I have always been partial to the French Burgundy wines. Don’t get me wrong, Bordeaux wines are lovely. They taste and smell like a fragrant, heavily ripe or even dried fruit. They have their place in this world, and paired with the right food, they are magnificent. If I was comparing Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley reds, I would call the Bordeaux the intense big sister. Burgundy would be the middle sister who was just the right amount of everything. The Rhone Valley reds are lighter and easier to drink, especially if you are sensitive to bitter flavors. Each region has some superstars.
Burgundy wines are not blended. If you are drinking a red, it will be from a Pinot Noir grape or a Gamay if you are drinking a Beaujolais. If you are drinking a white, you will be drinking either a Chardonnay or possibly an Aligoté. The range and the depth the depth of the different flavors you experience will depend on where in the region your wine came from. Burgundy has nearly 100 AOC’s (appellation d’origins contrôlée) which is a fancy way of saying the geographical region.
Burgundy takes wine and the history serious. The history is how they came up with their classification system of the vineyards, Remember those smart Cistercian monks? Their smart observations and notes helped to form the classification system. The best of the best are classified Grand Cru, the second best are known as Premier Cru’s and the last classification are known as village wines. The vineyards have different placements in the region. Burgundy used to be an ancient sea and the vineyards that are on the upper slopes of the ancient sea are classified as Grand Crus. The next level of vines are the Primer Cru and the village classification is held for the vineyard that are in the villages and usually the furthest down the slope or hill.
The classifications are important, in regards to the quality of the wine. But the placement of the vine does not mean everything. It is possible to buy some Premier Crus that some may like better then the Grand Cru wine right next to it. It is also possible to buy some very nice village wines as well. A well made village wine in a good year can be better then a poorly made Grand Cru, so the most important words are actually the name of the producer that is on the label.
Burgundy’s starts with the whites in Chablis, and stretches 138 miles (220km) south to end with the red Beaujolais. While the region itself seems very small it is quite diverse, even down to the weather that it experiences and the soil that the vines grow in. All this brings different and even specific flavors to the wines. These flavors can be teased out carefully when paired with proper foods. For now though we will stick to the wines and what they are famous for in the wine world.