The Burgundy wine region is found between the towns of Auxerre and Lyon, running along the A6, from South-East of Paris and covering around 300 kms.
Burgundy has almost 700 different appellations and there can be multiple owners of the same vineyard, each producing very different wines from almost identical soil.
More important than the AC then, is knowledge of the individual wine-maker, since techniques vary from producer to producer and consequently so does quality.
There are 22 regional and district appellations. All regional appellations have the word Bourgogne in their title. District appellations are one stage better and do not include Bourgogne in their titles. After this comes Commune ACs. If a wine comes from a single vineyard then it may be named on the label. At the top of the pecking order comes the Vineyard ACs. There are two sub-divisions – Premier Cru and the superior Grand Cru. Confused yet? Me too. Why do the French make is so complicated? Honestly.
Black grapes – Pinot Noir and Gamay.
White grapes - Chardonnay and Aligote.
Pinot Noir is the dominant black grape and probably has the most famous association with the Burgundy region. It is perfectly suited to the northern continental climate and is grown throughout the region. Pinot gives very tight bunches of grapes that are fruity when young but mature nicely with age.
Chardonnay gives a classic white wine and makes up Chablis and other well known regional Burgundies.
Chablis has three key ACs – Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru. Other key areas include Cote d’Or, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune (where you will find the great whites of Volnay, Meursault, Saint-Aubin and Puligny-Montrachet), Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais (where you will find Pouilly-Fuisse, favourite of the Americans and known in some circles as ‘fussy pussy’ (!)
Last, but not least, the region of Beaujolais deserves a special mention with wines made from the Gamay grape. Most Beaujolais wines are designed to be drunk young. Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine of the new vintage to be released every year and inspires the classic BN runs from the UK over to France to pick up the first releases. It cannot be released until midnight of the the 3rd Wednesday in November following the vintage.
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A classic Chablis for you - made from the Chardonnay grape, don't think New World Oaky and make me feel sick after 2 warm glasses. Think cool, steely, crispy and lip smacking lush, especially when served up with a plate of fresh prawns. Yummy!
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