Burgundy – France’s most seductive wine region…
Burgundy seduces, intoxicating first-timers and return visitors alike with its charm – and wines.
Easily accessible by train or car, Burgundy lies south of Paris (approximately 190 miles). Comprised of three departments, five sub-regions, and over 3800 domaines, Burgundy offers an endless array of wine tasting options. Moreover, its quaint lifestyle and respect for tradition provides a lovely interlude from the hectic pace of city life.
In Burgundy, two grape varieties reign supreme: the noble Pinot Noir, and the fair-haired Chardonnay. The Burgundy wine region is home to notable Grand Crus such as Chablis, Corton-Charlemagne, and Romanée-Conti, and also boasts the production of affordable Crémant de Bourgogne, Bourgogne Aligoté, and Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains, among others.
Here, terroir serves as a touchstone for understanding the ‘soul’ of Burgundy’s wine. When planning your trip to Burgundy, understanding its sub-regions will help you get a lay of the land.
Yonne: Chablis, Grand Auxerrois
Located in the western part of Burgundy, the Yonne department includes famed Chablis and lesser-known Grand Auxerrois wine sub-regions. Here, high profile Chablis pours up mineral-driven Chardonnays – thanks to its famous chalky soils. Nearby under-the-radar Grand Auxerrois proffers pocket-friendly pours of unusual diversity, including Sauvignon Blanc in St. Bris, César-Pinot Noir blends in Irancy, and Melon de Bourgogne in Vézelay.
I love Chablis for its expansive horizons, bright light and sense of independence from the rest of Burgundy. I also enjoy the affordable off-the-beaten track selection of wines made from secondary varietals that abound here.
Cote d’Or: Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune
The golden slopes of the Côte d’Or encompass Burgundy’s celebrated Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune sub-regions, glistening from Dijon to Santenay. While Côte de Nuits wears the crown for world-class reds, Côte de Beaune holds forth with its ‘Royal Court’ of sumptuous whites, including Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, as well as velvety reds like Pommard and Volnay. The Cote d’Or also includes the lesser-ranked but higher altitude Hautes Côtes (upper slopes) that rise behind Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.
Many consider the Cote d’Or to be the heart of the Burgundy wine region, and Beaune its center of the universe. It’s where I go to wander the cobblestone streets, marvel at the weekly market, and lose myself in the quiet grandeur of this most aristocratic place.
Saône-et-Loire: Côte Chalonnaise & Mâconnais
Beyond the high-rent Côte d’Or department lies Burgundy’s southern outpost, home to the Côte Chalonnais the Maconnais departments, and some of Burgundy’s most budget-friendly wines.
Côte Chalonnaise lays claim to the birthplace of Burgundy’s Crémant de Bourgogne. Postcard picturesque villages like Mercurey supply a host of supple, reasonably-priced reds, while wine co-op capitol Montagny plants a flag for fresh, inexpensive whites.
Mâconnais anchors Burgundy in the south with its rolling hills, jutting escarpments, and famously refreshing, quaffable whites like famous Pouilly-Fuissé.
This region serves my favorite source of super-affordable, easy-quaffing whites. Mâconnais wine makers share a desire to try harder, to exceed expectations – maybe because they fall in the shadows of bigger shouldered Chablis and Cote d’Or. I also enjoy Macônnais for its proximity to another favorite wine region, Beaujolais.
All in all, Burgundy offers wine connoisseurs, neophytes and voyagers alike unimaginable treasures worth discovering, for those fortunate enough to venture there. Like any seductress, Burgundy waits patiently with a sly smile for you to unlock her charms.
L.M. Archer, FWS works is a freelance writer and wine professional. She holds designations in French Wine and Bourgogne Master-Level through the French Wine Society. She is also a member of the Society of Wine Educators, Alliance Française de Seattle, and blogs at www.binnotes.com