A Wine Cellar guide to Burgundy wines

Burgundy, located in the central-eastern part of France, produces some of the most complex and sought-after wines in the world. The area under vine spans some 30,000ha and the greatest weather threats are frost and hail.


Burgundy consists of 5 primary wine growing areas, excluding Beaujolais and Châtillonnais. Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune are historically recognised as Burgundy’s most important regions and, together, are known as Côte d’Or.

Five Primary Regions

Chablis

The northern-most region of Burgundy; close to Champagne. Chablis is famous for its limestone soils and zesty Chardonnay.

Côte de Nuits

Famous for Pinot Noir, which makes up 80% of the region’s production. Bottlings can cost thousands of Rands per bottle.

Côte de Beaune

This region is very different to its neighbour in the north. It is best-known for its rich, aromatic Chardonnay bottlings.

Côte Chalonnaise

Between the Côte d’Or and Mâconnais, this region offers excellent value Pinot Noir and sparkling Crémant wines.

Mâconnais

This is southern-most region of Burgundy. Mâcon is home to some very good value, well-structured Chardonnays.

Common white varieties

The key white grape variety is Chardonnay. Varieties like Aligoté, Gamay and Sauvignon Blanc are also permitted. Traditionally, Burgundy whites are barrel aged. They spend more time on the lees, creating richer, fuller wines – with the exception of Chablis, where the whites are far more austere, linear and typically unwooded.

Common red varieties

The key red variety is Pinot Noir. Varieties like Pinot Gris are also permitted. Burgundy’s most coveted and expensive reds are produced from Pinot Noir. Though quality varies widely and inexperienced buyers best beware, fine examples resemble fresh red fruits on the nose, such as cherry and raspberry, along with more savoury, sometimes gamey notes of cured meats and damp mushrooms.

Classification

Burgundy’s classification system is possibly the most perplexing. A wine’s status is not determined by the reputation of the producer but rather the sub-regions and vineyard sites from which the grapes originate.

Grand Cru

Highest designation of the top-end reds and whites. Typically, they are labelled according to the vineyard name only, e.g. Montrachet Grand Cru.

Premier Cru

Recognised by a village name followed by a vineyard name, e.g. Chassagne-Montrachet.

Village/Commune

From villages that are considered to be of a higher quality. The village or commune is always stated on the label.

Bourgogne

Regional entry-level wines. If you know what to look for, you’ll find some excellent value Bourgogne rouge and blanc at this level.

Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet

Maison Joseph Drouhin