Monday, January 11, 2010

CQ's Wine Guide to France Part 5: Burgundy

  1. The best wines are classified as grand cru, followed by premiere cru, village level wines, and regional wines.
  2. Grape-growers often own no more than a row or two of vines due to the inheritance laws associated with the Napoleonic Code.
  3. Negociants, more so than any other region in France, play and active role in the vinification, bottling, ageing, and distribution of wines.
  4. The best wines are some of the most highly collected and expensive wines in the world.
  5. Historically one of the oldest wine-producing regions in France established by the Catholic Church. 

 A continental climate makes for warm summers and cold winters. Warm days and cool nights are ideal for Pinot Noir. Small differences in aspect, soil type, and rainfall account for drastic differences in terroir sensitive Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

  1. Chardonnay: Relatively neutral aromatically, medium acid, medium to full-bodied wines. Often aged and/or fermented in Oak because of its affinity to “Oaky” flavors. Will grow just about anywhere, but also shows terroir and the winemakers hand very easily. Often referred to as the tofu of wine grapes.
  2. Pinot Noir: Very difficult to grow, thin-skinned grape. Prone to rot, high acid, medium bodied wines. Shows terroir in the form of sophisticated secondary aromas. Prone to mutation depending on environment.
  3. Gamay (noir a jus blanc): thin-skinned vigorous varietal. Produces high acid, fruit forward light to medium bodied wines. Often harvested early to preserve acidity, but when allowed to fully mature, can withstand Oak ageing.

Northern-most appellation. Cool climate. AOC wines are 100% Chardonnay and are typically bone-dry and high acid. The soils lie on the same shelf of Kimeridgian Clay, as do the soils of Champagne. Some producers are experimenting with new Oak barrels and Oak barrel fermentation for a creamier style of wine. The best wines will age for 10 to 25 years.

Cote de Nuits

The Northern part of the Cote d’Or. Famed for its red wines made from 100% Pinot Noir. They are perfumed yet full-bodied with plenty of structure. Sometimes referred to as the “iron fist in the velvet glove”.
  1. Gevrey-Chambertin – muscular and weighty on the palate, yet perfumed and feminine on the nose reds
  2. Morey St. Denis – meaty reds
  3. Chambolle Musigny – floral, fragrant nose, refined structure red wines
  4. Vosne Romanee – the home of DRC, massive, rich, and creamy reds.
Cote de Beaune
The Southern part of the Cote d’Or. The best whites come from this part of the Cote d’Or made from 100% Chardonnay. Excellent red from Pinot Noir of a softer fruitier style come for here as well.
  1. Aloxe Corton – fruit forward reds, refined mineral whites
  2. Meursault – Full, rich whites usually with a good amount of oak
  3. Puligny/Chassagne Montrachet – Sophisticated white that take time to open up as they age. The best last for decades.
  4. Pommard – Full bodied, fruit forward, friendly reds
  5. Volnay – no grand cru vineyards. Tightly knit brooding reds.
  6. St. Aubin – friendly, easy-going white wines.
Cote Chalonnaise
Just to the South of the Cote d’Or. Lesser-known appellations making wine from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Pouilly-Fuisse is the most famous appellation producing rich Chardonnay wines typically using Oak barrels.

Gamay is the main grape here although there are some white wines made from Chardonnay. There are 10 cru villages producing Gamay wines in a more serious style treated like Pinot Noir in the North. They can age and are a good value. There are some that think that the clone of Gamay commonly found in Beaujolais may be a lesser cousin of Pinot Noir. The best-known wine is Beaujolais Nouveau produced just before Thanksgiving every year. It is cheap, but barely drinkable.

Producers of Note
  1. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti: Really expensive and highly collected wines from Vosne Romanee. This is really good stuff.
  2. Comtes Lafon: Producers of Estate and Negociant wines. The best are white and are highly collectible.
  3. Louis Jadot/Joseph Drouhin/Louis LaTour: Three of the largest Negociants in Burgundy with massive land-holdings and cellars. LaTour is particularly known for his Corton Charlemagne.
  4. Vincent Dauvissat: Top quality biodynamic Chablis producer.
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