About Burgundy

Ah, Burgundy: the birthplace of wines against which all others are compared. This tiny, central-east French region holds an inordinate amount of power in the world of wine and is also home to some of the world’s most expensive wines.

Burgundy Basics

The small but mighty region of Burgundy has five main winegrowing areas. In the very far forth, Chablis—which is geographically separated from the rest of Burgundy and close to Champagne—is known for steely, crisp and clean unoaked Chardonnays with bracing acidity.

But the most renowned Burgundy wines are arguably from the famed Côte d’Or, or “Golden Slope,” which is comprised of both the Côte de Nuits in the north, known for red wines (Pinot Noir), and the Côte de Beaune, famous for whites (Chardonnay), just south of it. Meanwhile, at the southern end of the region, are the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais, both lauded for value-driven Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a bit of Gamay.

The Grapes of Burgundy

Though the basics of Burgundy are fairly easy to understand—the main grape varieties are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the soil types are clay and limestone—the wines are anything but. Burgundian wines are thought to be among the most complex and age-worthy in the world.

Although Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are synonymous with Burgundy, a few other grapes grow in the area as well. Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris are allowed in the Saint-Bris-le-Vineux appellation of Burgundy, located near Chablis and Sancerre (Loire Valley).

Another white allowed in the area is Aligoté, which is similar to Chardonnay, a distant relative. It is allowed in the area of Bouzeron, located in the Côte Chalonnaise. Many sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne wines use Aligote as their base blending wine. Aligote is a high-yielding variety with high acidity.


Like much of France, Burgundy uses a classification system to denote quality. At the bottom are the regional wines, usually labeled as “Bourgogne Blanc” or “Bourgogne Rouge.” The village-level wines are next, and this is where the names of villages begin to appear on labels. From there, the next step up are Premier (1er Cru) wines, which are labeled with vineyard names in specific villages. And at the top, Grand Cru wines prominently stake their claim as the most important (and expensive) bottlings of the region. Names like Montrachet or Clos de Vougeot will feature prominently on the label.

Chablis, being geographically separate from the rest of Burgundy, also has its own classification system for quality. At the bottom is Petit Chablis, which are village-level wines. Wines labeled simply “Chablis” are next, followed by Premier Cru Chablis, which have vineyard names on their labels. Finally, Grand Cru Chablis will have one of seven vineyard names on their labels.

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