Definition - What does Burgundy mean?

Burgundy is a region in France known as the home of some of the most expensive wines. Located in the east-central part of France, it runs roughly 75 - 100 miles (120 - 160 km) from Dijon in the north to Lyon in the south. The region is divided into Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais; some consider Beaujolais to still be a sub-region of Burgundy. Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune make up Burgundy’s most famous area - Côte d’Or (Golden Slope).

It is believed that wine was established in Burgundy as early as the 2nd Century AD. The church played a major role throughout its growth and development; in 587, the first vines were donated to the church, Benedictines planted the first big vineyard at their Abbey of Cluny in 910, Cistercians created the largest wall-surrounded vineyard at Clos de Vougeot in 1336 and were the first to notice that terroir gave consistently different wines. After the 14th Century, Burgundy wine has carved its mark and continued growing to become what it is today.

WineFrog explains Burgundy

The label of a Burgundy wine will tell you which region it comes from and whether it is produced by an individual estate (Mis en boutielle au Château) or a négociant (Mis en boutielle par…). It will also tell you the quality of the wine:

  1. Grand Cru
    • Highest quality available;
    • Only 1-2% of production;
    • Meant for cellaring; and
    • Can be aged on average for 5 – 7 years.
  2. Premier Cru
    • Second best quality available;
    • 10 – 12% of production; and
    • Can be cellared for 3 – 5 years.
  3. Village
    • Bend of wines from several vineyards;
    • Considered lesser quality;
    • 36 – 37% of production; and
    • Enjoyed young (2 – 4 years).
  4. Region – this classification includes the rare rosés and sparkling wines from Burgundy. It is a generic label that can be given to any wine produced in Burgundy and only requires the label to state the region.
Burgundy’s terroir comes from the limestone and clay soils, which is the cause of a zesty mineral characteristic in Burgundy wines. There are several different types of clay-limestone soils: bathonian, bajocan, oolitic, kimmeridgian and portlandian to name a few. Each imparts unique characteristics to the wine and are best suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These two varieties are the most prominent. Of the 70,500 acres of vines (in 2003), 46% are Chardonnay, 36% are Pinot Noir, 11% are Gamay, 6% are Aligoté, and the last 1% is consists of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Beurot.

The 2,000 – 3,200 domaines in Burgundy consist of:

  • Small growers who sell to larger producers and négociants
  • Négociants
  • Individual growers who sell their own wine
Négociants make up 8% of all property in Burgundy. However, individual growers only account for 25% of the wine sales.
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