How to understand Burgundy wines ?

Maybe you already heard somebody shouting clear and loudly: "I love Burgundy wines! Especially the Vosne-Romanée! " Well maybe you are impressed, excited, bored, nonetheless you will understand why this person does not have a clue about Burgundy !

For you dear readers and during this special Burgundy month at Wiine.Me, here is an humble summary that will help you: Understand this very special label on burgundy wines and discover those amazing Appellations (a damn mix between areas, cities and estates). Let's start the journey.

Vineyards from the french historical area are not very easy to grasp: There are 84 different Appellations. If you want to understand Burgundy start this way: Get to know the geography and remember all wines you tasted from this area. Here is why :


Let's start with big generic names

To start with there are 6 generic Appellations (Official names that helps classify the wines origins and varieties):

  • Burgundy
  • Coteaux Bourguignons
  • Bourgogne Passe-tout-grain
  • Bourgogne Aligoté
  • Bourgogne Mousseux
  • Crémant de Bourgogne.

What for ?

  • Generic Names for several areas
  • It groups all wines that have no regional/village names
  • It helps specifies the type of wine, like Crémant (a sparkling wine from Burgundy)


The Geography

Burgundy is a French Region (gathering many cities and climates). To understand Burgundy you'll have to remember those 3 sub-regions that compose Burgundy. Indeed those are geographical area-based Appellations. (Tips and tricks: in the above infographics The Côte Chalonnaise is the only one that is not an Appellation, but only a sub-region).

The three right Appellations are:

  • Côtes de Nuits
  • Côte de Beaune
  • Mâcon


Zoom at the Appellation Level

To fully understand Burgundy, you'll need to get into the smaller areas and village names. Yes you have 41 of them, here is the pain. But most of them will ring a bell for you: Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin or Meursault...

The only thing is to get the logic behind: There is a village, therefore all vineyards around get the same name (the Appellation)

Classement et Climat Bourgogne


Next Zoom: Burgundy at the Village Appellation Level

Now, how to understand what is better or not ? Let's digg into the village Appellations.

An official scale exists to rank best parts of an Appellation:

  • Bourgogne Village =  Ordinary Crus + the Name of the closest village appellation on the label
  • Premiers Crus = Better parts of vineyards (soild, micro-climates...) An additional information on the label
  • Grands Crus = Best parts of the vineyards of the Appellation

Example: In the Vosne-Romanée Appellation, you can find the following Grand Crus:

  • Richebourg
  • La Romanée-Conti
  • Romanée-Saint-vivant
  • La-Grande-Rue
  • La-Tâche

(Here are some of the best wines in Burgundy and in the World)


Last step: The Estate Level

You thought it was already complicated ? Well think about this: If a Grand Cru is the best qualitative part (parcelle in french) of the vineyards around a village, it is a not only one wine.

Indeed several winemakers and wine estates can share the same Grand Cru part. For instance a wine with the following label: Cotes de Nuits (Sub-regional Appellation), Grand Cru (the most qualitative part), Grand Echezeaux (The estate where grapes were grown), this wine can be produced by 7 different winemakers !



To summarize

  • Appellations are great to localize the wine origins
  • Ranking are great to estimate the wine pricing and complexity
  • Wine producer's name are great to understand the style of the wine you will drink.

This month's wine selection

Ultimate wines for summer evenings on the terrace

Loire Adventure

  • Domaine JF Merieau, L'Arpent des Vaudons, 2016
  • Domaine JF Merieau, Le Bois Jacou, 2016
  • Domaine Fabrice Gasnier, Chinon Pierres Chaudes, 2017

From 39 CHF /Month