If knock you over the head with a massive wood block kinda Chardonnay is not your style, then Burgundy is where you need to go. Burgundy, located in Eastern France, West of the Saône River is known for elegant, dry, Chardonnays that focuses more on fruit. Burgundy uses oak for mouth feel, and maturity. Yeah, they make reds too, but today, I’m talking only Chard.
When one thinks of Burgundy one may imagine vast parcels of land covered by vines. This is somewhat inaccurate. Sure, Burgundy is a large wine making region, but it is composed of lots of tiny producers who are in love with their land and grapes. These wine makers and viticulturists have generations of wine in their blood. Burgundians are not the “snooty” Parisians everyone imagines France is populated by. Burgundians are gentle, sweet farmers. When asked what else they would be doing if not wine making will respond with a simple…”this is all I know, and this is what I do”.
Burgundy has the most appellations d’origine contrôlée (AOCs) in France. Their producers are incredibly focused on terroir. There are over 400 types of soil in the region. This variety, combined with each winery’s wine making style results in a myriad of styles all unified by elegance and minerality. Burgundy AOCs are classified from Grand Cru vineyards (with the toughest denominations) to regional appellations and Vin du Pays.
Grand Cru: Made at the best vineyards as defined by the AOC laws. Grand Cru wines make up only 2% of the production and are aged at least of five years. Grand Cru only list the name of the vineyard as the appellation (example Chassagne-Montrachet) and plus the term “Grand Cru”.
Premier Cru: These come from high quality vineyard sites and make up 12% of production. They are aged at least three years. Premier Cru wines have the name of the village, Premier Cru, and (most of the time) the vineyard name on the label (example, “Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons”). At times, they are made from various Premier Cru vineyards in the same village, so they do not show the name of an individual vineyard.
Village: These wines are made from a blend of wines from vineyard sites within one of the 42 villages, or from one unclassified vineyard. . Village makes up 36% of production. These are considered the “entry level” wines. Village labels will have the village name, such as “Pommard”. Some villages in Burgundy have appended the names of their Grand Cru vineyards to the original village name, for example “Aloxe-Corton”.
Regional Appellation: These wines are made in the entire region, or in an area larger than individual villages. Here, you will also find rosés and sparkling wines, as well as other grape varietals. Here’s the breakdown on these:
- AOC Bourgogne: A “generic” appellation for red or white wines made in the region, they are similar to Villages and are perfect for every day drinking.
- Subregional appellations: Made from grapes of areas larger than a village, like Mâcon-Villages.
If you want to taste some Burgundy Chardonnays during your trip, you can visit the city of Beaune. Many of the larger Negociants have tasting rooms there. However, I suggest you make friends with locals. Chances are they will be friends with at least one of the area’s smaller producers. This is where the true beauties are found.