Burgundy never quite achieved its political ambitions of being a kingdom in
its own right, but for many, the region produces some of the most regal red and
white wines in the world.
In Burgundy there are 100 different appellations, numerous individual
vineyards and more than 3,000 individual producers. Around 15 million
cases are produced annually from 26,500ha of vines in Burgundy, which is
usually sub-divided into five regions; Chablis in the
Yonne department; the Côte de Nuits and
Côte de Beaune
in the department of the Côte d'Or; and the Chalonnais and Mâconnais in the
The world's most famous white wine grape may have originated in Burgundy,
where there is a village called Chardonnay (near Mâcon).
This marvellous, full-bodied grape responds well to barrel ageing and can
produce wines of great complexity which can age for decades. More often than
not though, in recent times, the wines are better drunk young. The simpler
white wines of Chablis to the north and the Mâconnais in the the south
are usually made in stainless steel to preserve freshness.
The heartland for white burgundy is the Côte de Beaune
with its three great villages, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet
Here the vineyard classification system really comes into its own. On the
flattest land, the wines will be classed only as generic Bourgogne
Blanc; as the slope begins to rise the wines are designated by the name of
their village.At mid-slope the finest vineyards, whose wines will be bottled
separately, are categorised as premier cru (eg Meursault Charmes) or
grand cru (Le Montrachet).
Though attractive wines can be found in the Chalonnais (Mercurey, Givry), the great
red wines of Burgundy are found in the Côte d'Or. The line of magical
villages which constitutes the Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin,
Morey St Denis,
Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée and
Georges is like a roll call of great names. The Côte de Beaune
competes through such gems as Volnay and Pommard, adjacent
but contrasting villages: lacy elegance for the wines of Volnay, sturdy and
more structured wines from Pommard.
Whereas Burgundy used to be considered a minefield because of the complexity
of choice, these days it is more of a playground for the adventurous wine
lover, thanks to the vast increase in number of quality-conscious, properly