As early as Roman times, wine has been made in the Bourgogne. But it was only after the Middle Ages that the quality of wine making improved greatly. An important factor in this was the work of the monks, who had access to cool spaces in their monasteries and ensured that all their experiences were recorded in writing. In this way, knowledge and experience were handed over to the next generations.
At that time, the vineyards were mostly owned by the nobles. It was only after the French Revolution in 1789 that these vineyards came into the possession of farmers and citizens. But by inheritance of the vineyards by later generations fragmented vineyards, which you can now see at almost all vineyards in Burgundy. A single vineyard with a certain classification sometimes has dozens of owners. A good example of this is the perhaps most beautiful and best vineyard in the world: Montrachet, a grand cru vineyard. It covers only a few hectares but has about 10 different owners, some can only make several hundred bottles a year.
This means that knowledge of Burgundy and its wines can be quite a challenge. Besides the different vineyards with their typical character, you also need to know the winemaker. A winemaker puts a decisive stamp on the final product, the wine in the bottle. The vineyard and the winemaker determine the quality and attractiveness of a Burgundy wine.
Four grape varieties are used in Burgundy. For white wines Chardonnay and Aligoté. For red wines Pinot Noir and Gamay. The Gamay is mainly used in the Beaujolais region for the specific Beaujolais wines.
Burgundy has three main regions; the Cote de Beaune, where white wines are mainly made and the Cote de Nuits where mainly red wines are made. Chablis, an area some distance from Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits, also belongs to Burgundy. The Cote de Beaune and the Cote de Nuits are also called Cote D'Or. Besides the Cote D'Or and Chablis, Burgundy also has Cotes Chalonnaise and Maconnais. The best wines, both red and white wines, come from the Cote D'Or.
The Burgundy is relatively small compared to bordeaux, the number of hectares amounts to about 20% of that of bordeaux.
But it was not until the Middle Ages that the level of winemaking started rapidly improving. This is largely because of the monks and the clergy, who had access to cool storage space in their monasteries, and kept records of the winemaking process. This is how knowledge and expertise could to be transferred and expanded.
In later times, the vineyards would end up the hands of the nobility. But after the French Revolution, many of these landowners were forced to sell of their vineyards, transferring the ownership to the farmers. Subsequent generations of inheritance led to fragmentation of the vineyards, which is why nowadays the Bourgogne is characterised by a great diversification of the plots and vineyards. Gaining knowledge of Bourgogne wines is quite a challenge, because apart from knowing all about the vineyards themselves, you also need to find out who the winemaker is for that particular plot. One vineyard can have dozens of different owners, and by extension, winemakers.
In the Bourgogne, four grape varietals are prevalent: the Chardonnay and the Aligoté for white wines, and the Pinot Noir and the Gamay for reds. The latter is especially well represented in the Beaujolais. The Côte de Beaune subregion mainly produces white wines, whereas Côte de Nuits mainly yields red grapes.
The Law on The Appelation Controlees in Burgundy has been in place since 1937. The number of appelations is enormous. In the Cote D'Or alone, more than 100 designations of origin are distinguished. This includes 33 grand crus and 1271 lieux-dits or climats. Approximately 560 vineyards have the status of premier cru. The 100 appelations in the Cote D'Or can be found in 35 municipalities.
The difference in quality is huge. One cannot therefore simply compare one grand cru with another. The same goes for the Prime Minister crus.
The Grand Crus are considered the best wines of Burgundy. These grand crus are:
For the best white wines
Chablis Grand Crus (Blanchots, les Clos, Valmur, Grenouilles, Vaudesirs, Preuses, Bougros)
For the best red wines
Chambertin-Cos de Bèze
Clos de la Roche
Clos de Tart
Clos de Vougeot
Clos des Lambrays
Clos Saint Denis
La Grande Rue
Unfortunately, a vineyard does not say everything about the quality of the wine. The winemaker is ultimately decisive in this.
Some vineyards are a monopole. This means that the vineyard has only one owner. Examples include Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache, Lamarche Grande Rue and Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee Conti.
Four grape varieties are used within the appelations of Burgundy, two of which clearly produce the best wines: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
This grape is the most popular and internationally the most widely used grape for white wine. This is because the grape grows almost easily anywhere in the world and produces very attractive (taste) results. For a winemaker to grow profitably easily and quickly. The chardonnay grape is also called a noble grape. Many of the finest white wines are made from chardonnay. It is not the most planted grape variety.
The chardonnay grape gives wines with many fruit elements, where tropical fruit prevails (mango, passion fruit, pineapple). Butter and honey tones can also emerge. The wines can often also appear very concentrated and full, which gives a feeling of quality.
If they come from a good vintage, chardonnay wines can be stored perfectly, making it also a wine that is reserved in cellars. In the education of wine with wood, it often also develops buttering honey elements. When the wine is matured on wood, it can become even better with a longer ripening and also kept for a long time (more than fifteen years). The wines
can be quite alcoholic (over 14%).
This is one of the most difficult grapes to cultivate, because of the demands placed on the climate (cool), the soil composition and the conditions. But if all the conditions are met, the best red wines in the world can be made. The pinot noir grape, with its softness, subtlety and fruitiness, is at odds with the rigidity and power of the cabernet sauvignon grape. Another difference is the color. The colour of pinot noir wines is much lighter than that of cabernet sauvignon wines.
Typical of pinot noir wines is the sheer fruitiness, in which red fruit (raspberry, strawberry) prevails. In addition, floral elements (violet, rose) and in the older (matured) wines also come to the fore.
The best pinot noir wines come from Burgundy. The better wines are brought up on wood. In Burgundy, the climatic conditions and the soil (terroir) are optimal. But also from New Zealand and the United States (among others Oregon) come ever better pinot noir wines. There is a climate similar to that of Burgundy. Wines of the pinot noir grape can ripen for a very long time, provided that the wines are made for longer maturation (see chapter 4).
There are actually too many to mention, but in general the following domains are leading: Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Leroy, Ramonet, Roumier, Liger Belair, D'Auvenay, Raveneau, Dauvissat, Coche Dury, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Mugnier, Dujac, Meo Camuzet, Ponsot.