Burgundy wine (French: Bourgogne or vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in
Burgundy region in eastern France, in the valleys and slopes
west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône. The most famous wines
produced here—those commonly referred to as "Burgundies"—are dry
red wines made from
Pinot noir grapes and white wines made from
Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as
Gamay and Aligoté, respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling
wines are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis
Beaujolais are formally part of the
region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by
their own names rather than as "
Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d'origine contrôlée
(AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most
terroir-conscious of the
French wine regions. The various Burgundy
AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down
to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of
delineating vineyards by their terroir in
Burgundy goes back to
medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in
Burgundy wine industry.
1 Geography and climate
Wine characteristics and classification
5 Grape varieties
6 Reputation and appreciation
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Geography and climate
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Burgundy region runs from
Auxerre in the north to
Mâcon in the
south, or to
Lyon if the
Beaujolais area is included as part of
Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from
Chardonnay grapes, is
produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near
Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wines and Saint-Bris,
which produces white wines from Sauvignon blanc.
Eighty-five miles southeast of
Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where
Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where
all Grand Cru vineyards of
Burgundy (except for
Chablis Grand Cru) are
situated. The Côte d'Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de
Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few
kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de
Beaune which starts at
Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The
wine-growing part of this area in the heart of
Burgundy is just 40
kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2
kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages
surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the
eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather
shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. The best wines - from
Grand Cru vineyards - of this region are usually grown from the middle
and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most
exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the Premier Cru come
from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary
"Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the
Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru
appellations in Burgundy, while all but one of the region's white
Grand Cru wines are in the
Côte de Beaune
Côte de Beaune (the exception being
Musigny Blanc). This is explained by the presence of different soils,
Pinot noir and Chardonnay, respectively.
Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly
red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here
such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well-known than their
counterparts in the Côte d'Or.
Côte Chalonnaise is the
Mâconnais region, known for
producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white
wine. Further south again is the
Beaujolais region, famous for fruity
red wines made from
Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by cold
winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable, with
rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of
this climate, vintages from
Burgundy vary considerably.
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Harvest time in the
Chablis Premier Cru of Fourchaume
Archaeological evidence establishes viticulture in
Burgundy as early
as the second century AD, although the
Celts may have been growing
vines in the region previous to the Roman conquest of
Gaul in 51 BC.
Greek traders, for whom viticulture had been practiced since the late
Neolithic period, had founded Massalía in about 600 BC, and traded
extensively up the
Rhône valley, where the Romans first arrived in
the second century BC. The earliest recorded praise of the wines of
Burgundy was written in 591 by Gregory of Tours, who compared it to
the Roman wine Falernian.
Monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church have had an
important influence on the history of
Burgundy wine. The first known
donation of a vineyard to the church was by king
Guntram in 587, but
the influence of the church became important in Charlemagne's era. The
Benedictines, through their
Abbey of Cluny
Abbey of Cluny founded in 910, became the
first truly big
Burgundy vineyard owner over the following centuries.
Another order which exerted influence was the Cistercians, founded in
1098 and named after Cîteaux, their first monastery, situated in
Cistercians created Burgundy's largest wall-surrounded
vineyard, the Clos de Vougeot, in 1336. More importantly, the
Cistercians, extensive vineyard owners as they were, were the first to
notice that different vineyard plots gave consistently different
wines. They therefore laid the earliest foundation for the naming of
Burgundy crus and the region's terroir thinking.
Burgundy is land-locked, very little of its wine left the region
in Medieval times, when wine was transported in barrels, meaning that
waterways provided the only practical means of long-range
transportation. The only part of
Burgundy which could reach Paris in a
practical way was the area around
Auxerre by means of the Yonne. This
area includes Chablis, but had much more extensive vineyards until the
19th century. These were the wines referred to as vin de Bourgogne in
early texts. The wines from Côte d'Or would then be called (vin de)
Beaune. These wines first became famous in the 14th century, during
Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy
Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy in Avignon, which was reachable
Rhône after some overland transport. In the
extravagance of the papal court, Beaune was generally seen as the
finest wine, and better than anything available in Rome at that
The status of
Burgundy wines continued in the court of the House of
Valois, which ruled as Dukes of
Burgundy for much of the 14th and 15th
centuries. Their ban on the import and export of non-Burgundian wines,
effectively shutting out the then popular wines of the Rhone Valley
from north European markets, gave a considerable boost to the Burgundy
wine industry. It was during this era that the first reliable
references to grape varieties in
Burgundy were made.
Pinot noir was
first mentioned in 1370 under the name Noirien, but it was believed to
have been cultivated earlier than that, since no other grape variety
associated with Medieval
Burgundy is believed to have been able to
produce red wines of a quality able to impress the papal court. On 6
August 1395, Duke
Philip the Bold
Philip the Bold issued a decree concerned with
safeguarding the quality of
Burgundy wines. The duke declared the
"vile and disloyal Gamay"—which was a higher-yielding grape than
Pinot noir in the 14th century, as it is today—unfit for human
consumption and banned the use of organic fertilizer (manure), which
probably increased yields even further to the detriment of quality.
Burgundy wines of this era were probably made from
Fromenteau, which is known as a quality grape in northeastern France
in this time. Fromenteau is probably the same variety as today's Pinot
Chardonnay is a much later addition to Burgundy's vineyards.
In the 18th century, the quality of roads in
progressively better, which facilitated commerce in
The first négociant houses of the region were established in the
1720s and 1730s. In the 18th century,
Burgundy and Champagne were
rivals for the lucrative Paris market, to which Champagne had earlier
access. The two regions overlapped much in wine styles in this era,
since Champagne was then primarily a producer of pale red still wines
rather than of sparkling wines. A major work on
Burgundy wines written
by Claude Arnoux in 1728 deals with the famous red wines of Côte de
Nuits and the
Œil-de-Perdrix pink wines of Volnay, but only briefly
mentions white wines.
Burgundy became incorporated in the Kingdom of France, and the
power of the church decreased, many vineyards which had been in the
church's hands were sold to the bourgeoisie from the 17th century.
French revolution of 1789, the church's remaining vineyards
were broken up and from 1791 sold off. The Napoleonic inheritance
laws then resulted in the continued subdivision of the most precious
vineyard holdings, so some growers hold only a row or two of vines.
This led to the emergence of négociants who aggregate the produce of
many growers to produce a single wine. It has also led to a profusion
of increasingly smaller, family-owned wineries, exemplified by the
dozen-plus Gros family domaines.
Vineyard in Côte de Nuits
The awareness of the difference of quality and style of
produced from different vineyards goes back to Medieval times, with
certain climats being more highly rated than others. An early author
on this aspect of
Burgundy wines was Denis Morelot with his La Vigne
et le Vin en Côte d'Or from 1831. In 1855, the same year as the
Wine Official Classification was launched, Dr. Jules
Lavalle published an influential book, Histoire et Statistique de la
Vigne de Grands Vins de la Côte-d'Or, which included an unofficial
classification of the
Burgundy vineyards in five classes and which
built on Morelot's book. In decreasing order, Lavalle's five classes
were hors ligne, tête de cuvée, 1ère cuvée, 2me cuvée and 3me
cuvée. Lavalle's classification was formalized in modified form by
the Beaune Committee of Agriculture in 1861, and then consisted of
three classes. Most of the "first class" vineyards of the 1861
classification were made into Grand Cru appellations d'origine
contrôlées when the national AOC legislation was implemented in
Burgundy wine has experienced much change over the past 75 years.
Economic depression during the 1930s was followed by the devastation
caused by World War II. After the War, the vignerons returned home to
their unkempt vineyards. The soils and vines had suffered and were
sorely in need of nurturing. The growers began to fertilize, bringing
their vineyards back to health. Those who could afford it added
potassium, a mineral fertilizer that contributes to vigorous growth.
By the mid-1950s, the soils were balanced, yields were reasonably low
and the vineyards produced some of the most stunning wines in the 20th
For the next 30 years, they followed the advice of renowned
viticultural experts, who advised them to keep spraying their
vineyards with chemical fertilizers, including potassium. While a
certain amount of potassium is natural in the soil and beneficial for
healthy growth, too much is harmful because it leads to low acidity
levels, which adversely affect the quality of the wine.
As the concentration of chemicals in the soil increased, so did the
yields. In the past 30 years, yields have risen by two-thirds in the
appellations contrôlées vineyards of the Côte d'Or, from 29
hectoliters per hectare (hl/ha) (yearly average from 1951 to 1960) to
almost 48 hl/ha (1982–91), according to a study by the Institut
National des Appellations d'Origine. With higher yields came wines of
less flavor and concentration. Within 30 years, the soils had been
significantly depleted of their natural nutrients.
The period between 1985 and 1995 was a turning point in Burgundy.
During this time, many Burgundian domaines renewed efforts in the
vineyards and gradually set a new course in winemaking. All this led
to deeper, more complex wines. Today, the
Burgundy wine industry is
reaping the rewards of those efforts.
Wine characteristics and classification
A label used on a 1984 bottle's neck, showing the
Burgundy coat of
A white wine made from declassified AOC Meursault wine that is sold as
a general AOC Bourgogne.
Burgundy is in some ways the most terroir-oriented region in France;
immense attention is paid to the area of origin, and in which of the
region's 400 types of soil a wine's grapes are grown. As opposed to
Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to
Burgundy classifications are
geographically-focused. A specific vineyard or region will bear a
given classification, regardless of the wine's producer. This focus is
reflected on the wine's labels, where appellations are most prominent
and producers' names often appear at the bottom in much smaller text.
The main levels in the
Burgundy classifications, in descending order
of quality, are: Grand crus, Premier crus, village appellations, and
finally regional appellations:
Grand Cru wines are produced from the small number of the best
vineyard sites in the Côte d'Or, as strictly defined by the AOC laws.
These Cru wines make up 2% of the production at 35 hl/ha, and are
generally produced in a style meant for cellaring, and typically need
to be aged a minimum of five to seven years. The best examples can be
kept for more than 15 years. Grand Cru wines will only list the name
of the vineyard as the appellation - such as Corton or
Montrachet - on
the wine label, plus the Grand Cru term, but not the village name.
Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are
still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as
the Grand Cru sites. Premier Cru wines make up 12% of production at 45
hl/ha. These wines often should be aged three to five years, and again
the best wines can keep for much longer. Premier Cru wines are
labelled with the name of the village of origin, the Premier Cru
status, and usually the vineyard name, for example, "Volnay 1er Cru
Les Caillerets". Some Premier Cru wines are produced from several
Premier Cru vineyards in the same village, and do not carry the name
of an individual vineyard.
Village appellation wines are produced from a blend of wines from
supposedly lesser vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42
villages, or from one individual but unclassified vineyard. Wines from
each different village are considered to have their own specific
qualities and characteristics, and not all
have a village appellation. Village wines make up 36% of production at
50 hl/ha. These wines can be consumed two to four years after the
release date, although again some examples will keep for longer.
Village wines will show the village name on the wine label, such as
"Pommard", and sometimes - if applicable - the name of the single
vineyard or climat where it was sourced. Several villages in
Burgundy have appended the names of their Grand Cru vineyards to the
original village name - hence village names such as
"Puligny-Montrachet" and "Aloxe-Corton".
Regional appellation wines are wines which are allowed to be produced
over the entire region, or over an area significantly larger than that
of an individual village. At the village, Premier Cru and Grand
Cru levels, only red and white wines are found, but some of the
regional appellations also allow the production of rosé and sparkling
wines, as well as wines dominated by grape varieties other than Pinot
noir or Chardonnay. These appellations can be divided into three
An AOC Bourgogne Pinot noir.
AOC Bourgogne, the standard or "generic" appellation for red or white
wines made anywhere throughout the region, and represent simpler wines
which are still similar to the village. These wines may be produced at
55 hl/ha. These wines are typically intended for immediate
consumption, within three years after the vintage date.
Subregional (sous-régional) appellations cover a part of Burgundy
larger than a village. Examples are Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune,
Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and Mâcon-Villages. Typically,
those communes which do not have a village appellation will have
access to at least one subregional appellation. This level is
sometimes described as intermediate between AOC Bourgogne and the
Wines of specific styles or other grape varieties include white
Bourgogne Aligoté (which is primarily made with the
Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains (which can contain up to two-thirds
Gamay) and sparkling
Crémant de Bourgogne.
Chablis wines are labeled using a similar hierarchy of Grand Cru,
Premier Cru, and Village wines, plus Petit
Chablis as a level below
Village Chablis. Wines from
Beaujolais are treated still differently.
In general, producers are always allowed to declassify their wine in
steps to a lower-ranked AOC if they wish to do so. Thus, a wine from a
Grand Cru vineyard may be sold as a Premier Cru from that vineyard's
village, a Premier Cru wine may be sold as a Village wine, and so on.
This practice will almost invariably mean the declassified wine will
have to be sold at a lower price, so this is only practiced when
something is to be gained overall in the process. One motive may be to
only include vines of a certain age in a Grand Cru wine, to improve
its quality and raise its prestige and price, in which case the wine
coming from younger vines may be sold as a Premier Cru at a lower
price. Overall, such a practice may allow a producer to keep a higher
average price for the wine sold.
In total, around 150 separate AOCs are used in Burgundy, including
Chablis and Beaujolais. While an impressive number, it
does not include the several hundred named vineyards (lieux-dits) at
the Village and Premier Cru level, which may be displayed on the
label, since at these levels, only one set of appellation rules is
available per village. The total number of vineyard-differentiated
AOCs that may be displayed is well in excess of 500.
One of the main wineries that produces
Crémant de Bourgogne
In 2003, the
Burgundy vineyards (including
Chablis but excluding
Beaujolais) covered a total of 28,530 hectares (70,500 acres).
Côte d'Or as a whole, including Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Hautes
Côtes de Nuits, covered 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres), of which the
Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits covered 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and
Côte de Beaune
Côte de Beaune 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres).
Burgundy had a total of 3 200 wine domaines (compared to 50
in the early 19th century), of which 520 were in the department of
Yonne, 1 100 in Côte-d'Or and 1 570 in Saône-et-Loir. Generally,
the small growers sell their grapes to larger producers, merchants
called négociants, who blend and bottle the wine. The roughly 115
négociants who produce the majority of the wine only control around
8% of the area. Individual growers have around 67% of the area, but
produce and market only around 25% of the wine. Some small wineries
produce only 100-200 cases/year, while many producers make a few
Grower/producer-made wines can be identified by the terms Mis en
bouteille au domaine, Mis au domaine, or Mis en bouteille à la
propriété. The largest producer is
Maison Louis Latour
Maison Louis Latour in Beaune
with 350,000 cases/year. The négociants may use the term Mis en
bouteille dans nos caves (bottled in our cellars), but are not
entitled to use the estate-bottled designation of the
grower/producers. Most négociants tend to use the term Mis en
bouteille par... (bottled by...).
Burgundy vineyards: The Hautes-Côtes de Nuits
Of the white grapes,
Chardonnay is the most common. Another grape
found in the region, Aligoté, tends to produce cheaper wines which
are higher in acidity.
Burgundy is the wine
traditionally used for the Kir drink, where it is mixed with black
Sauvignon blanc is also grown in the Saint Bris
Mâcon wines and the Côte d'Or whites are
mostly produced from 100%
Of the red grapes, the majority of production in the Côte d'Or is
focused on the
Pinot noir grape, while the
Gamay grape is grown in
Beaujolais. In the
Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits region, 90% of the production is red
Rules for the red
Burgundy appellations, from regional to Grand Cru
level, generally allow up to 15% of the white grape varieties
Pinot blanc and
Pinot gris to be blended in, but this
is not widely practiced today.
Reputation and appreciation
Crémant de Bourgogne blanc de noirs (white of blacks)
Pinot noir and Gamay.
Burgundy is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world,
including those of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leroy, Henri
Jayer, Emmanuel Rouget, Domaine Dugat-Py,
Domaine Leflaive and Domaine
Armand Rousseau. However, some top vintage first growth Bordeaux wines
and a few iconic[clarification needed] wines from the
New World are
more expensive than some Grand Cru class Burgundies.
Its renown goes back many centuries; in 1522 Erasmus wrote: "O happy
Burgundy which merits being called the mother of men since she
furnishes from her mammaries such a good milk" This was echoed by
Shakespeare, who refers in King Lear to "the vines of
France and milk
To accompany the finer wines, especially "the wines of the Cote
[d'Or], it is recommended to taste some great cheeses like that of
Citeaux, or 'l'ami du Chambertin' or 'l'amour de Nuits'".
British wine critic
Jancis Robinson emphasizes, "price is an extremely
unreliable guide" and "what a wine sells for often has more to do with
advertising hype and marketing decisions than the quality contained in
the bottle." While Grand Crus often command steep prices, village
level wines from top producers can be found at quite reasonable
In 2010, the
Burgundy region experienced a notable increase in
internet coverage thanks to official efforts like the online broadcast
of the famous Hospices de Beaune, as well as the efforts of
independent wine aficionados, such as Bourgogne Live. Some
burgundies are also increasingly valued as investment wines.
Burgundy wine have been organizing events celebrating its
virtues for decades. The most famous of these is La Paulée de
Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin
Burgundy Grand Crus
^ a b c d e f g h i Jancis Robinson, ed. (2006). "Burgundy". Oxford
Wine (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
pp. 112–116. ISBN 0-19-860990-6.
^ Lillelund, Niels (2004). Rhône-Vinene. JP Bøger - JP/Politikens
Forlagshus A/S, 2004. ISBN, pp. 13. p. 13.
^ Burgundy-Wines: History, accessed on 12 October 2008
^ (in French)
Le Figaro and La Revue du vin de
France (2008) :
France et du monde (Bourgogne : Chablis), L'histoire, p.
^ Bazin, Jean-François (2002). Histoire du vin de Bourgogne. Editions
Jean-Paul Gisserot. p. 48. ISBN 2-87747-669-3.
^ a b Jancis Robinson, ed. (2006). "Bourgogne". Oxford Companion to
Wine (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 100–101.
^ a b c
Burgundy by Tom Cannavan, accessed on 12 October
^ a b The
Wine Guide - Introduction and the
Côte d'Or, accessed on 12 October 2008
Burgundy Wines: Labelling Grands crus, accessed on 12 October 2008
Burgundy Wines: Labelling Premiers crus, accessed on 12 October 2008
Burgundy Wines: Village appellations and 'climates', accessed on 12
^ a b
Burgundy Wines: Regional appellations, accessed on 12 October
^ Arrêté du 19 juillet 2004 relatif à la composition des comités
régionaux vins et eaux-de-vie de l'Institut national des appellations
d'origine - document listing which regional committee is responsible
for approving wines which appellation (in French)
Burgundy in Context, accessed on 12 October 2008
^ Bazin, Jean-François (2002). Histoire du vin de Bourgogne. Editions
Jean-Paul Gisserot. pp. 72–74. ISBN 2-87747-669-3.
^ Wine-Searcher Glossary of
Wine Terms, accessed on 19 December 2009
^ INAO: AOC rules for Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos-de-Bèze, updated
until 26 March 1998 (in French)
^ Les Grand Vins de
France bypaul Ramain, 1931, Laffitte reprints, p
^ Le Grand Livre de Bourgogne, Jacquemont & Quitanson, Editions du
chene, 1994, p102
^ Le Bien Publique "Luchini fait le show et explose le record des
ventes aux enchères de Beaune" Archived 31 December 2010 at the
Wayback Machine., accessed on 14 December 2010
^ Le Bien Public "Le
Chardonnay très net" Archived 9 February 2011 at
the Wayback Machine., accessed on 14 December 2010
^ France3 "Une dégustation en ligne" Archived 8 February 2011 at the
Wayback Machine., accessed on 14 December 2010
Coates MW, Clive (1997). CÔTE 'D'OR. A Celebration of the Great Wines
of Burgundy. Weidenfeld Nicolson. p. 576.
ISBN 978-0-297-83607-0. Doesn't cover all of Burgundy, but
is a very useful guide with tasting notes covering many vintages.
Coates MW, Clive (2008). The Wines of
Burgundy ,. University of
California Press. Updated version of previous with coverage of
Hanson MW, Anthony (2003).
Wine Guide). Mitchell
Beazley. p. 690. ISBN 978-1-84000-913-2.
Nanson, Bill (2012). The Finest Wines of Burgundy: A Guide to the Best
Producers of the Côte d'Or and Their Wines (Fine
Wine Editions Ltd).
Aurum Press. p. 320. ISBN 978-1-84513-692-5. An
inexpensive introduction to the region and currently the most up to
Norman, Remington (2010). The Great Domaines of Burgundy: A Guide to
Wine Producers of the Côte d'Or; 3rd Ed. Sterling.
p. 288. ISBN 978-1-4027-7882-7. With Charles Taylor,
MW. Foreword by Michael Broadbent. Good coverage of the top domaines.
Sutcliffe MW, Serena (2005). Wines of
Burgundy (Mitchell Beazley Wine
Guides). Mitchell Beazley. p. 232.
ISBN 978-1-84533-019-4. Good inexpensive introduction to
the region, and updated from time to time.
Franson, P. Labels Gone Wild. The
Wine Enthusiast, March, 2006, pages
Robinson, Jancis. Cheap at half the price? Wine, 2006
(February–March), 6(3), 30-31.
Burgundy wines website
The wines of
Burgundy - The official website of
France (in English)
Insider information on
Wine Doctor: The wine geography of the Côte d'Or. (
Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits and
Côte de Beaune).
Wine Doctor: The wine geography of Chablis, the Côte Chalonnaise, the
Mâconais and the Beaujolais.
Wines and winemaking
Acids in wine
Aging of wine
Annual growth cycle of grapevines
Aroma of wine
Alternative wine closure
Wine and food matching
Wine tasting descriptors
Styles and methods of production
Syrah / Shiraz
Pinot gris / Pinot grigio
Shesh i Bardhë
Ugni blanc / Trebbiano
Grand Noir de la Calmette
Grenache / Garnacha
Mencía / Jaen
Mourvèdre / Monastrell / Mataro
Petite sirah / Durif
Shesh i Zi
Zinfandel / Primitivo
Coordinates: 47°10′01″N 4°57′00″E / 47.1670°N