Champagne is Champagne. Bordeaux is Bordeaux. And Bourgogne is Burgundy? Sacré Bleu, not if the Bourgogne Wine Board can help it! One of France's most revered and famous wine regions, Bourgogne has been very patient but they respectfully request that we stop anglicizing their name, s'il vous plaît. So let's all say Bourgogne together -- Boor-gawn-yuh. Now, that wasn't so hard!
Let's face it, the pronunciation of Bourgogne isn't the only thing that intimidates many people -- the wines themselves have a reputation for being very expensive and only accessible to serious wine drinkers with deep pockets. It is true that Bourgogne produces some of the world's most celebrated wines and those upper-echelon wines demand impressive prices. However, that is only part of the Bourgogne story - many of the wines are accessibly priced and still offer superb quality. If you've been reluctant to explore the wines of Bourgogne, here are 4 essential facts about Bourgogne and 6 recommended producers. Cheers!
Fact 1: Bourgogne is the name of the region and the wines produced there. Located in central-eastern France, Bourgogne is at the crossroads of Mediterranean influences to the south, continental influences to the north, and oceanic influences to the west. Bourgogne's winemaking history spans 2,000 years.
Fact 2: Bourgogne's unique geography and terroir produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes of exceptional quality and most wines from Bourgogne are single-varietal wines crafted from Pinot Noir (red) and Chardonnay (white). This focus allows for wines of extraordinary purity and expressiveness. Smaller quantities of other grapes are also produced in Bourgogne; including Gamay, Sauvignon, and Aligoté. More than 60% of the wines produced in Bourgogne are white, about 27.5% red, some sparkling (Crémant du Bourgogne) and a bit of rosé.
Fact 3: Bourgogne has five wine-producing regions that run from north to south - Chablis & Grand Auxerrois, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâconnais. Within those five regions are 84 AOCs (Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée) that consist of 33 Grand Cru, 44 Village, and 7 Regional AOCs. While wines from Grand Cru appellations, such as Montrachet and Charmes-Chambertin, may be the most famous and expensive, they only account for 1% of Bourgogne's total production. Excellent wines, at various price points, can be found throughout the Village and Regional AOCs. Bourgogne's total annual production is around 183 million bottles - an impressive amount but it actually represents only 0.4% of the world's total wine production. But it's quality, not quantity, that matters and Bourgogne's 0.4% is superbly made and incredibly influential.
Fact 4: The Climats of Bourgogne have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Essential to understanding Bourgogne's terroir, climats are defined as "delimited geographic areas benefitting from specific natural and identified conditions. Created by man and nature, hand in hand, the Climats are more than 1,000 individual plots that are precisely delimited and classified into a hierarchy, gathered around the region’s various winegrowing villages."
Are you ready to explore wines from Bourgogne? Even if you can't master the pronunciation, don't be intimidated. After all, wine is meant to bring pleasure, not anxiety. If you love Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Bourgogne offers some of the most elegant and ethereal expressions of these grapes. Stop by your local wine shop and spend some time browsing the Bourgogne section; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the range of prices and expressions. I suggest starting your journey with one of the six producers listed below.
Maison Louis Jadot
Founded in 1859 by Louis-Henry Jadot, this venerable winemaker produces more than 150 wines in Bourgogne and Beaujolais. Jadot is certainly one of the most widely available French wine brands in the US.
Bouchard Pére & Fils
Founded in 1731, this respected winemaker is one of the oldest in Bourgogne and their 450 sustainably farmed vineyards extend more than 48 kilometers from north to south.
Domaine Huguenot Pére & Fils
The Huguenot family has been growing vines since 1790 and the estate practices organic farming.
Domaine Louis Moreau
The Moreau family settled in Chablis in 1814 and today the winery is managed by the 6th generation of the family. Devoted to Chardonnay, their vineyards are spread over the 4 levels of the appellation - Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru.
Domaine Jean-Louis & Jean-Christophe Bersan
The Bersan family has been making wine in Bourgogne for centuries. Today, father and son, tend vines that were planted more than 65 years ago by their ancestor.
Les Vignerons des Terres Secrétes
Founded in 1928, the 120 vignerons of Les Vignerons des Terres Secrétes work 910 hectares of vines in Bourgogne.
To learn more, visit the Bourgogne Wine Board website.