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  ABC Wine Issue 19, May 2004   
BurgundyBurgundy  Contents 
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Burgundy

Class and elegance are joined to the magic of white and red wines of the land of Burgundy, the renowned French region indisputable homeland of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes

 Among the wine areas of the world, the one which is most frequently mentioned for the elegance and the class of its wines certainly is Burgundy. In this region, thanks to the characteristics of the soil and to the favorable climate, are being produced among the most elegant white wines with Chardonnay and red wines with Pinot Noir, which have been always considered as reference models for the other wine areas where are being produced wines with the same grapes. Burgundy, which is located in the central-eastern part of France, is also one of the most northern place of the world where red wines are produced. The two main grapes cultivated in this region - as well as practically being the only ones - are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and both varieties give the best results in cool climates, just like the one of Burgundy, and it is not by chance the wines produced in this region are elegant and refined like few others.

 Despite Burgundy is considered among the best wine regions of the world - and it certainly is - its geographic and environmental position do not always offer conditions in order to make memorable wines. In vintages where the climate and meteorological conditions are not favorable, when grapes do not reach full ripeness, wines are less aromatic and less complex, less bodied and with weaker and lighter flavors. The happening of less favorable vintages, as well as the best ones and even exceptional ones, makes Burgundy a special and complex region in which, probably more than any other else, it is possible to clearly notice and understand the differences and qualities among vintages. Burgundy is among the most complex and exciting wine regions of the world where the seasonal conditions of the climate is just one of the many factors regulating the production of its magnificent wines.


Burgundy
Burgundy

 Burgundy represents, as a matter of fact, a particular case even in France. Burgundy is the land of domaine which are not to be confused with the typical concept of the renowned Bordeaux's château. In Bordeaux, a château is a single property made of vineyards generally located near or around a building - the château - in which are done the many enological practices for the production of wines. On the other hand, the Burgundian domaine is a group of vineyards, most of the times made of tiny areas, located in many areas inside the same territory and even distant many kilometers one from each other and belonging to different appellations. These vineyards are property of an unique entity and the grapes harvested in every vineyard are separately vinified in order to make wines, sometimes is small quantities, capable of expressing the characteristics of every single area. In other words, in Burgundy the terroir is a fundamental concept in the production of wines and here, like in no other part of the world, the respect of the characteristics and the differences of every vineyard is an essential condition for Burgundian enology.

 Wines produced in Burgundy cannot simply be considered for the specific characteristics of the grapes used - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - indeed it is the area and the vineyard which mostly express the quality of wines. Whether Burgundian enology has now become important thanks to the concept of the differences among the many places, the merit certainly goes to the meticulous and precious work done by Benedictine and Cistercian monks in the Middle Age. The monks studied the characteristics of the wines produced in the many vineyards and in the many places while setting the borders of what are still now considered the typical Burgundian climat, small vineyards whose characteristics are strongly influenced by the local microclimate and soil conditions. The grapes mainly cultivated in Burgundy are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Aligoté - a white berried grape mainly used in Mâconnais for the production of bulk wines and sometimes present in Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wines - and Gamay, the renowned red berried grape used for the production of wines in Beaujolais.

 

Classification of Wines of Burgundy

 The classification system for Burgundian wines is made of categories and it is based on specific criteria and indications which are not used in other French regions. The area in which the classification system is used the most is the Côte d'Or in which are used four different categories. The two lowest categories of the system are Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc, respectively for red and white wines, generally produced with grapes from different villages and frequently blends of wines produced in different parts of the region. The first important appellation is Village which is uniquely reserved for wines produced in one specific village, or near to it, among the many recognized by the system. Wines belonging to this category always have in the label the name of the village. Examples of Burgundian villages are Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Chambolle-Musigny, Chassagne-Montrachet, Flagey-Echézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault, Nuits-St.-Georges, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet, Volnay, Vosne-Romanée and Vougeot.


 

 As already mentioned above, in Burgundy the qualitative differences of wines are strongly influenced by every vineyard and it is not by chance that the two highest categories of the quality system are exclusively reserved to the identification of vineyards. The first category used for the denomination of vineyards is Premier Cru, currently reserved for 562 Burgundian vineyards and which represent about 11% of the total production of this region. The name of the vineyard is written in the label right after the name of the village to which belongs to. The highest category of the system is Grand Cru which is currently reserved to just 33 vineyards and which represent just 2% of total production in Burgundy. Grand Cru vineyards are so celebrated and renowned that in the label is not written the name of the village where they are located but only the name of the vineyard. Examples of Grand Cru are Bâtard-Montrachet, Bonnes Mares, Chapelle-Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot, Corton-Charlemagne, Echézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin, La Romanée, La Tâche, Le Montrachet and Richebourg.

 

Chablis

 The region of Chablis is located about 180 kilometers south from Paris (about 110 miles) and about 100 kilometers north from the main region of Burgundy (about 60 miles), whereas the renowned region of Champagne is just 40 kilometers away (25 miles). In the region of Chablis are exclusively produced white wines with Chardonnay grape and the wines of this region are usually considered as a reference model in other countries of the world. Thanks to the region's climate - moist, cool and rigid - as well as to the characteristics of the soil - limestone and clay - Chablis wines are frequently characterized by mineral and fresh aromas as well as pleasing hints of flint. Wines of Chablis are generally fermented in steel tanks - rarely in pretty neutral wood containers - therefore in these wines are never found strong aromas of vanilla and toasted wood which are usually found in international style Chardonnays. However there are some producers who prefer using the cask for their best Grand Cru convinced that the quality of these wines can benefit from the complexity of wood. Chablis wines are classified according to the following categories, from the lower to the higher: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru. Vineyards belonging to the category Premier Cru are 40, whereas the ones belonging to Grand Cru are seven and precisely Blanchots, Bougros, Grenouilles, Les Clos, Les Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir.

 

Côte d'Or

 Côte d'Or certainly is the region which represents Burgundy more than any other else and right here are being produced the most famous and representative wines of the region. Côte d'Or is located in the northern part of the region and it is traditionally divided into two distinct subregions: in the northern part is located Côte de Nuits whereas in the southern part there is Côte de Beaune. Côte d'Or goes from the city of Dijon to the city of Santenay for an overall distance of about 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) and its soil is mainly limestone. All Burgundian wines classified as Premier Cru and Grand Cru are being produced in Côte d'Or.

 

Côte de Nuits

 Côte de Nuits is the northern part of Côte d'Or and it is considered as the great Burgundian land of red wines made from Pinot Noir. Despite the area is identified with its valuable and excellent red wines, in Côte de Nuits is also produced a pretty small quantity of white wines with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes. Just like all other areas of Burgundy, Côte de Nuits is divided in villages, each one of them belonging to specific appellations, and among the most important ones are to be mentioned Chambolle-Musigny, Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Marsannay, Morey-Saint-Denis, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée and Vougeot. Côte de Nuits is mainly associated to the quality of its red wines - certainly among the best in the world - all belonging to the Premier Cru and Grand Cru categories. Among the renowned Grand Cru should be mentioned Bonnes Mares, Chambertin, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, Clos de Roche, Clos de Vougeot, Grands Echézeaux, Musigny, Richebourg, Romanée-Conti and La Tâche. In Côte de Nuits are also found the Côte de Nuits Villages and Hautes-Côtes de Nuits appellations. Wines from Côte de Nuits Villages generally are of good quality - sometimes even excellent - whereas in Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, because of a higher altitude, grapes sometimes do not reach full ripeness and therefore wines from this area are usually considered of less value than the ones from Côte de Nuits.

 

Côte de Beaune

 Côte de Beaune identifies the southern part of Côte d'Or in which are produced both white wines and red wines, however this area is mainly identified for its white wines produced with Chardonnay grape, certainly among the best whites of Burgundy and among the best of the world. No matter the production of red wines in Côte de Beaune is remarkable - in particular the ones produced at Corton - these wines are less famous because of the greatness of its white wines and for the excellence of red wines produced in the neighboring Côte de Nuits. Côte de Beaune is divided into villages, each of them belonging to its specific appellation, of which are to be mentioned Aloxe-Corton, Auxey-Duresses, Beaune, Blagny, Chassagne-Montrachet, Chorey-Lès-Beaune, Landoix-Serrigny, Meursault, Monthélie, Pernand-Vergelesses, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin, Saint-Romain, Santenay, Savigny-Lès-Beaune and Volnay. Among the Grand Cru of Côte de Beaune are to be mentioned Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. In this area are also found the Côte de Beaune Villages and Hautes-Côte de Beaune appellations. Wines from Côte de Beaune Villages are usually produced with blends of wines coming from the villages of this area, whereas in Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, because of the higher altitude and a lesser exposition to sun rays, grapes sometimes do not reach full ripeness and wines usually have a lesser value.

 

Côte Chalonnaise

 This area is located south from the Côte d'Or and here are produced both red and white wines. The area is mainly known for the wines produced in its main villages: Bouzeron, Givry, Mercurey, Montagny and Rully. In this area are not found any Grand Cru, however there are many Premier Cru. Despite the quality of the wines of Côte Chalonnaise is considered lower than the ones of the more renowned Côte d'Or, here are however produced good white and red wines. The most famous village is Mercurey in which are produced good red wines with Pinot Noir as well as a small quantity of white wines. In the village of Bouzeron, in the northern part of this area, are being produced white wines with Aligoté grape, certainly the best French wines produced with this grape. In the village of Givry are produced both white and red wines, however the red wines are the ones which mainly characterize this area. In Montagny, the most southern village of Côte Chalonnaise, are exclusively produced white wines with Chardonnay of interesting quality. The village of Rully is famous for the production of classic method sparkling wines known as Crémant de Bourgogne - mainly produced with Aligoté grape and in lesser part with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris - however in this area are also produced white and red wines.

 

Mâconnais

 South from Côte Chalonnaise is located the large area of Mâconnais. This area is mainly oriented to the production of white wines - usually having an average quality and destined for a bulk consumption - and here are not found any Premier Cru or Grand Cru. The best Mâconnais wines, which in terms of quality are different from the rest, are Mâcon, Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Véran, white wines produced with Chardonnay. A curiosity of Mâconnais is represented by the small village called Chardonnay - just like the renowned white berried grape - and of which it is not certain whether it is the place where this grape has its origin, and therefore the grape was called with the name of the village, or the village was named like that in honor of the main grape of Burgundy.

 

Beaujolais

 The most southern area of Burgundy is Beaujolais and practically this area does not have anything in common with all the other Burgundian regions although it is part of it. Climate is different, the method used for the production of wine is different and the grapes are different. Whether the rest of Burgundy is identifiable with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Beaujolais is the homeland of Gamay. The region of Beaujolais is also famous for its young and joyous Beaujolais Nouveau, the renowned “new wine”, which has now become so famous in the world and shadowed the other and main wines of this area. In this region are almost exclusively produced red wines, however there is also a small production of white wines made from Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes. Beaujolais wines are classified in three categories of quality, from the lower to the higher: Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Cru. As opposed to the other French areas, in Beaujolais the term cru is not used for identifying specific vineyards but it is used for the definition of one of the ten villages considered to be the best of the area. The ten cru villages of Beaujolais are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour.

 




 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 19, May 2004   
BurgundyBurgundy  Contents 
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