Along with Bordeaux, the other heavy hitter amongst French wines is the Bourgogne (Burgundy) region. If you are looking for fancy (and who isn’t?), Burgundy wines can go toe-to-toe with the best wines in the world.
Red wines from Burgundy are usually made from pinot noir grapes, while white Burgundy wines made from chardonnay grapes.
Note: Beaujolais wines are technically part of Burgundy, but its wines are treated differently. You can read more about Beaujolais wines here.
Table of Contents
First up, is the initials that are listed on a Burgundy bottle of wine.
- AOC – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée
- AOP – Appellation d’Origine Protégée
- Vin de Pays – Wine of France
Burgundy wines have the highest number of AOCs in France. Until 2017, all Burgundy wines were AOC/AOP wines, with Vin de Pays being a new appellation for this region.
The concept of “terroir”, i.e. land and soil, is very important among Burgundy wines. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine’s producer (unlike Bordeaux wines, which are all about the producer in the Châteaux, and Alsace wines which are all about the grapes).
Beyond the appellations, Burgundy wines follow a strict hierarchical quality classification based on location, grapes, soil, climate, and more. In order of importance, they are Grand Cru Classé, Premiers Crus, Bourgogne village, and Bourgogne. You can read more about French wine labels here.
Top names in Burgundy Wines
There are over 160 types of Burgundy wines, so here are the most popular names that you will come across when looking at bottles from this region.
1. Pinot Noir
As I mentioned earlier, a pinot noir is a type of grape. It is not possible to judge the quality of the wine just from the name “Cabernet Sauvignon”, you must check the label for the appellations noted above, and the name of the estate/domaine. It could be a table wine or a high-end AOC.
Pairing: Generally Pinot noirs go well with red meats like black angus, soft white cheeses, roasted chicken wings, etc.
Buy a bottle of Burgundy here.
2. Bourgogne Rouge
A Bourgogne rouge is a type of Pinot Noir. If it only says Bourgogne Rouge on the label, it is likely an AOC or the new Vin de Pays label, without any Cru or Village distinction. (Which is not to say it is a bad wine, it just isn’t an expensive wine!)
Pairing: The Bourgogne rouge goes well with meats such as andouillette sausages, beef or rabbit.
Chablis AOC wines have a hierarchy of Grand Cru, Premier Cru, and Village wines, plus a special Petit Chablis which is a level below Village Chablis. All Chablis wines are white, made with the Chardonnay grape.
The chablis tends to be rather acid, sometimes with notes of mushroom.
Buy a bottle of Chablis here.
Chardonnay is a grape that is produced in several areas like the Loire, California, Canada, etc. Notably, it is also used in Champagne.
Chardonnay is used quite regularly in white wines from Burgundy, and it is the only permitted AOC grape variety in the Chablis region. If it only says Chardonnay on the label, you have to look at the rest of the labeling to see if it is a cru, village wine, AOC, or Vin de France.
Pairing: Chardonnays are quite dry so they go well with seafood like lobster or crab.
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5. Côte de Nuits
Type: Mostly Red
Côte de Nuits is part of the famous Côte d’Or of Burgundy, which produces some of the finest wines in the world. There are 24 Grand Crus coming from this area, most of them Pinot Noirs. Most of the grand cru vineyards are around the villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanee, Flagey-Echezeaux, and Nuits-St-Georges.
Pairing: A full-bodied wine, the Côte de Nuits (red) goes well with meats like porc and beef. Also goes well with a fondue bourguignonne (beef fondue).
5. Côte de Beaune
Type: Mostly White
The other part of Côte d’Or is the Côte de Beaune. Seven out of 8 Grand Crus from this area are white, and this area is known as one of the best in the world for white wines. With a hint of caramel, wines from this area tend to be quite smooth and fresh.
Pairing: Côte de Beaune wines go well with chicken, soft cheeses, seafood in sauce, etc.
Buy a bottle of Beaune here.
6. Côte Chalonnaise
Type: Red, White and Sparkling
Côte Chalonnaise is one of the more down-to-earth wine regions, where there are no Grand Crus. The area tends to produce a bit of everything, red wines from Mercurey and Givry, and white wines and crémants from Rully.
Buy a Burgundy Classic Gift set here.
Type: Mostly white
Wines from Mâcon are mostly white made from Chardonnay, with some big names among them: Pouilly-Fuissé , Pouilly-Vinzelles , Pouilly-Loché , Saint-Véran and Viré-Clessé. The wines are all quite diverse and of differing quality, ranging from crus to regular AOCs.
Pairing: Mâcon wines usually go well with lighter dishes like chicken or salmon in sauce, ratatouille, or goat cheeses.
Buy a bottle of Macon wines here.
8. Pouilly Fuissé
The Pouilly Fuissé is a type of wine from Maçon, which often gets mixed up with the Pouilly Fumé from the Loire Valley. The Pouilly Fuissé is made from the Chardonnay grape (rather than the Fumé’s Sauvignon blanc grape).
The Pouilly Fuissé is a more complex wine with notes of flower, almonds, hazelnut.
Pairing: Pouilly Fuissé goes well with richer dishes like blanquette de veau, pâtés and terrines, and soft cheeses like camembert.
Buy a bottle of Pouilly Fuissé here.
Another grape found in the region is the Aligoté which is used in white wine that is higher in acidity. Aligoté is usually floral with a touch of citrus.
These wines are a bit cheaper and so tend to be used in drinks like the apéritif Kir, where the wine is mixed with black currant liqueur.
Pairing: Aligotés go well with dishes like fried fish, hard cheeses like comté, escargot in puff pastry, etc.
☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)
So do you prefer wines from Burgundy or wines from Bordeaux? Either way, as always remember to drink responsibly!
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