Burgundy is made up of 5 celebrated regions: Chablis & Yonne, Cote D’or, Cote Chalonnaise, the Maconnais and Beaujolais. The great vineyards of Burgundy do not produce huge quantities but they are responsible for the very finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the world has to offer. As there are literally thousands of tiny vineyards with multiple owners, to correctly decifer Burgundy it is advised to consider the quality of the producer and the terroir ahead of the merits and potential of the vintage.
Key grape varieties:
R Pinot Noir, Gamay
W Chardonnay, Aligote
The wines of Burgundy are graded as follows (best first): Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village Wine, AC Bourgogne.
Beaujolais - The Beaujolais region of southern Burgundy is famous for the Gamay grape of which it produces the finest examples in the world. The best wines come from particular villages such as Fleurie, Brouilly and Morgon and it is always advisable to choose your Beaujolais by the village. The red wine itself ranges from the lean and fairly unexciting to elegant, richly fruited, lighter bodied wines with a fine perfume.
Vintage recommendations: 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004
Chablis & Yonne - Chardonnay is the only grape in Chablis; Chablis produces a style of Chardonnay that is unique in the world. The wines have a characteristic flinty, steely character, with flavours of apple, citrus and peach. And they get better with age: gorgeously honeyed with a toasty and nutty dimension. Vintages matter a great deal here, as bad years can be lean and a bit green on the palate. You'll see plenty of cheap Chablis on the supermarket shelves while the top stuff starts around the £20 mark.
Vintage Recommendations: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004,2006, 2007
Cote Chalonnaise - There may not be any Grand Cru vineyards in the Cote Chalonnaise but a number of Premier Cru’s do the region proud. This also means that the wines are almost always less expensive than those from the nearby Cote D’Or. Production is centred on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote but keep an eye out for the excellent Cremant de Bourgogne as well (sparkling Chardonnay in most cases). The renowned wine villages in the Cote Chalonnaise include Mercurey, Bouzeron, Rully, Givry and Montagny.
Vintage Recommendations: 1990, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2003
Cote D’Or - The Cote D’Or (‘Hill of Gold’) region consists of the Cotes de Nuits (red wine) and the Cotes de Beaune (red and white wine) and is synonymous with world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The best Pinot’s are sumptuous, velvety, hedonistic and supremely elegant. The Chardonnay is deep, buttery, complex, ages well, and has a perfect balance of components.
Many of the Burgundy vineyards have become so famous that they could be considered brand names in their own right: La Chambertin, Richebourg, La Tache, Clos de Vougeot, Romanee Conte and Le Montrachet, to name but a few. So specific is the Burgundy 'terroir' that only the most developed palates can distinguish between the different ‘tastes’ of the different vineyards.
Vintage Recommendations: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1999, 2002
Maconnais - The Maconnais region of Burgundy produces as much wine as the whole of the Cote D’Or and the Cote Chalonnaise put together. Mass production, however, means that the vast majority of wines are average in terms of quality.
The best reds are often sold under the name Bourgogne Rouge (instead of the AC Macon appellation) while the best whites compete with the Cote D’Or – the full bodied, rich Chardonnay’s from Pouilly-Fuisse for example. Villages like St. Veran are getting an enviable reputation for quality white wine at affordable prices – the best examples are tasty and very drinkable and should retail for around £10. As always, producer is the most important consideration.
Vintage recommendations: 2000, 2002