Bourgogne, also referred to as Burgundy, is one of the most historic, famous, and important wine regions in the entire world.
Famed for meticulously crafted red and white wines, Bourgogne’s price point is frequently the first feature to stand out. French winemakers are keen on protecting the delicate terroir and ancient winemaking techniques that define this award-winning region.
If you’re traversing French wines to learn more about its iconic grapes, Bourgogne will leave a daintily perfumed impression.
Are you a fan of pinot noir or chardonnay? We’re going to explore classic wines of Bourgogne/Burgundy below by looking at its history, leading wineries, and standout vintages.
A Snapshot of Bourgogne/Burgundy
Bourgogne’s quintessential blend of clay and limestone soils is because the land used to be underwater. Hundreds of millions of years of ecological change would see this area gradually transformed into the lush wine region we know and love today.
Viticulture was first established in Bourgogne all the way back in the second or third century, with some historians still debating which group of people were the most influential.
Some archeologists found evidence of Celtic activity in the development of Burgundy wines, while others believe the Greeks to have more influence. One thing is for sure: Bourgogne’s long and complex history is one of its most fascinating features.
Wine grapes need to drink up a hefty amount of minerals to grow consistently. While some wine grapes are able to thrive in less nutritious soil, the most favored wine grapes of Burgundy need extra sustenance.
Over the decades, Bourgogne winemakers would become more aware of how this region’s terroir enhanced the drinks at their table.
Despite the region’s fantastic soil quality, the region’s weather is a little less predictable. This area of France is prone to heavy rain and hail, adding a degree of ambiguity that sometimes leaves delicate vines ruined.
What is Special About Bourgogne Wine?
Bourgogne wine often fetches a high price for its prestige, which is more than just a name. The status of Bourgogne wines was cultivated centuries back as vintages literally suited for kings and queens.
The passion of hardworking wineries combines well with the region’s propensity for rich soil. The two grapes most closely associated with Bourgogne are pinot noir and chardonnay, though you’ll find other French wine grapes (such as gamay).
How Do You Serve Bourgogne Wine?
The answer to this question depends on whether or not you’re serving a red Bourgogne or a white Bourgogne. These wine types are rather distinctive from each other, at times having completely diametric serving needs.
Red Bourgognes tastes best slightly chilled at a temperature of sixty degrees. We don’t recommend decanting them to preserve their famously powerful aroma. White Bourgognes follows the same logic as most white wines, able to be chilled further at fifty-five degrees.
What is the Difference Between Bordeaux and Bourgogne?
Bordeaux and Bourgogne/Burgundy are different wine regions in France. Both have subregions with unique blends, terroir, and wine cultivation techniques.
Bordeaux is known for a specific red blend simply dubbed Bordeaux, while Bourgogne is a catch-all term for any red or white wine from the Burgundy region.
What is Premier Cru Bourgogne?
One label you may find confusing is the Premier Cru Bourgogne. This label simply means your wine was created within the confines of a village. In contrast, Grand Cru Bourgogne is some of the rarest and most expensive wines made in the region.
Due to these sizes, these labels may also come with the label ‘climats’, denoting the highly particular climate of a tiny vineyard.
The Top Wines of Bourgogne/Burgundy
There are five important sub-regions that make up the wines of Bourgogne, each with distinct wine characteristics and different bottles that are viewed as the best and most sought after.
Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits is the northernmost sub region of Bourgogne, and represents the top half of the famous “Côte d’Or.” The phrase Côte d’Or translates to “The Golden Slope,” as the area is suited to high-quality wine cultivation as well as anywhere in the entire world.
Some of the highest quality wine grapes in the entire world are grown in the Côte d’Or area, and this is where some of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world are produced. The Côte de Nuits sub-region is home to some of the most important wine producers in all of France.
The two most important wine grapes in the Côte de Nuits region are the two quintessential Burgundy wine grapes – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are a number of smaller village regions within the Côte de Nuits that are each known for producing high-quality wines.
Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Grand Cru is the most famous and highly regarded bottle of Pinot Noir from the Chambertin village of the Côte de Nuits region. It is extremely sought after and hard to come by, and bottles sell for thousands of dollars at auction.
Domaine du Clos de Tart ‘Clos de Tart’ Grand Cru Monopole is another famous wine from the Côte de Nuits region that hails from the Morey-Saint-Denis village. It is one of the best bottles of Pinot Noir in the world and is made in a historic estate using traditional winemaking methods.
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Grand Cru ‘Cuvee Vieilles Vignes’ is one of the most highly rated bottles of wine in the entire world, and it is made in the tiny historic village area of Chambolle-Musigny. It has been rated #5 on the Wine Spectator top 100 lists.
Côte de Beaune
The Côte de Beaune region covers the southern portion of the Côte d’Or, and it is home to a number of different world-famous wine-producing estates. The region is named after the city of Beaune, which is the most important city in the southern portion of the Côte d’Or.
This historic wine region is especially important when it comes to the production of top-shelf high-quality white wine. Chardonnay produced in the Côte de Beaune region draws some of the highest price tags anywhere in the world, and it is well regarded to be of high quality.
This is one of the few regions in all of Burgundy where white wine dominates, and an estimated two-thirds of all wine produced in the region is made up of the Chardonnay grape. French oak is used in moderation for aging, leading to a distinct wine full of flair and complexity.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru is one of the most famous bottles of wine in the entire world, and the bottle itself has become a status symbol among serious wine collectors as well as the rich and famous.
Coche-Dury Meursault is another famous bottle of Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune region that has gained massive amounts of popularity all over the world. It is one of the 100 most famous wines in the entire world and is often featured on “best of” lists.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Corton Grand Cru is the most famous bottle of Pinot Noir from the Côte de Beaune region, and a single bottle often sells for over $3,000. While Chardonnay rules the region, this high-quality bottle of red wine helps to level the playing field.
While the Côte Chalonnaise region is not home to any estates that have been awarded the Grand Cru designation, there are plenty of producers here that are well known within the industry for producing extremely high-quality bottles of wine at an incredible value.
While some of the most famous bottles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from “The Golden Slope” regions of Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune cost thousands of dollars, it is fairly rare to find a bottle of Côte Chalonnaise priced at over $50.
This is also one of the few growing regions in Bourgogne that specializes in a third wine grape, and Aligote is fairly popular in the region. While Aligote makes up less than five percent of all wine in the region, it has gained acclaim from many wine enthusiasts and critics.
Domaine A. & P. de Villaine Bouzeron is one of the most famous wines produced in the Côte Chalonnaise region, and it is one of the most famous bottles of single varietal wine in the world that is made using the Aligote grape.
Leflaive & Associes Rully Premier Cru is a high-quality bottle of white wine using the Chardonnay grape that had gained international acclaim for its phenomenal balance and sparing use of new French oak.
Domaine Faiveley Clos des Myglands Monopole is one of the most highly regarded bottles of wine from the Côte Chalonnaise region that is made using the Pinot Noir grape. It has drawn a fair amount of critical acclaim and is a regular winner at international wine competitions.
The Mâconnais region is one of the southernmost wine-growing regions in all of Burgundy and produces a large volume of wine every single year. The area is also a powerhouse in terms of agricultural production, meaning the wine is not the only focus in Mâconnais.
The Chardonnay grape dominates wine production in Mâconnais, and the area is highly regarded for offering high-quality bottles of white wine at an affordable price point. Pouilly-Fuissé is one of the most famous and recognizable appellations in the area.
While other wine-producing regions in the Burgundy area specialize in the production of multiple different wine grapes, the vast majority of wines produced in the Mâconnais consist of single varietal bottles of the Chardonnay grape.
Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse is one of the most popular and widely distributed bottles of wine from the Mâconnais region. It is widely available in wine shops and grocery stores around the world and offers solid value at around $30 per bottle.
Chateau des Quarts Pouilly-Fuisse Clos des Quarts has received multiple scores in the 90s from the trusted publication Wine Spectator, as well as receiving high marks from the famous Jancis Robison. It is one of the most famous bottles of wine from the Mâconnais region.
Domaine des Heritiers du Comte Lafon Vire-Clesse is a highly regarded bottle of Chardonnay from Mâconnais that has received high marks from a number of important wine publications. At around $40 per bottle, this is one of the best values in the entire Burgundy region.
The Chablis region is disconnected from the rest of the subregions of Burgundy by over 100 miles. This important wine region is located further north than any other in the area, and the growing conditions in Chablis are considerably cooler compared to others.
The wines produced here are generally considered to be “cool climate” Chardonnays that are light and refined with complexity and many layers of flavor. There is very little use of oak aging in this area, leading to a “pure” and untouched representation of Chardonnay.
There are seven different areas within Chablis that have been awarded the Grand Cru designation, and each produces slightly different representations of the Chardonnay grape. These bright and fresh bottles of Chardonnay are considered by many to be the best in all of France.
Domaine Francois Raveneau Les Clos is a famous Grand Cru wine from Chablis that has established itself as one of the most sought-after and highly regarded representations of French Chardonnay in the entire world.
William Fevre Les Clos is another famous bottle of Chablis Chardonnay that comes in at a slightly more reasonable price point when compared to its more famous neighboring estates. This wine has won multiple gold medals at the International Wine Challenge.
Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Les Clos is one of the few wines to be awarded a 97-point score by the popular publication Wine Enthusiast. It is one of the most respected bottles of white wine in all of France and offers great balance as well as the complexity of flavor.
Why You Should Drink Bourgogne/Burgundy Wines
Bourgogne wines are a cut above the rest. With so much history and strife to its name, this wine region has literally and metaphorically fought for its recognition.
Burgundy is a small French wine region divided into several subregions such as Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. Pinot noir and chardonnay are the most planted grapes in this region, though you can also find plenty of Gamay. An interesting aspect of Bourgogne is its wealth of tiny wineries, some as small as just ten hectares.
Trying Bourgogne wines will open your eyes to the wealth of flavors and aromas possible in internationally planted grapes.
Want to learn more about French wine regions? Read our breakdown of Beaujolais here!