The wines of Burgundy are a never-ending story. Their presence is written large on every page of the golden book of Burgundian history.
They are the soul of Burgundy. But more than that, they lie at the heart of a regional economy which over the years has grown in step with the ever-growing renown of Burgundy’s wines.
They have their honored place in the cellars and at the tables of wine-lovers the world over. More than one half of Burgundy’s annual production of 180 million bottles is exported to 150 different countries.
Today the vineyards of Burgundy cover an area of some 25,000 hectares, divided into five main growing-areas. From north to south they are : Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais ; and finally, to the West the vineyards of Pouilly-sur-Loire and Pouilly-Fumé.
The tasting cup…
The ‘tastevin’ is a silver tasting cup that dates back to the 17th century.
Every winegrower would have one to judge the colour, the ‘nose’ and the taste of wine.
The most northerly of Burgundy’s wine-growing districts has won an undying reputation the world over for the elegance and fruit of its great dry white wines. The Chablis vineyards cover some 4,000 hectares and take in twenty or so «communes» (parishes) standing on the chalky-clay soils of the Serein valley.
The grape grown here is Chardonnay and it yields a variety of wines arranged into four categories, according to quality : Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis and Petit Chablis.
Nearby are the Auxerrois, Tonnerrois, Vézelay, and Côte Saint-Jacques vineyards covering 1,300 hectares in all, which produce a full range of white, red and rosé burgundies – not forgetting the new village appellation, Irancy, and the sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.
The prestige of the Côtes de Nuits’ great wines has earned it the title of «the Champs Elysées of Burgundy». The vineyards stretch in a narrow east-facing band of gold and purple along the hillsides between Marsannay and Corgoloin.
The «clos» (walled vine) date back to the vinegrowing estates of the great tenthcentury abbeys. To the monks, also, we owe much of our traditional lore concerning «terroir» – the patch of native soil from which a wine derives its special character – and of «climats»- distinct, named plots of land.
This is the kingdom of the Pinot Noir grape which lords it over 3,200 hectares and eight mouth-wateringly named villages. All the Grands Crus of Burgundy (except Corton) – famous names such as Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot and Romanée-Conti – have their home in this piece of smiling countryside.
Further back are hillslopes of the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits –550 hectares of splendid vines yielding fine burgundies renowned for their balance and aromatic qualities.
Burgundy’s wine-capital, Beaune, lends its name to 6,000 hectares of majestic vineyards which extend from the village of Ladoix-Serrigny to the hillslopes of the Maranges.
Variations in terroir hereabouts make the wines of the Côte de Beaune as diverse in character as they are high in quality – a spectrum which ranges from full, harmonious thoroughbred reds to great rich whites, complex and subtle whose names – Meursault, Montrachet and Corton Charlemagne – are a byword among lovers of great dry white wines the world over.
And as you make your way along the «Routes des vins», don’t miss the 650 hectares of the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, whose handsome vineyards have earned a high reputation for both red and white burgundies.
Geographically the Côte Chalonnaise is a natural extension of the Côte de Beaune, and its vineyards, helped by their favourable aspect, follow the same vocation of producing great wines from the two chief grape varieties of Burgundy, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagny are the leading lights of this fine 4,400 hectares vineyard district.
In addition, the little commune of Bouzeron produces a Bourgogne Aligoté with its own unique character, and both the Côte Chalonnaise and the neighbouring Couchois vineyards yield excellent Côtes du Couchois, village or regional appellations burgundies and Crémant de Bourgogne, all with their own marked personalities.
The vineyards of Pouilly-sur-Loire lie in the West of Burgundy, but are not included in the Burgundy wine appellations. Nearly 1,000 hectares of marly soils are planted with the Sauvignon grape known as «blanc fumé» on account of the smoky grey tinge of the ripe fruit.
The wines are perfumed, spicy and with a characteristic «gunflint» edge and notes of tuberose flower, box or broom. Lying off the beaten track of the «Route des Vins», this district offers panoramic views of the Loire Valley from the picturesque hamlets of Loges and Saint-Andelain.
In the Mâconnais, the southernmost as well the largest of Burgundy’s winegrowing districts (6,000 hectares), there is already a hint of the Midi in the air. The softness and gentle charm of this region of contrasts and harmonies is as seductive now as when, nearly two centuries ago, it inspired the poet Alphonse de Lamartine.
Here, between Tournus and the fringes of the Beaujolais, the Chardonnay gives of its best, yielding great white wines, fresh and fruity, with subtle and captivating bouquets under the names of Mâcon, Mâcon-Villages, and the Mâconnais crus of Viré-Clessé, Saint-Véran, Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles, and Pouilly-Loché.
And the Mâconnais reds, grown from the Gamay grape, are known by their deep red colour with a hint of violet and can astonish you with their freshness and red-fruit perfume.
Look for this sign…“From vineyards to cellars” It isLook for this sign of qualite : From vineyards to cellars characteristic of unhurried Burgundian thoroughness that the masters of the wine-growing art are just as attentive to visitor’s questions as they are to the contents of their cellars.
Some 280 wine-growers have opened their cellars to visitors and published an extremely informative brochure, “From Vineyards to Cellars”, available from all Burgundy tourist offices.
credits : Burgundy Tourist Board
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