The French Wine region of Burgundy (also known as “Bourgogne”) may be small in size but its influence within the world of wine is vast. Over the centuries, Burgundy has become known for offering the best land in the world for producing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and it is for this reason that Burgundy wines have received such acclaim.
Wine production in Burgundy dates back to the 1st Century AD, which makes it one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe. Winemaking goes back to the Romans, but it was the Catholic monks who grew the grapes from the church and the Dukes of Burgundy that established the vineyards in the Middle Ages. During the French Revolution, the land was taken from the aristocracy and given back to the people who, today, pride themselves on their attachment to the land. The people’s pride continues to grow and they are practicing sustainable, organic, and bio-dynamic viticulture and winemaking in ever increasing numbers. If you venture into the vineyards you can find chunks of limestone or marl (limestone mixed with clay) that contain fascinating fossilized sea creatures from where it was once a vast, tropical sea.
Types of Grape
Burgundy is famous for two types of grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Red Burgundy is wine that is made in the Burgundy region of eastern France using 100% Pinot Noir grapes. White Burgundy is also made in the region, but is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.
What makes both Burgundian wines so special, is that Burgundy, more than probably any other wine region in the world, is completely influenced by its terroir. Terroir is a sense of place, it means that when you drink a wine, you completely taste the region where the wine was made. Most simply, terroir is the concept that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that single vineyard. No other wine region in the world is as well-known for its terroir as Burgundy, where vineyards that are metres apart can produce vastly different wines from the same grapes.
Located in the east-central part of France, the climate in Burgundy offers cool temperatures in the winter and plenty of sun exposure in the summer, making it a perfect environment for ripening grapes. The soil which is a very important factor in ‘terroir’ is mostly Limestone. This is ideal for growing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Burgundy's vineyards cover nearly 30,000 hectares, dispersed amongst 3,000+ wineries with 5 primary wine growing areas:
- Côte de Nuits
- Côte de Beaune
- Côte Chalonnaise
Each of the five regions is incredibly distinct; despite using the same grape varieties, the wines' characteristics and expressions are extremely variant from region to region.
When buying a bottle of Burgundy, one of these four classifications will be labeled on the bottle covering both red and white wines, each level progressively more specific about the grape origin. The quality of wines can vary considerably across the levels, but the most famous vineyards have earned their reputation and become sought-after and thus more expensive over hundreds of years:
Grand Cru – This classification is reserved for the best vineyards. They make up just 2% of wine production in Burgundy and are only produced from the best vineyards. Grand Cru wines are unrelentingly sought after by wine collectors. Their rarity and elegance make Grand Crus incredibly expensive. You can expect a Grand Cru wine to have been aged for five to seven years before it hits your tongue.
Premier Cru – These wines are produced from vineyards that are still considered to be of stellar quality, but just a small step down from Grand Cru. These vineyards make up about 12 percent of all vineyards in Burgundy and can also produce wines that are quite expensive.
Village Wines – These are Burgundies that are produced from grapes sourced from several vineyards in 1 of the 42 villages of Burgundy. You will know it’s a Village wine because the name of the village where the grapes were sourced will be labeled on the bottle. These wines represent 36 percent of all Burgundy. Vineyards that produce Village wines may be right next to vineyards classified as Premier or Grand Cru, but for some reason they do not receive the same classification. Due to this, you can find excellent bang for your buck among Village wines.
Regional Wines – Finally, Regional wines are considered to be the lowest level of classification. These are wines that are created from a combination of vineyards from a variety of villages within Burgundy, as opposed to a single village, like Village wines. As such, wines of this classification will simply be labelled as a wine of Bourgogne. These wines represent 50 percent of all wines produced in Burgundy and in this classification you will find excellent wines meant to be drunk now.
We asked Sergio dos Santos, Head Sommelier which Burgundy wines he would choose for our current dishes at The Terrace Restaurant:
Dish: Lymington sea bass, Terrace Garden Jerusalem Artichoke, Slow Cooked Squid, Preserved Lemon, Pine nut, Chicken Jus
Paired with: Rully 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes Meix Cadot 2017, Domaine Dureuil-Janthial
“The seabass is a noble fish with a delicate flesh that deserves a white wine from the Chardonnay grape with aromas and texture, finesse and elegance. The suppleness, succulence and purity of the Rully white wine which also offers aromas of yellow and dried fruits, flowers and honey is a great partner with the Lymington sea bass."
Dish: Red Leg Partridge, Swede, Picked Elderberries, Smoked Bacon, Chestnut
Paired with: Chambolle Musigny Veilles Vignes, 2013, Domaine Lignier Michelot
"The partridge is renowned for the delicacy of its flesh and its strength and aromatic complexity. The wine must therefore have the roundness and the silkiness that complement the meat. The finesse and concentration of the Chambolle Musigny combined with ample fruit, spice, and earthy gaminess aromas with its suave texture will go perfectly with the partridge."
The world of fine French wine is rich with complexity, that’s why we have collaborated with Lea & Sandeman Wine Merchants to invite you to learn more about Burgundy wine whilst enjoying a mouth-watering 5 course menu created by Head Chef Matthew Whitfield.
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