Burgundy: The Region
What is it about wine from this small, almost secluded region that makes it so compelling? The top burgundies, white and red, have beguiling textures that melt over or dance upon or explode against the palate in unforgettable ways. Unlike many types of wine, Burgundy’s physicality is trenchant. Great ones can send shivers up your spine.
--from Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible
Burgundy: The Basics
Where: A small area with a cool climate in the Eastern Central part of the country, encompassing the cities of Dijon and Lyon.
What: All top white burgundies are made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. All top red burgundies are made with 100% Pinot Noir. The sub-region of Beaujolais is an exception. These fruity, lighter style red wines are made with the Gamay grape.
What makes it notable: The cool climate creates intensely-flavored wines of light to medium body. The land is laced with limestone, providing an intense mineral backbone. Finally, lots of rain creates the risk of rot, at times lending distinctive flavors.
Classifications: Highest designation is Grand Cru, then Premier Cru. These wines are made with grapes from a single vineyard with long-standing pedigrees. Villages wines are made with grapes from in and around particular villages. Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc use grapes from different vineyards from throughout the region.
Well-known appellations: Whites: Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet, Mersault, Macon-Village, Pouilly-Fuisse. Reds: Bourgogne, Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-George, Pommard
Many of the world’s most expensive wines hail from Burgundy, with prices of well over $5000 a bottle, sometimes much higher. Still, by combing the countryside to find artful, passionate winemakers whose parcels of land might lack the pedigrees of the oldest Domaines, savvy distributors have been able to find wines which represent Burgundy’s unique qualities at prices we Vermonters can afford.
A great working man’s Bourgogne rouge from vines in the deep south of the Côte de Nuits. Many of the most revered and expensive wines in the world are grown and made just to the north of this area. This is a rustic Pinot Noir with vibrant, concentrated fruit, at a great price.
This wine was imported by Kermit Lynch, the legendary and influential wine importer and writer from Berkeley, California. He has had so much success shining the spotlight on small, artisan producers that he has won two James Beard awards and was knighted by the French government with their prestigious “Legion d’Honneur.”
Domaine Pascal Renaud
Pouilly-Fuisse, Cuvee Vielles Vignes
“Vielles Vignes” means “Old Vines”--this wine is based on vines with an average age of 45 years. Wines with the designation Pouilly-Fuisse denotes wines which come from an area comprised of 4 villages in the Macon sub-region of Burgundy. These wines, as well as those from the most revered appellations such as Puligny-Montrachet, are generally richer and fuller than either the lighter Macon Chardonnays, or the austere, steely Chardonnays of Chablis, which lies on the far Northern edge of Burgundy (we will have one of these later in the series). This Pouilly-Fuisse is rich and honeyed, full of character, a luscious drink!