Aloxe-Corton (169 ha). Given the size and diversity of the Corton vineyard, 22 plots have the right to append their name on the label, Le Corton, Clos du Roi, Bressandes, Renardes, etc.

- Savigny-les-Beaune is the third biggest appellation by production in the Côte de Beaune, it has 347 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 1.5 million bottles of red wine (85%) and 250,000 bottles of white wine (15%). There are 22 climats classified as Premier Cru (132 ha red, 11 ha white). There are no Grand Cru vineyards.

- Chorey-les-Beaune is another satellite appellation of Beaune producing mostly red wine, there are 133 hectares in production, corresponding to 650,000 bottles of red wine and 40,000 bottles of white wine. There are no Premier cru nor Grand Cru vineyards. Chorey-les-Beaune wine is sometimes blended and sold as Cote de Beaune Villages.

- Beaune is the largest village-named appellation of the Côte d'Or, just ahead of Gevrey-Chambertin in vineyard size. There are 411 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 1.8 million bottles of red wine and 300,000 bottles of white wine. There are 42 climats in Beaune classified as Premier Cru (275 ha red and 40 ha white). Clos des Mouches from Joseph Drouhin, Clos des Ursules from Louis Jadot and Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus from Bouchard Pere et Fils are the most famous. There are no Grand Cru vineyards. Côte de Beaune AOC, often confused with Côte de Beaune-Villages AOC, is an AOC for a small number of vineyards high on the slopes above Beaune. Beaune is also the centre of the Burgundy wine business, with most of the largest négociants located in the town, as well as the Hospices de Beaune, which annually holds a charity wine auction.

Hotel Dieu, Hospices de BeauneHotel Dieu, Hospices de Beaune

- Pommard has 320 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 1.7 million bottles of red wine. The second largest production area after Beaune. Pommard is only used for red wine with pinot noir as the main grape variety. There are 27 climats classified as Premier Cru vineyards (115 ha). Les Epenots, Les Rugiens are the most notable. There are no Grand Cru vineyards. Pommard wines are typically among the most powerful and tannic of the Côte de Beaune wines.

- Volnay has 206 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to just over 1 million bottles of red wine. Volnay is only used for red wine with pinot noir as the main grape variety. There are 29 climats classified as Premier Cru (132 ha), the most famous one are Bousse d'Or, Champans, Clos des Chenese, Clos des Ducs, Les Caillerets, Santenots and Taille Pied. There are no Grand Cru vineyards. The style of Volnay wine is typically light and aromatic, elegant rather than powerful.

- Monthelie has 120 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 550,000 bottles of red wine (85%) and 80,000 bottles of white wine (15%). There are 15 climats classified as Premier Cru vineyards (34 ha red, 2 ha white). There are no Grand Cru vineyards.

- Saint Romain is located in a side valley to the west of Auxey-Duresses, there are 96 hectares in production corresponding to 250,000 bottles of red wine and 300,000 bottles of white wine. There are no Grand Cru and no Premier Cru vineyards within Saint-Romain.

- Auxey-Duresses has 135 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 500,000 bottles of red wine and 250,000 bottles of white wine. There are 9 climats classified as Premier Cru (26 ha red, 3 ha white). There are no Grand Cru vineyards.

- Meursault makes wonderfully rich and buttery white Burgundy, with a clear oak influence, developing a certain nuttiness with time. There are 394 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to almost 2.5 million bottles, of which slightly less than 50,000 bottles of red wine (often labelled as Volnay-Santenots). There are no Grand Cru vineyards in Meursault but 18 climats are classified as Premier Cru (97 ha white, 1 ha red). The most famous are Perrieres, Les Cras, Genevrieres.

- Puligny Montrachet has 208 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 1.5 million bottles of white wine and only 7,000 bottles of red wine. There are 19 climats in Puligny-Montrachet classified as Premier Cru (87 ha white and 1 ha red), including Les Folatieres, Le Cailleret, Les Pucelles, Clavoilon. There are 4 Grand Cru vineyards located in the southern part of Puligny-Montrachet, bordering on Chassagne-Montrachet. Montrachet (8 ha and 47 000 bottles) and Bâtard-Montrachet (11 ha and 62 000 bottles) cross the communal border and are shared with Chassagne-Montrachet. Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet (3.5 ha and 20 000 bottles), and Chevalier-Montrachet (7.5 ha and 38 000 bottles), are located entirely within Puligny-Montrachet. Montrachet wines are the most expensive dry white wines in the world. The style of white wine is often very mineral, with a more restrained oak character, and described as elegant rather than fruit-driven.

- Chassagne-Montrachet has 301 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 1.4 million bottles of white wine (2/3) and 700.000 bottles of red wine (1/3). There are 48 climats classified as Premier Cru (108 ha white, 36 ha red). There are 3 Grand Cru vineyards located in the northern part of Chassagne-Montrachet, bordering on Puligny-Montrachet. Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet cross the communal border and are shared with Puligny-Montrachet, while Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet (1.5 ha) is located entirely within Chassagne-Montrachet. The white wine in Chassagne tends to be richer and fruitier than that of Puligny but not as elegant; the reds are quite robust and need time to come round.

- Saint-Aubin has 162 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 800,000 bottles of white wine (75%) and 300,000 bottles of red wine (25%). There are 20 climats in Saint-Aubin classified as Premier Cru (95 ha white, 32 ha red). Once planted with Gamay but now produce a mixture of Chardonnay and Pinot noir. The reputation of its white wine is developing as the prices of its neighbours head into the stratosphere. The red wines have leathery notes in their youth, that soften attractively with age.

- Santenay has 330 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to 1.5 million bottles of red wine (85%) and 300,000 bottles of white wine (15%). There are 12 climats in Santenay classified as Premier Cru (110 ha red, 13 ha white). There are no Grand Cru vineyards. The red wines are solid, tending more towards the rustic than the elegant, but are cheaper than the big names to the north.

- Les Maranges has 170 hectares in production at village and Premier Cru level, corresponding to almost 900.000 bottles of red wine (95%) and 50.000 bottles of white wine (5%). There are 7 climats in Maranges classified as Premier Cru (80 ha red and 3 ha white). There are no Grand Cru vineyards. Being in Saône et Loire some people consider these villages not to be part of the Côte d'Or, although the geology is similar and the wines are decent.

4) The Côte Chalonnaise

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The Côte Chalonnaise and the Couchois is some 25km long by 7km wide and produce ruby red wines made from Pinot Noir, as well as delicate white wine from Chardonnay and Aligoté. Enjoying hot summers and dry weather in the fall, the grapes have no problem ripening here. There is no Grand Cru in the Cote Chalonnaise but some villages produce many Premier Cru wines: Bouzeron, Givry, Mercurey, Montagny and Rully.

5) The Mâconnais

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The Mâconnais is a winegrowing region with a southern accent where the Chardonnay grape reigns supreme, the wines from Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Veran are particularly sought-after, and where patches of Gamay can be found at the border with Beaujolais. In 2010, the total Mâconnais vineyards covered 7,000 hectares corresponding to 45.7 million bottles of wine.

There is no doubt that Burgundy today is the benchmark for top quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir throughout the world. The demand is high and the supply is limited, driving mechanically the prices to atmospheric levels. A phenomenon accentuated by speculators, who are purchasing bottles only to sell them for a profit later, and never intended to drink it. The practice is frowned upon by the winemakers who are routinely claiming that they are producing wine for people to enjoy drinking, not to invest in.

Cheers,

G.