Burgundy Wines

Burgundy is a narrow strip of land in eastern France, bounded by the Saone, the Loire and the upper Seine rivers, which

produces, with Bordeaux, some of the finest wines in the world.

Burgundy wines can be red or white. The reds are, generally, full-bodied, dry and deep, rich ruby in colour. The whites

(with the exception of Chablis) are strong, slightly woody and dry to taste and a greenish pale gold in colour.

Burgundy produces relatively little wine, an average of only eight million gallons per year as compared to Bordeaux which

produces one hundred million gallons per year. This is partly because of the stringent appellation controlee laws passed

in the 1930’s which strictly define the quality, and thereby the quantity of wine produced. But mostly it is because of the multiple ownership system existing in the Burgundy region.

Most vineyards are owned by several, and sometimes many, different owners, all of whom work their own areas in their own

way and at their own pace. A wide fluctuation in quality of even a single wine is a natural consequence.

The multiple ownership system also meant in the past that many burgundies were blends of several types of wine, since many

of the small growers simply passed their product to negociants who organized bottling and shipping. Today, however, more and more burgundy is being estate-bottled, with the guarantee of quality that that implies. Mis en

bouteille au domaine, or mis en bouteille a la propriete are the burgundian equivalents of mis en bouteille au chateau

(chateau-bottled) Bordeaux.

Burgundy is divided into four main wine-producing areas-the Cote d’Or to the north, Cote de Chalonnais and Cote Maconnais

in the middle and, to the south, Cote de Beaujolais. Chablis, situated to the northwest of the Cote d’Or is not, strictly

speaking, in Burgundy, but the pale golden wine it produces is considered to be a Burgundy wine.

The Cote d’Or produces most of the truly superlative wines of Burgundy and, perhaps as a result, has, with the excep-tion

of Chablis, the most clearly identi-fiable system of quality control in the region. Wine produced here is divided into

three categories. The first, village wine, a sort of superior vin ordinaire, is identified only by the name of the village

within which the vineyard is located (Chambolle-Musigny, for example). The second, premier cru (first growth) is iden-

tified by both the village and the vineyard name (Chambolle-Musigny/Les Amour-euses). And, at the very top, a few grands

cms are identified by their vineyard alone. (Musigny, for example, is a Chambolle-Musigny wine.)

The northern part of the Cote d’Or is called the Cote de Nuits and stretches from just south of Dijon to the village of Nuits St. Georges. It produces some of the great red wines of Burgundy. Cham-bertin, reputed to be Napoleon’s favourite

red wine, Romanee-Conti and Clos de Vougeot are the three most distinguished. Even the village wines are superior and Nuits St. Georges is an excellent example.

Cote de Beaune makes up the southern half of the Cote d’Or and produces one great red wine, several good ones and most of the best white wine of the region. Corton is the great red with, on a more modest scale, some very drinkable reds from

Beaune and Pommard. The three greatest whites are Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and Meursault.

The middle areas, Chalonnais and Maconnais, also produce some good, and underrated, wines. Givry and Montagny are the best-known areas of Chalonnais, while the soft, fragrant Pouilly-Fuisse is, perhaps, the most popular of several excellent

white Macons.

Beaujolais produces light fresh red wine best drunk when very young. Moulin-a-Vent and Brouilly are two of the better


Chablis is, after Beaujolais, probably the most imitated wine of Burgundy and, in its pure state, is the traditional

accompaniment to oysters. It is sold

under four categories-grand cru, premier cru, Chablis and petit Chablis.

Four vineyards in Chablis have earned the right to call themselves grands cms. Vaudesir is probably the best-known of these.

Red burgundies go well with roasts, steaks and such poultry as duck and goose, and they are often served with game.

Chablis and Pouilly-Fuisse can be served with fish or a light salad.

Cote de Beaune whites complement anything but go particularly well with such white meats as veal and pork, and such

poultry as chicken.

Clarified butter is used mostly for sealing potted shrimps and pate’s.

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