Today Burgundy is one of 83 departments that was created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790 in part of the province of Burgundy. Winemaking in this part of France has a long and rich history spanning over 2000 years. Many wonderful people have played an important role in creating the prestige of the region today, which is renowned for its exceptional wines that have a unique and inimitable taste.
A bit of history
Initially, vineyards on the territory of modern Burgundy appeared even before the Gallo-Roman conquests in the 1st-2nd centuries. The first mention of these vineyards dates back to 312. Much later, in the 6th century, with the emergence of monasteries, the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine became the main occupation of monks who knew a lot about this drink. It was the monks of the Abbey of Cluny – next to Macon and Sito – a stone’s throw from Chalon, who began to improve their skills in viticulture, they plowed up new lands and made new plantings of vines. Their selfless work has become the key to the future success of the famous wines. Since the 12th century, local wines have received recognition at the royal court – at luxurious feasts, exquisite wines flowed like a river.
Of course, later in history, important events and turns will take place that will affect the status and prestige of Burgundy wines. This is the contribution of the Duke of Burgundy in the 15th century, who glorified his wines throughout France and Europe, and the fateful prescription of the personal physician Louis XIV, in which he recommends to the monarch wines from the Cate d’Or to improve his health. It was thanks to the efforts of the Beaujolais winegrower Claude Brosse in Versailles that interest in Burgundy wines reignited.
During the French Revolution, the lands of the monasteries and aristocracy were fragmented and redistributed, new laws were issued on the distribution of inheritance. A consequence of that time is the famous Clos de Vougeout vineyard with an area of 50.1 hectares, which today belongs to more than 80 owners.
In the 19th century, phylloxera, an aphid that destroyed almost all vineyards in Europe, caused enormous damage to viticulture. The consequences of the First and Second World Wars have seriously reduced the activity of Burgundy winemakers
But thanks to the selfless work and inexhaustible enthusiasm of the Burgundians, they managed to restore the vineyards and restore the former glory to the local wine. Of course, today modern technologies are used in the winemaking of the region – however, it was the monks who stood at the origins of the origin of winemaking in the region who set the high-quality standard that winemakers adhere to to this day.
To understand the names of Burgundy wines, it is necessary to understand the wine classification system in this region. Unlike other regions of France, the vineyards of Burgundy are highly fragmented and have many owners – hence the huge number of wine names. Taking into account the climatic and geological properties of various plots of land in Burgundy, a separate classification of vineyards was created.
Basic, or regional, wines have the lowest quality grade. If the term Bourgogne AOC is indicated on the label, then, therefore, this wine is produced from unclassified vineyards and is intended to be consumed young, that is, within three to four years. This wine has a light fruity taste and a low price. The total production of such wines is half of that produced by the Burgundians. It can be both white and red and rosé wines, and even sparkling (Crémant de Bourgogne AOC).
If the label shows the name of one of the villages of Burgundy (French village), then the status of such a wine is slightly higher – it has the category of communal wine. As a rule, these wines have an individual characteristic of a particular appellation in which the grapes were harvested, and its quality can vary. For example: Chablis AOC, Mercurey AOC, Pouilly Fuissé AOC, Meursault AOC.
The best vineyards are classified as Premier Cru (from French “first vineyard”) and Grand Cru (from French “great vineyard”). The golden fund of the vineyards of Burgundy is located on the southern slopes – here the berries, during ripening, receive the maximum amount of sunlight in the cool climate of the region. The tops of the hills are dedicated to the vineyards of the Grand Cru level (there are 33 of them in Burgundy, they provide a little more than one percent of all wines in the region) – the harvest of these vineyards gives the best examples of wines. Each section gives the wine its own unique character and bouquet – moreover, all these wines of the highest quality have a high storage potential. The volume of production of such wines is much lower than what is required on the market, which is why the prices for Grand Cru are very high. The name of the vineyard itself will be indicated on the label: Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Montrachet Grand Cru.
Wine cellars in Burgundy
Unlike Bordeaux, this classification allows the consumer to better navigate local wines – he can rely on the quality of grapes harvested from a vineyard of one level or another. Everyone knows that there is competition between Burgundians and producers in Bordeaux, winemakers do not really recognize each other and always sneer about the success of the enemy: “In Bordeaux you will not be allowed to taste wine, but they will definitely sell it, but in Burgundy you can taste wine, but it will be impossible to buy it! ” (Thierry Broix, owner of the famous property Clos des Lambrays).
From the point of view of a bargain purchase, it is worth considering wines from the 1er Cru vineyards. These are decent wines at a high but more affordable price. Often, vineyard owners deliberately abandon the Grand Cru status for their lands, since the local taxation system also depends on this classification – so as not to have to raise the price of wine and thus not elevate them to the rank of “untouchable”. More than 10% of all Burgundy wines have the status of “first”. These are 640 individual plots (fr. Climats), on the label of which the appellation must be indicated and the name of the vineyard itself must be indicated: Volnay 1erCru Santenots, Chablis 1er Cru Montmain, etc.
Burgundy on the map
Burgundy is rich in a variety of soils, which allows you to create unique wines with an individual character. A little apart from the main vineyards of Burgundy, to the north, lies the Chablis region, renowned for its finest white wines from the Chardonnay grape variety. Higher quality wines – from the Premier Grand Cru and Grand Cru vineyards (only seven vineyards are of the highest quality class). The best and elite wines of Burgundy are produced in its northern part – namely, in the Côte d’Or, which is translated from French as “golden hill”, which in turn is divided into departments, and each wines with their own individual character, style and taste are born : Côte de Nuits, where elite red wines are mainly produced, and Côte de Beaune, known for their finest white wines as well as quality reds. The two main grapes here are Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for whites. A respected female winemaker from the Pommard region, Anna Parant, gave a very precise definition of these wines: “A wine from the north is like a golfer in an Aston Martin, and from the south, a hockey player in a Porsche.”
Wine estate among vineyards in Burgundy
In the central part of Burgundy is the Côte Chalonnaise region, which produces not as aristocratic as in Côte d’Or, but still worthy of Pinot Noir reds, whites (also from the Aligoté grape variety) and crémant sparkling wines.
The southern region of Mâconnais is famous for its white wines from Chardonnay, for example the famous fresh wines Pouilly Fuissé, and red wines are also produced in this part of the region, for which the Gamay grape variety is more often used.
However, the main vineyards of the Gamay variety are located in the Beaujolais region separate from the rest of Burgundy, and are known for their red wines with a light fruity character. Beaujolais can be considered a separate wine-growing region, but geographically it is located in the province of Burgundy. The youngest and lightest wine Beaujolais Nouveau is made here, but wines from individual ten Cru vineyards, named after local villages, deserve more attention.