- Dec 22, 2022
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An Introduction to the Burgundy Wine Region - Wine Map of Burgundy
One of the most famous wine regions in the world, Burgundy in France traces its winemaking roots back over 2,000 years. Home it may be to some of the most desirable (and pricey) wine producers, yet the region still outputs its fair share of exceedingly drinkable everyday whites and reds that are slightly friendlier on the affordability scale. Looking to learn more about the Burgundy wine region? Join us as we explore the wine map of Burgundy and recommend some of our favourite Burgundy wines.
Many AOCs, not so many grape varieties
Situated on the eastern side of France, following the flow of the Saône River, a tributary of the Rhône, the Burgundy wine region, aka Bourgogne, is home to a huge number of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlées (AOCs), more in fact than any other French wine region.
Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to know that there are not that many Burgundy grape varieties to get your head around. Pinot Noir plays the starring role in the red corner, whilst Chardonnay does it for the whites. There are other grapes in play too, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gamay and Aligoté, but the core focus really is Pinot Noir for Bourgogne Rouge (red Burgundy) and Chardonnay for Bourgogne Blanc (white Burgundy).
The wine regions of Burgundy
Burgundy is made up of five primary wine growing areas, excluding Beaujolais, whose climate is closer to that of the Rhône making the wine sufficiently individual in character to be set apart from Burgundy, and Châtillonnais, which is dedicated to the production of sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne wines.
The Chablis Burgundy region is situated furthest north and sits isolated from the rest of the region. The Serein River rolls through the area, keeping the climate moderate. Grapes have been grown here for hundreds of years, since the Cistercian monks planted the vineyards in the 12th century. The white, chalky soil here does a great job of retaining the warmth of the sun, which prompts the grapes to ripen and injects a crisp minerality into the wine which is so distinctive of Chablis wines, which are all white and made from Chardonnay grapes.
Côte de Nuits
The ‘night slope’ is home to some of the world’s most pricey vineyard real estate. The region starts due south of Dijon, and ends at the village of Corgoloin. Around 80% of the wines produced here are Pinot Noir, with the remaining 20% either Chardonnay or Rosé.
The top priced wines to come out of this region emanate from the Grand Cru vineyards, but they are well known for being able to age for decades. All is not lost however if your budget doesn’t quite stretch, as there are plenty of fantastic Côte de Nuits Village wines that could well have you coming back for more with their blackcurrant, cherry and earthy mushroom and spice flavours.
Hint: We’ll shed more light on the meaning of Grand Cru and Village and other Burgundy wine classifications a little later on.
Côte de Beaune
The slope of Beaune is known for its rich Chardonnay wines. Amongst the rolling, open valleys, the vineyards here are exposed in a south easterly orientation. As a result, you’ll find these white Burgundies brimming with soft white flower aromas, with dried grasses, fresh apple and pear and from time to time, a hint of delicious hazelnut.
This Burgundy wine region also produces its fair share of stunning reds too, with distinctive flavours of plum, cherry and tobacco, all signed off by that characteristic earthy minerality and acidity for which Burgundy wines renowned.
Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune are collectively known as Côte d’Or, the ‘Golden Slope’, and are considered the most notable Burgundy wine regions.
Nestled between the towns of Chagny and Saint-Vallerin sits the Côte Chalonnaise. There are many different types of soil in this region, giving the wines individual character. One of the most popular grapes to come out of this area is Aligoté which makes the perfect summer tipple with its floral and citrus notes. There are also plenty of white and rosé sparklers produced here using the traditional methods employed in Champagne.
Côte Chalonnaise Burgundy wines are considered excellent value and range from smooth Chardonnays set with delicate oak influences and ripened tree fruits, to the more rustic Burgundy Pinot Noir wines bursting with cherry, strawberry and earthy forest influences.
Mâconnais is the largest and most southerly area of the Burgundy wine region and sits at the crossroads between Northern and Southern France. Notably more Mediterranean in both appearance and climate, this region produces beautifully defined, fresh Chardonnays bursting with notes of honeysuckle, wild herbs, citrus peel and ripe stone fruits.
The most famous area of Mâconnais is Pouilly-Fuissé, an expansive open arena of vineyards where the soils are packed with limestone and dashes of granite.
Burgundy wine classifications
There are over 100 appellations (approved wine growing areas) on the Burgundy wine map, and these are divided into four levels of quality.
Grand Cru Burgundy
1% of the annual production of the Burgundy region comes from the 33 Grand Cru vineyards. These are the wines that connoisseurs are happy to pay top whack for... powerful, bold, complex and made for ageing.
Maison Roche de Bellene, Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2017 – a complex yet fresh white wine with a buttery, medium-bodied texture. Enjoy green apple and citrus on the palate, and a lingering finish.
Premier Cru Burgundy
Premier Cru wines are from special vineyard areas within a village known as ‘climats’. These wines are fairly intense, which could be down to the soil, the morning sun or longer oak ageing. Or maybe something else. In any case, these wines are excellent with food. 10% of Burgundy wine comes from the 640 Premier Cru vineyards.
Marchand-Tawse Beaune Premier Cru Clos du Roi 2018 – a succulent palate of raspberries, red cherry and boysenberries beckons, balanced just so with complex savoury notes of mushroom and turned earth making this Burgundy Pinot Noir a must-try.
Village Wines are named after the towns close to where the grapes are sourced. You’ll find these wines fresh and fruity, with very little or no oak. They’re still complex though and represent excellent value. 37% of wines that come from the Burgundy region are Village wines, and there are 44 villages including Chablis, Nuits-St-Georges, and Mâcon-Villages.
Regional Wines can be produced from grapes grown anywhere in the Burgundy region. They tend to be lively and light-hearted, perfect as aperitifs or summer sippers. These wines are identified by their Bourgogne Rouge or Bourgogne Blanc labels. You’ll also find the sparkling Crément de Bourgogne in this category, which represents 52% of Burgundy wine region production.
Burgundy wines – time for a tasting adventure?
Keen to give wines from the Burgundy wine region a try? The Oddbins Burgundy wine range is sure to have plenty to please your palate. Need a spot of expert help choosing the best Burgundy wine? Contact our helpful team for advice via Live Chat, e-mail or by calling 0800 328 23 23.