Burgundy wine (French: Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is any wine made in the Burgundy region of France. Burgundy is located in eastern France, running from Auxerre in the north down to Macon in the south. Its most famous and expensive wines originate from the Cote d'Or, where all Grand Cru vineyards are located. The Cote d'Or consists of:
- Cote de Nuits: Home to 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations. Soils favor Pinot Noir.
- Cote de Beaune: Home to all white Grand Cru appellations. Soils favor Chardonnay.
To the south is the Cote Chalonnaise, home to a mixture of red and white wines. Appellations originating here are less well known than those of the Cote d'Or. The Maconnais region, south of the Cote Chalonnaise, produces large quantities of affordable white wine. Further to the south is the Beaujolais region, home to the Gamay grape.
The climate of the Burgundy region varies from very cold winters to hot summers. Vintage variations are due to the rains, hail and frost which are all possible around harvest time.
Vine-growing in this region dates back to the second century AD, as substantiated by archaeologists. However, the Celts may have been growing vines as early as 51 BC. Roman Catholic Church monasteries have served as vineyard owners in early history. The Benedictines were one of the first major vineyard owners. In 1336, the Cistercians created the largest wall-surrounded vineyard, the Clos de Vougeot. Very little of the wine left the region during medieval times when wine was transported in barrels over waterways.
The Dukes of Burgundy promoted Burgundy's Pinot Noir variety during the 14th and 15 centuries. No other red wine was able to impress the court. In 1395, Duke Philip the Bold declared the Gamay grape as unfit for human consumption.
As the quality of roads in France improved, wine exports increased. Burgundy and Champagne were exported to the Paris market. As the power of the church decreased, many of the monastery vineyards were sold to the bourgeoisie of the 17th century. Many growers held only a row or two of vines because of continued division of the most precious vineyards. This resulted in the creation of negociants, wine producers who combined the output of many individual growers. Even during these times, there was a sensitivity to the different quality and styles of burgundy wines.
Soils and vines suffered after the devastation caused by World War II. It took time to bring the vineyards back to health. Soil recovery reached its peak in the mid-1950s, when the vineyards produced some of the top wines of the 20th century.
Over the next 30 years, the application of chemical fertilizers resulted in higher yields but the resulting wines had less flavor and concentration. There was a turnaround between 1985 and 1995 when vineyards concentrated on the production of deeper, more complex wines.
The very best vineyard sites are labelled "Grand Cru." Other vineyard sites of exceptional (but not Grand Cru) quality are labeled "Premier Cru."
A Burgundy wine label will always list the most specific geographic location where the grapes originate. Here is what you will find:
- A wine originating anywhere in Burgundy will state "Appellation Bourgogne Controlee."
- A wine originating from a subregion of Burgundy, such as the Cote Chalonnaise, will indicate this on the AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) statement.
- A wine originating from a specific village will state this on the AOC statement. The surrounding region is not named; thus, a label indicating Appellation Santenay Controlee comes from the Santenay village in Cote de Beaune.
- In many cases, if a specific vineyard is named, it is a Premier Cru vineyard. The village will also be listed.
- In some cases a wine may be AOC Premier Cru but not from a specific vineyard. In these cases, the wine is a blend from various different Premier Cru vineyards. The smallest enclosing region is indicated on the label.
- A wine from a Grand Cru vineyard will state the vineyard name on the label. As an example, a wine from the Grand Cru Musigny vineyard will indicate "Musigny" on the label. You are expected to know that the Musigny Grand Cru vineyard is in the village of Chambolle-Musigny in the Cote de Nuits.