It may surprise you to know that it’s almost exclusively Chardonnay. But we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill value brand here. This is Burgundy.
Heard of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay?
Burgundy put them on the map. Literally.
Any Chardonnay maker worth his/her salt looks to Burgundy for inspiration. Burgundy is the birthplace of Chardonnay, and has a prominent and unmovable place in the canon of top shelf white wines. White Burgundy owes its acclaim to the unique traditions, climate, and agronomy of Burgundy unparalleled the world over.
The region of Burgundy is probably the most famous of French wine regions, if not of the whole world. Burgundy wines are traditionally considered the best wines money can buy.
What Wines Are Made In Burgundy?
Burgundy is a complex web of viticulture (almost) fixated completely on just two wines; Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Red Burgundy is exclusively made from Pinot Noir grapes and absolutely nothing else. Beholding to purist tradition, on the other side of the coin white Burgundy wine is crafted solely of Chardonnay.
Sticking to two grape varieties seems kinda xenophobic, but being that Burgundy is the birthplace of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and considering the ridiculously strict nature of French AC system), it’s not hard to understand Burgundy’s pride in its pure white and red wines.
What makes all Burgundy wines unique is terroir, or the geographical context of the wine.
Terroir is the taste the region’s agronomy, climate, culture, and traditions impart on the wine, and there’s no better example than Burgundy. The region’s soil is so varied that two adjacent vineyards growing the same grape may produce wines worlds apart. Thus, Burgundy wine is classified by AC and into four vineyard classifications:
4 Vineyard Classifications
- Grand Cru: This title is reserved for the best vineyards in Burgundy. A mere 2 percent of all Burgundian vineyards have earned this coveted title. Spoiler alert: wines produced from Grand Cru vineyards are highly sought after.
- Pemier Cru: These vineyards produce wines of stellar quality but not quite up to par for Grand Cru designation. About 12 percent of Burgundy’s vineyards have Premier Cru status.
- Village Wines: Wines produced from grapes sourced from multiple vineyards from one of the 42 villages of Burgundy. A Village Wine is labeled with the village it came from. These wines represent about 36 percent of Burgundy’s wines. They ain’t Crus, but you can still get some killer Burgundy wine on a budget with Village Wines.
- Regional Wines: The plebeians of Burgundy wine. But still some excellent, ready-to-drink wines can be found in this classification. These wines are blends from various villages throughout Burgundy, and hence don’t carry a village label. Instead, Regional Wines are marked simply Wine of Bourgone (Burgundy). Regional wines make up half of Burgundy’s wines. And they aren’t bad; they would comprise half the region’s wine if they were.
White Burgundy Wine Areas
White Burgundy is produced in four sub regions, each with its own terroir, imparting a unique profile and nuance to each wine.
- Bourgogne Blanc: young, un-oaked Regional wines with notes of apple and mineral. These are the most inexpensive of all white Burgundy wines, but are still a delicious vin de soif (thirst wine) on a budget. A bottle of Bourgogne Blanc won’t break the bank; a great bottle can be had for under $20.
- Cablis: Chablis is the northernmost sub-region in Burgundy, and thus produces the tartest of all white Burgundy wines. These un-oaked wines are light and acidic with citrus and mineral flavors. All this can be had for under $30.
- Mâconnais: Wines with plenty of fruit-forward notes of melon and starfruit. Mâconnais is the southernmost sub-region of Burgundy, and thus produces the plumpest of Chardonnay grapes (and more fruity tones). Get a bottle for under $20.
- Côte de Beaune: The flagship white Burgundy wine, and by far the most powerful. Oak aged with rich overtones of apple and starfruit and subtle notes of hazelnut, truffle, and vanilla to drive it home. Côte de Beaune is the mots prestigious Chardonnay region on earth, so don’t skimp if you’re looking for a characteristic Côte de Beaune white Burgundy. Be prepared to spend over $40 for a worthy Côte de Beaune.
What Does White Burgundy Taste Like?
1. Bourgogne Blanc
- Easy drinking
- Fresh apple and citrus
- Cheese and yogurt aromas
- Subtle notes of salted nuts
- Pair with chicken, pasta
- Yellow apple and citrus
- Vintage varieties contain flavors of honeydew and pineapple
- Slightly similar to California Chardonnay
- Rustic yet complex
- Pair with mid-weight dishes and cured pork
- Tart fruit aromas of lime, green apple, and pear
- Salty, subte notes of cheese rind, yogurt, and white flowers
- Pair with oysters and other raw seafood
4. Côte de Beaune
- Fleshy apple
- Meyer lemon
- Golden pear
- Yellow plum
- Aromas of truffle, cinnamon, and toasted almonds and bread
- Usually enjoyed alone, but pairs excellently with rich meat dishes, cream sauce, and mushrooms
Does White Burgundy Age Well?
The Sparknotes answer is yes.
However, different white Burgundy wines age better than others. If you’re forking over serious cash for a white Burgundy or are thinking about starting or adding to your collection, it’s good to know how long that bottle should simmer in the cellar.
It’s worth the wait, especially with Grand Cru white Burgundy. As a loose rule, the greater the wine’s pedigree, the better it will age. But any Burgundy is delicious right out of the bottle.
Bourgogne Blanc and Mâconnais
Chablis and Côte de Beaune (Village Wines)
Chablis and Côte de Beaune (Premier Cru)
Chablis and Côte de Beaune (Grand Cru)
Some White Burgundy To Try
1. Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles 2016
2. Duboeuf Domaine Beranger Pouilly-Fuisse 2016
3. Talmard Macon Chardonnay 2017
4. Guy Amiot Bourgogne Aligote 2013
5. Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2017
That’s a wrap!
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Thanks for reading.