Keen to know more about Burgundy wine and buy the best bottles for your collection?
Burgundy represents the best of sophisticated, terroir-influenced wine. The longevity of Burgundy wine, its appeal to the senses, and ability to command astronomical prices have made it a favorite among wine drinkers and investors.
Why are Burgundies considered to be a benchmark for excellence? What are the different wine styles and tastes?
In this article, let’s explore the Burgundy wine region, the grapes grown, wine styles, flavor profiles, and food pairing. We’ll also look at investing in Burgundy wine and a selection of the finest bottles you should buy.
Table of Contents
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- A Brief Intro to Burgundy Wine
- A Quick History of Burgundian Wine
- Burgundy Grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
- The Burgundy Wine Region: Terroir, Wine Styles, and Flavor Profiles
- Burgundy Wine Classifications
- Food Pairing with Burgundy Wine
- Investing in Burgundy Wine
- Exquisite Burgundies to Collect in 2021 (Includes Taste, Prices)
- Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2015
- Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 2015
- Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru 2015
- Domaine Leroy Chambertin Grand Cru 2015
- Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru 2016
- Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru 1997
- Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2016
- Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2014
- Domaine Dujac Chambertin Grand Cru 2015
A Brief Intro to Burgundy Wine
Burgundy wine comes from the slopes and valleys of Burgundy (or Bourgogne) in eastern France. The region lies to the north of Lyon and the south of Paris.
The wines from Burgundy are as revered as those from Bordeaux in southwestern France. But, what’s interesting is that Burgundy has only around 25,000 hectares under vine while Bordeaux has over 120,000 hectares.
And, the region comprises some of the smallest vineyard plots in the world!
What makes Burgundian wine special?
Burgundy wines are more influenced by terroir than any other wine region in the world. The area, which was the seabed of a tropical sea millions of years ago, is layered with different types of limestone.
The oldest exposed soils are in Maconnais and the youngest in Chablis. These soils, plus the influence of sun exposure, rainfall, and drainage, impart uniquely diverse characteristics to the wines of Burgundy.
A Quick History of Burgundian Wine
The roots of Burgundy wines can be traced back to the Roman empire. Here’s a look at significant events that have shaped the region and wines to what it is today.
- Winemaking existed two millennia ago: Winemaking in the Bourgogne region existed even before the Romans came, thanks to the trade between Gaul and Italy. In 52 BC, the Romans conquered the region, bringing greater expertise in grape growing and winemaking.
- The monastic orders: Around the 1st century AD, Bourgogne land was cared for by the Cistercian and Cluniac Orders. The monks established the idea of terroir, marking out the vineyard into specific climats.
(A “climat” is a demarcated plot of vines with specific geological, exposure, and hydrometric characteristics. The resulting wine expresses the personality of the climat.)
- The Bourgogne Dukes: In the 14th century, many vineyards belonged to the Dukes of Burgundy.
The Dukes banned the abundant Gamay grape, promoting Pinot Noir, which produced far more complex wines. Despite the ban, some vintners continued to grow Gamay, and it became a popular everyday wine.
- Royalty and Revolution: By the 17th century, the monasteries sold their vineyards to the ruling class. The 18th century saw the emergence of négociant houses, who bought Burgundy wine from growers and aged it in their own cellars before resale.
Then came the French Revolution. Vineyards were seized and broken into smaller plots, redefining the viticultural landscape.
- Present-day renown: World War I marked a slow down in the success of Burgundy wine. But, interest picked up soon after World War II.
- Today, a winemaker can sell Burgundy wine through cooperatives, négociant houses, and domaine bottlings, and these bottles are available in almost 180 countries.
Burgundy Grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Burgundy’s cooler climate allows the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape to ripen slowly, creating elegant nuances in a wine that typically isn’t heavily bodied.
51% of the vineyards in Burgundy grow Chardonnay, and 40% are planted with the Pinot Noir grape. Aligote represents 6%, Gamay 2.5%, and the remainder is taken by other grape varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and César.
Interestingly, the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Burgundies are never blended (unlike in some parts of the world where they’re blended to make sparkling wines.) So, the taste profile is highly dependent on the vintage performance - with some years being extraordinary and others less so.
Also read: Discover delicious Moscato wines made from the ancient Muscat grape variety.
The Burgundy Wine Region: Terroir, Wine Styles, and Flavor Profiles
A single Burgundy vineyard can have scores of individual owners, each producing a differently nuanced wine. The wine produced is as much influenced by each producer’s winemaking philosophy as it is by the terroir!
Burgundy is divided into five subregions.
This area is geographically separated from the rest of Burgundy and is located closer to Champagne.
It’s known for its lean Chardonnay white wine. (There is no red Chablis). Most of the Chardonnay is unoaked and simply called “Chablis,” not “white Burgundy.”
The Kimmeridgian limestone here is white, chalky, reflecting the warmth of the sun well. This helps the Chardonnay grape ripen, producing a crisp, pure wine.
2. Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits is located just south of Dijon. It is home to 24 Grand Cru vineyards that occupy the eastern slopes, starting with northern Gevrey-Chambertin to Vosne Romanee in the south.
This area is famous for its age-worthy Pinot Noir, which takes up 80% of its production, with the remaining dedicated to Chardonnay grapes.
The expressive red wines of this region display classic Burgundy notes of black currant, cherry and spice. Some of the white wines from Premier Cru appellations like Vougeot are highly collectible too.
3. Côte de Beaune
If Cote de Nuit is popular for Pinot Noir, then Cote de Beaune is revered for its rich, oaked Chardonnays.
The open, rolling valleys of Cote de Beaune have a southeasterly exposure, producing beautifully expressive Burgundy whites filled with bouquets of soft white flower, fresh apple, and pear.
Seven of the eight Grand Cru vineyards here (including Corton-Charlemagne, Corton, and Montrachet) produce incredible white wine. The Premier Cru wine of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet are just as loved.
Don’t overlook the fantastic red wines too, which offer flavors of plum and cherry with earthy minerality.
Note: Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune are known together as Côte d’Or and are historically the most important Burgundy wine regions. All Burgundy Grand Crus are located in Côte d’Or, except Chablis Grand Cru vineyard.
4. Côte Chalonnaise
Côte Chalonnaise is known for great value Pinot Noir and smooth Chardonnay, from villages like Mercurey, Montagny, and Givry.
Some appellations diverge from the usual Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Bouzeron, for example, is the only Burgundy appellation devoted to the Aligote grape, producing a floral wine with notes of honey, citrus, and flint.
Rully is the center for the vibrant white and Rose sparkling wine - Crémant de Bourgogne.
This is the largest and most southerly Burgundy region and is known for easy-drinking, great value Chardonnay.
The warmer southern climate allows an earlier grape harvest, showing its influence in the wine with notes of soft apple, pineapple, honeysuckle, and citrus peel. The most famous appellation is Pouilly-Fuissé, with its beautiful, open vineyards and soils of limestone and granite.
And you’ll find the famous Beaujolais region just over the hills farther south. Beaujolais is technically part of Burgundy but is considered as a different wine region.
Also read: Discover the best wine glasses to sip your Burgundy from!
Like Bordeaux, the Burgundy region has its wine classifications, but they’re not the same.
Burgundy Wine Classifications
Burgundy is about a fifth the size of Bordeaux, but it has more AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Controlee) than any other French wine region.
Being the most terroir-oriented region in France, Burgundy wine classifications are geographically-focused, unlike Bordeaux wine classifications, which are awarded to individual chateaux.
Classifications are given to a specific vineyard or region, regardless of producer. They’re divided into four quality levels and cover all of Burgundy except Chablis. Chablis has its own classification.
1. Grand Cru
At the top of the list lie the 33 Grand Cru vineyards like Romanee-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, and Chambertin.
This prestigious group represents just under 2% of Burgundy’s production, but this is where the most complex, cellar-worthy wines come from.
2. Premier Cru
The Premier Cru vineyard comes after the Grand Crus. These classified vineyard plots (climats) produce exceptional wines that can also cellar well in the best vintages.
There are 640 climats in Burgundy, accounting for 10% of the region’s production. Some famous examples are Volnay Premier Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, or Santenots.
Sometimes, wines made from younger vines in a Grand Cru vineyard are sold as a Premier Cru wine at a lower price. This may be done to produce a Grand Cru wine from more mature vines, to improve its quality and prestige.
3. Village Wines
On the third tier are the Village wines, which take up 37% of Burgundy production. These are wines from a commune that have unique characteristics. Not all Burgundy communes have a village appellation.
The 44 Burgundy village appellations include Pommard, Mâcon Villages, and Nuits-St-Georges. You can find a village wine from top producers at lower prices, like Joseph Drouhin Côte de Nuits-Villages.
4. Regional Wines
Regional wines take up the remaining 51% of Burgundy production and are made from grapes grown anywhere in Burgundy. This includes the Bourgogne Rouge appellation for red wine, Bourgogne Blanc for white wine, with Crémant de Bourgogne AOC covering the sparkling wines.
Chablis Classification System
The Chablis wine classification also has four tiers, from top to bottom:
- Grand Cru Chablis: One Grand Cru with seven climats like Les Clos and Valmur. These Chardonnay wines are oaked and can age quite beautifully.
- Premier Cru Chablis: These nuanced, elegant wines come from limestone marl vineyards, with climat names like Mont de Milieu or Fourchaume.
- Chablis: These third tier wines are rounder with a mineral character.
- Petit Chablis: The fourth tier covers wines from grapes grown around the village. They are citrusy with high acidity and drink young well.
Next, let’s look at the right food to complement good Burgundy.
Food Pairing with Burgundy Wine
Here’s a rough guide for matching Burgundy wines with the right dishes:
Match youthful red Burgundy with:
- Mild cheeses like brie or goat cheese
- Seared tuna
- Chicken in creamy mustard sauce.
- Rack of lamb in herbs
- Mushroom risotto
Aged or weightier red Burgundy can go with:
- All kinds of meats, like richly-sauced boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin
- Roast grouse, pheasant, or partridge
- Guineafowl and goose
White Burgundy pairs well with:
- Buttery roast chicken
- Fish cooked in butter
- Seared scallops
- Baked crabmeat with cheese
Read more: Find out how many calories are in that glass of red Burgundy.
Now let’s see why Burgundy wine is an excellent long-term investment.
Investing in Burgundy Wine
Burgundy produces some of the world’s priciest wines, with its most expensive wine costing well over $10,000 compared to the most pricey Bordeaux at around $4,500.
Scarcity and age-worthiness are two of the factors that drive up the value of Burgundy wine.
Many top domaines make only a few hundred cases a year. And, fine red Burgundy can age close to half a century, sometimes more. White Burgundy shouldn’t be discounted, with some of the best vintages capable of aging for two to three decades.
Most of the investment-grade Burgundy wines come from Cote d’Or Grand Crus like Romanee-Conti, Richebourg, or Musigny. Prices also increase as the wines approach their drinking windows.
The iconic Grand Cru wines command staggering prices in auctions as well - like the 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti, which was sold for $558,000 in a 2018 Sotheby’s auction.
Also read: Find out all about cellaring your wine perfectly in this informative guide.
Exquisite Burgundies to Collect in 2021 (Includes Taste, Prices)
Here’s a handpicked shortlist of some of the greats.
1. Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Nuits
This Musigny wine is powerful, elegant, layered. Experience wildflowers, red berries, minerals, spices and herbs imbued in this balanced, finessed Pinot Noir. Drink between 2028-2070.
Price of Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru 2015: $79,320+
2. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Nuits
This beautiful, textured Pinot Noir offers an exotic range of perfumed floral, spice, tea, and incense-like nuances. Drink between 2022-2065.
Price of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 2015: $23,340+
3. Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Beaune
The fresh, vibrant Chardonnay from Cote de Beaune is firmly structured with a citrus-tinged acidity, retaining a graceful, persistent finish. Drink from 2020.
Price of Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru 2015: $11,470+
4. Domaine Leroy Chambertin Grand Cru 2015, Côte de Nuits
This 2015 Chambertin Pinot Noir has a focused minerality, savory herbs, dark berries on the palate, with a complex, persistent finish. Drink from 2025 to 2075.
Price of Domaine Leroy Chambertin Grand Cru 2015: $12,640+
5. Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru 2016, Côte de Nuits
This ethereal, weightless Pinot Noir floats across the palate with lacy tannins, Asian spices, and a chalky core. Drink between 2021 to 2050.
Price of Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru 2016: $18,630+
6. Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru 1997, Côte de Nuits
The 1997 Echezeaux vintage is a deep, smoky Pinot Noir. Rich, decadent, and buttery, it’s also beefy and beety. Drink from 2005 through 2022.
Price of Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru 1997: $6,690+
7. Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2016, Côte de Nuits
This lovely 2016 Pinot Noir unwinds with a bouquet of plums, cassis, and cherries. Full-bodied, with ripe tannins, it displays a core of concentrated fruit. Drink between 2022-2066.
Price of Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Clos-de-Beze Grand Cru 2016: $3,060+
8. Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2014, Côte de Beaune
This stunning Chardonnay from Cote de Beaune offers a bouquet of yellow plum and orange marmalade. Layers of spice-tinged citrus fruit powers through to a stunning finish. Drink between 2017-2050.
Price of Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2014: $5,970+
9. Domaine Dujac Chambertin Grand Cru 2015, Côtes de Nuits
Domaine Dujac Chambertin Grand Cru 2015
The bouquet of this young Pinot Noir will amaze you with a mix of red and black cherries, raw cocoa, with fine tannins and bright acidity on the palate. Drink between 2022-2050.
Price of Domaine Dujac Chambertin Grand Cru 2015: $3,680+
Are these fine wines easy to get hold of?
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A Slice of Burgundian History For Your Collection!
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