If Bordeaux tends to be a region that looks for innovation and blend where the wine making shines, Burgundy incarnates the polar opposite: single varietals and keeping the traditions intact, with the terroirs at its core, not the wine making techniques. If your thirst longs for elegant, complex and refined Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, then you just found your new heaven. Like Bordeaux, Burgundy wine history is captivating and deserves its own page to go into details. In short, while Bordeaux produced wine for British King and French Emperor, Burgundy provided wine for medieval French King and Queen. While there are proof of wine being produced in the beginning of our era, Charlemagne kick started the region by entrusting plots of lands to the Catholic Church. Over the decades and centuries, the Cistercian order determined the unicity of each plot of land and their effect onto the ancestors of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They segmented them into distinctive parcels that you can still identify on each label since the beginning of the 11th century. The whole market was created by emphasizing the terroir not the grape varietal. Each of the five sub regions (Chablis, Macon, Côte Chalonnaise, Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuit) contains a vast diversity of geology, providing unique conditions to grow vines feeding onto complex soil, resulting in the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The only down side lies with the size of the region, the smallest of all, and thus, makes its wines more expensive as they are highly regarded by collectors and enthusiast. The most expensive wine from France is Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Romanée Conti Grand cru: it would not be surprising to see such prized bottle for $20,000 dollars.
Quick Wine Guide When Buying Burgundy and What to Read on a Label
If you crave for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Bourgogne is the best France has to offer. That being said, it can quickly get overwhelming to choose between the vast range of labels and prices. When you buy a Burgundy wine, you buy a terroir first. The layers of sediments brings distinctive aromas and flavors to the grapes. The problematic then lies in knowing which data to look for on a label. On this page, we focus on sorting how the quality level of terroir is segmented, starting from the least complex and lighter body wine to the legendary terroirs that express the best of what Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have to offer.
First tier, Côteaux Bourgignon (and Passe-tout-grain): before buying any, be aware that you are actually buying, most of the time, a blend of Gamay with a bit of Pinot Noir. Grapes can be sourced from anywhere in Burgundy, Auxerre and even Beaujolais. It should be the least expensive wine that a producer would offer and we would advise to buy them only after tasting them.
Second tier, Bourgogne (no sub-region): This region appellation claims to gather wine sourced from the Bourgogne Region solely. Although, we have been noticing an increase in wineries sourcing part of their fruit from northern Rhône or neighboring region. What to look into: is it produced by a small producer who sourced every grape from his estate, or is it a negociant that buys from different places, even out of Bourgogne? In the case of small producer, especially from Macon (“Macon” red appellation is granted to Gamay wine, “Bourgogne” is for Pinot Noir), you are safer to go but, we would still advise to taste first.
Third tier, Bourgogne sub-regional specific (example: Côte Chalonnaise, Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Hautes Côtes de Beaune). These regional specific wines guarantee which regions fruits are sourced from. This is where we like to start shopping as it begins to embody the spirit of a terroir. If on top of that, it is done by a small winery, you have potentially an excellent value. Our Domaine de l’Eveche, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise and Arnaud Boue's Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits are characteristic and show case the potential of the neighborhood villages.
Villages, a first step into history: Now, all fruit are sourced from the same village. Even better, if you notice a name under the village, it means that all the grapes come from a specific parcel with its unique qualities. In Macon sub Region, Village is the highest Quality of wine you will find and it is a matter to find the best one like our Domaine Creusserome, Vire Clesse and our Macon Peronne from the same Domaine. Arnaud Boue, Gevrey Chambertin is another example of a legendary village with its unique profile.
Village Premier Cru: We enter the realm of complex soil and refinement. It is now just a matter of finding the proper producer. Most of the premier Cru will be parcel sensitive (meaning, the parcel will be on the label next to the “Premier Cru” sign), if not, taste it before buying it. In Côte Chalonnaise, it is the highest tier of Wine, like our Domaine Deliance Givry 1er Cru "Clos de la Servoisine." Other stunning wines in our selection from the monumental sub-regions of Côte de Nuits and Chablis: Arnaud Boue, Nuits Saint George 1er Cru "les Chaboeufs," Domaine de la Meulière Chabis 1er Cru, les Fourneaux.
Village Grand Cru: only found in 39 terroirs in Chablis and Côte d’Or (Côte de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune), this is the highest quality for a parcel. The whole estate of Grand Cru parcel represents barely 1% of the global production of Bourgogne. They are legendary terroirs, like Arnaud Boue, Corton Charlemagne, parcel that Charlemagne’s queen asked the monk to plant with white wine grape varietal not far from his favorite parcel of red (Corton “Clos du Roy”) because she didn’t want her husband’s gorgeous beard to be stained anymore.