Nestled in the lush greenery and winding country roads of central-east France is the region of Burgundy. Rich in history and culture, this peaceful region is a principal wine-making area and home to some of France’s most prestigious vineyards and wineries. Famous – not only for Dijon mustard – but for The Route des Grands Crus (The Wine Route). For quaffers of fine French wine, Burgundy can be explored via its five major sub-regions.
Côte de Nuits
Named after the quaint central town of Nuits-St-Georges, the Côte de Nuits is located in the Northern section of the Côte d’Or, north of Beaune and south of Dijon. Renowned for the Pinot Noir grape and boasting 24 Grand Cru vineyards, this region specialises primarily in red wine, with the occasional white and rosé.
The largest wine-producing village in the Côte d’Or is Gevrey-Chambertin, where some excellent, robust, full-bodied Pinot Noir varieties can be found. Highly potent and deep in colour, Gevrey-Chambertin wines evoke notes of dark cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant with bouquets of underbrush and liquorice. Once you have steeped yourself in this velvety luxury, it is easy to see why red wines from this subregion are often considered elite.
Côte de Beaune
The southernmost district of the Côte d’Or’s limestone escarpment is known as the Côte de Beaune – featuring open and rolling southeast-facing hills and valleys, making for excellent growing conditions. The ancient walled city of Beaune is often considered the epicentre of French wine tourism (known as œnotourisme). It is famed for its production of some of the world’s most outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.
The Grand Cru appellation of Corton-Charlemagne is located on the Côte de Nuits/Côte de Beaune border and is an exclusive home to the Chardonnay grape. Wines produced from this variety are pale in colour with a subtle green hue that shifts towards gold and amber with age. Consumers can expect exuberant citrus notes, rounded with a delicate buttery richness and a faintly salty finish.
Directly south of the Côte de Beaune, is the historic region of Côte Chalonnaise, which comprises five key communes. Although less eminent as a principal wine-growing region, this rural expanse intertwines village vineyards with woodland groves, meadows and farmland – truly the epitome of rustic, pastoral France. Not to be overshadowed by the northern wine-making powerhouses of Burgundy, this subregion has a plethora of hidden gems.
Devoted entirely to the Aligoté grape, the Appellation of Bouzeron produces a unique variety of white wine known for its fresh, floral notes with hints of honey and vanilla. The only still white made from 100% Aligoté, this vivacious wine is perfect to be enjoyed on a summer evening alongside seafood or a velvety risotto to compliment its lemony freshness.
The northernmost region of Burgundy, situated 107km north of Dijon, is the region of Chablis. Known as ‘semi-continental’, the variation of temperature throughout the year means consistently growing high-quality grapes is tricky business. The expertly developed Chardonnay grapes of Chablis are grown in Jurassic-era limestone soil on south-facing slopes, making for an incredibly sought-after wine, enjoyed worldwide.
The Petit Chablis vineyards lie on both sides of the Serein valley. Wines from this appellation are generally lighter and fresher due to variations in soil quality and light exposure. While its elegance, depth and complexity distinguish Chablis, Petit Chablis takes on a more tart, citrus character.
The most southerly Burgundy region is the Mâconnais district, which takes its name from the picturesque town of Mâcon, overlooking the banks of the Saone River. This dynamic area is not only famed for its rich and ripe white wines but also its cheese, often made from goat’s milk. Budget-friendly Chardonnay-based wines are a staple of this subregion, as well as delectable reds and rosés, made predominantly with Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes.
The most reputable appellation in this subregion is Pouilly-Fuissé, which produces a distinguishable, opulent, full-bodied Chardonnay wine. With ripe and refreshing notes of peach and pineapple, this aromatic wine is a balance of crisp acidity and creamy smoothness. A subtle smoky aftertaste is reminiscent of the wine’s oak barrel ageing.