Burgundy is a small place in the south of France where excellent wines have been made since before Roman times. The primary white wine that has been produced in this region is White Burgundy which is Chardonnay. Wine folly calls it the Crack Cocaine of Chardonnay because all you have to do is sample it and you are hooked on it. It is a single fermentation Chardonnay that is made in stainless steel containers and is NOT oaked. It is crisp and clean and a wonderful wine for warm days and cool nights associated with an early September in Connecticut. The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north to Mâcon in the south, or to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wine. The area in my opinion is quite similar to southern Connecticut. Some wonderful single fermentation chards have been produced here.
85 miles southeast of Chablis is the Côte d’Or, where Burgundy’s most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated. The Côte d’Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs until Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the Town of Nuits Saint Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les Maranges. The wine growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a ombination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. The best wines from Grand Cru vineyards of this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the Premier Cru come from a little less favorably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary “Village” wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côtede Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all but one of the region’s white Grand Cru wines are in the Côte de Beaune (the exception being Musigny Blanc). This is explained by the presence of different soils, which favor Pinot noir and Chardonnay, respectively.
The main levels in the Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are: Grand crus, Premier crus, village appellations, and finally regional appellation Grand Cru wines are produced from the small number of the best vineyard sites in the Côte d’Or, as strictly defined by the AOC laws. These Cru wines make up 2% of the production at 35 hl/ha, and are generally produced in a style meant for cellaring, and typically need to be aged a minimum of five to seven years. The best examples can be kept for more than 15 years. Grand Cru wines will only list the name of the vineyard as the appellation such as Corton or Montrachet on the wine label, plus the Gran Cru term, but not the village name. Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality, but not as well regarded as the Grand Cru sites. Premier Cru wines make up 12% of production at 45. These wines often should be aged three to five years, and again the best wines can keep for much longer.
Premier Cru wines are labeled with the name of the village of origin, the Premier Cru status, and usually the vineyard name; for example, “Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets”. Some Premier Cru wines are produced from several Premier Cru vineyards in the same village, and do not carry the name of an individual vineyard. Village appellation wines are produced from a blend of wines from supposedly lesser vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42 villages, or from one individual but unclassified vineyard. Wines from each different village are considered to have their own specific qualities and characteristics, and not all Burgundy communes have a village appellation. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hl/ha. These wines can be consumed two to four years after the release date, although again some examples will keep longer. Village wines will show the village name on the wine label, such as “Pommard”, and sometimes, if applicable, the name of the single vineyard or climate where it was sourced. Several villages in Burgundy have appended the names of their Grand Cru vineyards to the original village name; hence village names such as “Puligny Montrachet” and “AloxeCorton”. Regional appellation wines are wines which are allowed to be produced over the region or over an area significantly larger than that of an individual village. At the village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru levels, only red and white wines are found, but some of the regional appellations also allow the production of some Rose and some sparkling wines as well.
White Burgundy wines are grown in four locations in Burgundy. They all have different flavor characteristics because of a distinctly different terroirs. Bourgogne Blanc is a simple un-oaked wine with mainly apple notes and perhaps some mineral characteristics. Chablis is single fermentation chardonnay crisp white with some lime characteristics and a mineral flavor. It is up front and exciting. Maconnais is un-oaked wine with star fruit and melon flavors. Cote de Beaune is oak aged and is very rich in flavor. It has melon flavors and hazelnut with some undertones of truffle and other fruits. It is by far the most expensive of the four regions starting at $30.00 and up.
This Labor Day weekend settle back and open a bottle of Louis Latour 2010 Pouilly-Vinzelles. For $22.00 it is a bargain and you will be glad you did!
Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway CC and for the Milford Board of Education and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine.He is an award winning home wine maker Email Ray with your questions and wine events at firstname.lastname@example.org.