Burgundy wine: a landscape mosaic

Burgundy, along with Bordeaux and Champagne, is one of the most prestigious wine regions in France. Burgundy wine is synonymous with quality, prestige and admiration. But what is the area that gives birth to these wines like?


Burgundy is located in the centre-east of France and in general terms consists of four distinct processing zones. From north to south, the following subdivisions can be established: Yonne, Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais.
However, each of these sub-areas is divided again, forming a mosaic of almost one hundred Appellations Contrôlées. In addition, its vineyards are very fragmented, for example, the Appellation Clos Veugeot, which have an area of 50 hectares, are distributed among some 90 owners. The result? A relatively small scenario in which there are many different producers, with particular beliefs and techniques, which means the terroir can be expressed in a thousand different ways. A true landscape mosaic.

With the diversity of processing techniques practised, several styles of Burgundy wine are obtained. For example, in Beaujolais, in the south of Burgundy, they vinify whole bunches of Gamay, carrying out what is known as “carbonic maceration”. By using this technique, they obtain wines that are very fruity and pleasant on the palate.
On the other hand, more in the centre of Burgundy, in the Côte d’Or or in the Côte Chalonnaise, it’s quite common for the processors to carry out pre-fermentative macerations with the Pinot Noir variety. Pre-fermentation maceration is a technique originally from Burgundy aimed at improving the extraction of aromatic and polyphenolic compounds. The vignerons realised that when the wines took longer to begin fermenting due to the cold of autumn, they were then more complex and structured, both aromatically and on the palate, than those that began to ferment directly.

In the case of Burgundy whites, the most important differences are based on the processing vessels used: wood, cement or stainless steel, and on the fact of being aged on lees or bottling younger.
Traditionally in Chablis, in the north of Burgundy, fermentation was not carried out in wooden vats, nor did the wine undergo ageing on lees, and they obtained fresh and fruity wines, but in contrast in the Côte d’Or it was more usual for them to obtain wines with more body, structure and aromatic complexity.
Currently things have changed a little, and each producer has their secret and does not stick strictly to traditions.

The diversity of the soils of Burgundy is a great feature of the area’s identity. Factors such as steepness, stoniness or rates of limestone or clay present in the plots are a fundamental element in delimiting the different Appellations. Broadly speaking we can differentiate between calcareous soils, more common in Chablis and optimal for Chardonnay; clay-calcareous soils and limestone marls, predominant in the Côte d’Or; calcareous clays with clay and sandy soils, in Chalonnaise and Mâconnais, and lastly the granitic and clayey soils that are typical of the plots of Gamay in Beaujolais.

Generally speaking, in Burgundy, the estates face east or southeast to make the most of the sunny hours and to ensure that the grapes can mature properly. The slopes are generally gentle and the altitude of the vineyards ranges between 200 and 400 metres above sea level. The main varieties grown are the red grapes Pinot Noir and Gamay, and the white ones Chardonnay and Aligoté.

The climate is also variable, both depending on regions and on vintages. In the northern area there is some influence from the Vosges mountain range, in the centre from the winds that come from the Gironde and in the southeast from the Rhone. The winters are cold and the rains are concentrated especially in autumn. However, there is often a risk of rain, frost or hail, so the years of harvest, the millésimes, are very important when determining the quality of a Burgundy wine.

Some of the most outstanding wineries in Burgundy, either in terms of quality or of the number of bottles they produce are Lois Latour, known above all for its Chardonnay whites; Joseph Drouhin one of the wineries with the most vineyards in the region; Maison Regnard, one of the few that still retains its cellar in the centre of Chablis, or Domaine Régis Rossignol-Changarnier, which has 36 plots rated as Premiers Crus!

Are you up for accompanying us through this landscape mosaic of Burgundy wine?

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