A funny thing happened to the name of this region (and its sub region Chablis) in the United States. It was used to mean generic jug wines, and too many people still associate the name with low quality wines. The truth is quite the opposite, this is one of the greatest regions in France.

Burgundy has a deserved reputation as well: It is difficult to learn. The many vineyards and subtle distinctions can make even the most confident wine lover, weak in the knees. It is expensive, almost always, and worth the price only occasionally, and great only rarely. When it is great though, Burgundy is my favorite wine in the world.

Cool with a long growing region, this difficult region is home to the equally difficult red wine grape Pinot Noir. The wines from Burgundy range from very rich and intense reds in the north, to lighter reds and heavy whites in the middle and light whites and few reds in the south.


Pinot Noir for Reds.
Chardonnay for whites.

Sub Regions

In the north we have the region of Cote d'Or and the south the Maconnaise. There is also the exceptional white wine region of Chablis far to the north west, and unattached to the rest of Burgundy.

The Cote d'Or is further divided into the northern Cote de Nuits, primarily reds, and the Cote de Beaune with its famous whites and lighter reds.

It is important to know the names of the villages of the Cote d'Or. That way you can have an idea of the style and quality of the win.

From North to South here are the villages of the Cote d'Or:

Cote de Nuits

Light Reds, not well known.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

The largest number of Grand Cru reds. Rich, long lived wines.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Chambertin, Chambertin-Clos de Beze, Chapelle-Chambertin, Charmes (or Mazoyeres)-Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin, Latricieres-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin

Morey St. Denis
Meaty, rich reds.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Clos Saint-Denis, Clos de la Roche, Clos des Lambrays, Clos de Tart

Elegant reds and 1 great white Musigny Blanc
Grand Cru Vineyards: Musigny (red and white), Bonnes Mares

The most famous vineyard, Clos de Vougeot has so many different producers, making it very difficult to buy.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Clos de Vougeot

Grouped with Vosne-Romanee
Grand Cru Vineyards: Echezeaux, Grands Echezeaux

Some of the World's most expensive Red Wines.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Romanee, Romanee Conti, Romanee Saint-Vivant, Richbourg, La Tache, Clos des Reas

Lighter, often well priced Reds.
Grand Cru Vineyards: No Grand Crus, but many Premier Cru.


Cote de Beaune

Premeaux-Prissey, Comblanchien, Corgoloin
These wines are sold under the name Cote de Nuits-Village
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

Ladoix-Serrigny, Pernand-Vergelesses
The best wines of these villages are combined with Aloxe-Corton. The lowest quality wines are sold as Cote de Beaune-Villages.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Corton (red), Corton-Charlemagne (white)

A rarity, Grand Cru Reds and Whites from the same village.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Corton (red), Corton-Charlemagne (white), Charlemagne (white)

Savigny-les-Beaune, Chorey-les-Beaune
Lesser known, often sold as Cote de Beaune-Villages
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

The unofficial wine capital of Burgundy. A great deal of wine is made here, some of it better than others.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None; however I personally feel that Clos des Mouches (for white particularly) could be elevated to Grand Cru.

Pommard, Volnay
An island of red wine in a sea of white.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

Monthelie, Saint-Romain
Sold as Cotes de Beaune-Village, almost always.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

Except for the Premier Crus, sold as Cotes de Beaune-Village, almost always.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

The first of the great white wine villages.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

Grouped with Meursault, but almost all red wines.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

With its neighbor Chassagne, this is the greatest white wine region for many people.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet

Since the great vineyard Montrachet is in both of these villages, it is appended to both of their names. Confusing people the world over.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Criots-Batard-Montrachet

Saint-Aubin, Cheilly-les-Maranges, Dezize-les-Maranges, Sampigny-les-Maranges
More Cotes de Beaune-Village
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

Santenay, Remigny
Santenay reds are some of the best kept secrets in the region.
Grand Cru Vineyards: None

Actually far to the north, but not connected to any other part of Burgundy. These Chardonnay based white wines are rich and often steely in character.
Grand Cru Vineyards: Chablis Grand Crus (a mix of Grand Crus), Bougros, Les Preuses, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos, Blanchots

South of the Cote d'Or are the regions of the Chalonnais and the Maconnaise. While there are no Grand Cru vineyards in these regions, the villages of Mercurey and Givry in the Chalonnais and Pouilly-Fuisse in the Maconnaise are well known.

Beaujolais is often grouped with Burgundy. Since it is not covered any where else just let me say that it is famous for very light red wines made from the grape Gamay. The simplest wines are just called Beaujolais, those with a bit more character are Beaujolais-Villages. The 9 villages that are considered Grand Cru Beaujolais are: Moulin-a-Vent, Chenas, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgan, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, St-Amor and Julienas.

Label Info

Reading a Burgundy label is no easy task. If you know the villages above, it will be much easier.

A wine that does not come from a designated vineyard is referred to as an AC Class wine. It will have the name of the Village on it, or Cote-de-something-Villages.

Next step up is a single vineyard designate. Almost always this wine will be a Premier Cru (1er Cru) Class wine. It will have the name of the Village and the name of the vineyard on it.

Grand Cru Classe is the top, a single vineyard of such distinction, the name of the village does not even appear on the label. With the exception of the Chablis Grand Cru, the Grand Cru vineyards are always bottled separately. Price will be your biggest hint here. It is not likely that you will find a Grand Cru for under $50 or so.

Note: A common mistake is to ask for Montrachet when you mean Puligny-Montrachet or Chassagne-Montrachet. This mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars, be specific.

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