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In Good Taste

The Basics of Burgundy

The Basics of Burgundy

Flavor, Complexity, and Mystery

Burgundies are some of the world’s finest and most loved (and sometimes most expensive!) red and white wines. These wines feature complex flavors and unique styles that directly reflect the particular region of Burgundy where they were produced. In fact, geography is one of the most important considerations when talking about Burgundies. 

So, what is Burgundy exactly? Is it a place? Is it a brand? The answers to these questions are not as simple as they may seem. Generally speaking, Burgundies are red or white wines produced in the Burgundy region of central France from two types of grapes: Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites. Simple enough. However, that's where the simplicity ends.

Burgundy wines are produced in the Burgundy region of France

The Great Burgundy Confusion

Do you remember when you were first learning how to spell, and your teacher taught you the simple rhyme: “I before E except after C” ? This "rule" probably helped you learn how to spell several words correctly at the time. Since then, however, you’ve probably realized that it’s less of a rule and more of a starting point. Burgundy is like this phrase.

There is massive debate over what can be classified as Burgundy wine. But that makes sense when you consider that there is even debate over what parts of the region make up Burgundy. For example, there are technically seven wine-producing regions in Burgundy. However, Beaujolais, a region long thought to be part of Burgundy, has now started producing its distinctive styles of wines using the Gamay grape. Similarly, Châtillonnais uses Aligoté grapes to make white wines, and it doesn’t stop there.

There is a long history of infighting, betrayal, drama, politics, and jockeying for position throughout the Burgundian wine world. Hundreds of books have been written on Burgundy and its wines. Even wine experts struggle to understand Burgundy fully. This article won’t go into the weeds of these debates and controversies. Instead, we’ll do our best to cover some Burgundy basics so that you have a point of reference for understanding — and enjoying — this complex category of wine. 

History of Burgundy Wine

Burgundy has a rich history of wine that has been recognized and appreciated for centuries. Winemaking in Burgundy is traceable back to the Romans in the 1st century A.D. But it was the monks of the Cistercian Order of the Catholic Church who recognized the region's ability to grow grapes that impart a unique quality that is unmatched by anywhere else in the world.

History of Wines from Burgundy

Their realization, and their subsequent planting of vineyards in the area, helped establish Burgundy as one of the premier wine-growing regions of the Old World. Thanks to their efforts, people ranging from kings and aristocrats to common folk have tasted and praised the virtues of Burgundies.

This region has also been the stage for some of French history’s darkest and most turbulent times. From the Hundred Years' War to the French Revolution to World War II, this region has witnessed pain and joy, destruction and recovery. Most recently, in the period between World War II and the 1980s, much of Burgundy fell into hard times and began to see a decline. Many of its vineyards had been abandoned or destroyed in the war, so enterprising winemakers sought to replenish the regional soil with artificial fertilizers. However, this approach soon transformed into an over-reliance on artificial fertilizers that drained much of Burgundy's rich soil of its valuable nutrients.

Sensing that they were about to lose the very thing that makes Burgundy wines special, winemakers in the area began to focus on sustainable, regenerative soil management. Since then, Burgundy's replenished soil has regained much of its former glory. Today the region remains one of the most beloved wine-producing regions in the world.

Burgundy's Geography and Climate

Why is Burgundy so special when it comes to great-tasting wines? Terroir is a term that describes a particular region's climate, soil, microbial activity, and topography that all come together to affect the taste of the wine. In the Burgundy region, the soil is primarily limestone, full of various plant and marine fossils. This fact leads experts to theorize that the region was once an ancient tropical seabed. In fact, many believe that these elements of Burgundy's soil play a major role in giving these French wines their distinctive flavors.

Burgundy's Geography & Climate

Regions of Burgundy

Burgundy has five primary wine regions (well, six or seven depending on what you decide to do with Beaujolais and Châtillonnais). Each region is known for its distinctive styles of Burgundy. We will look at the five non-controversial regions in this review.

Chablis

Pronounced “shah-blee,” this northernmost region in Burgundy is famous for its white wines, specifically its bold approach to Chardonnay. Unlike most Chardonnay producers, Chablis producers age their wine in stainless steel vats instead of oak barrels, which gives their wine a distinctively crisp and fresh flavor. Cooler climate Chards also have their own basic set of tastes, and are more Granny Smith apple crisp, with lemon zest

Côte de Nuits

This region's name means "the night slope," and it is primarily known for its classic Pinot Noirs, though it also produces Chardonnay and Rosé. This region is home to two dozen Grand Cru vineyards (more on what this means shortly) and features some of the world’s most coveted wine real estate. It's also where some of the most expensive French wines originate.

Côte de Beaune

This region's name means " the slope of Beaune." Beaune is a nearby town built next to a local spring that gets its name from the god of fast-flowing water. Known for its classic Chardonnay, this region represents the heart of Burgundy's wine trade.

Côte Chalonnaise

The Chalon slope does not have any Grand Cru vineyards, but it is still a popular region known for its affordable and accessible Pinot Noir. It is also home to a delightful Sparkling Crémant and several other sparkling wines.

Mâconnais

Mâcon is the home of great-value Chardonnay that displays wonderfully fresh flavors. The south-most region in Burgundy, it is the largest and warmest of the regions we’ve listed. In a way, it is also the cultural black sheep of the Burgundian family that often forges its own path when it comes to its wines.

Burgundy Wine Regions, Map

Classification & Notable Burgundy Wines

Burgundy represents an entire constellation of wine and wine styles that are closely tied to their geography. In 1936, France codified a classification of Burgundy's wines based on where it was grown. One hundred approved wine-growing areas within Burgundy's regions were defined, and these plots were divided into four levels. The highest level represented the best land for growing the highest quality wines.

Burgundy classifications are as follows:

Burgundy Wine Classifications

Grand Cru 

As mentioned before, Grand Cru is the highest level of Burgundy wines. There are only 33 Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy, 24 of which are in Côte de Nuits. If you see "Grand Cru" on the label, then you are likely looking at a bottle of one of the highest quality Burgundy wines available. If you look at the price tag, you’ll probably notice it’s one of the most expensive bottles as well.

Premier Cru 

The next level down represents more than 600 premier plots throughout Burgundy. These wines vary dramatically in style and quality. Some are expensive, and others are less so. You will likely be able to find some of these wines at your local high-end grocery store.

Village Wines 

The next classification covers wines from 44 villages in this region, and this category represents nearly 40% of Burgundy's total wine production. Village wines are a great bang for the buck and a wonderful intro to Burgundy wines. 

Regional Wines  

Lastly, there are regional wines, which make up more than half of Burgundy's remaining wine production. These are affordable wines that you can usually find on the shelves at your local grocery store.

To complicate things further, Chardonnay from Chablis has its own classification system for its white Burgundy wines:

Chablis Classifications

Grand Cru Chablis 

On the northern side of the town of Chablis lies a beautiful south-facing slope with seven plots on it. These plots make up the one Grand Cru Chablis. This plot produces this region's most coveted and most expensive white wines.

Premier Cru Chablis 

This category refers to the plots that grow alongside the River Serein, which runs through Chablis. These are also highly coveted wines, but compared to the Grand Cru varietal, they tend to be more affordable.

Chablis 

If you’ve been a white wine enthusiast for any amount of time, chances are you have encountered this term on the label of a white wine bottle. This is the most common category of wine from this region, and it is widely distributed worldwide.

Petit Chablis 

This category does not necessarily imply that the wines in this classification are lower quality or even lesser than other Chablis. The diminutive name refers to the specific regions directly around the town of Chablis. The region’s soil leads to wines that deliver a crisp, fresh taste thanks to their higher acidity.

What to Expect from Burgundy Wine

Burgundies are generally balanced wines with delicate floral aromas. Red wines boast beautiful yet traditional red wine coloring and will have tasting notes of raspberries, cherries, currants, and spices. White wines range from pale yellow to gold and offer notes of peaches, apples, herbs, and citrus. Of course, the most defining tasting characteristic of each Burgundy is its terroir — the unique geography where it was grown and produced.

Minerality is a recently developed term that refers to flavors that are not quite fruit flavors, not quite herbal flavors, and not quite spice flavors. The description doesn’t imply that you’ll taste minerals (like potassium and calcium); it encompasses a category of flavors that don’t quite fit into any of the more traditional categories. Many Burgundies have notes of minerality, which is one of the top reasons they vary so widely and provide such intriguing flavor profiles. 

This variety is one of the reasons why Burgundy is such an exciting wine to taste. The uniqueness from region to region and plot to plot takes your tastebuds on an exciting adventure. The category is complicated, broad, and full of controversy, but if you ask us, that challenge is what makes it so interesting! 

What Wine Glasses Should I Use for Burgundy

Despite its other complexities, Burgundy simply follows the rules for other wines when it comes to which kind of wine glass to serve it in. Red wines should be served in oversized red wine glasses. White wine should be served in white wine glasses.

Wine Glass Selections for Burgundy Wine

What’s the Best Temperature for Burgundy wine?

When serving Burgundy wines, we recommend that your reds are served no lower than 57° F. Serving them too cold can cause you to miss out on their natural fruitiness and sweetness. White wines should be served chilled, around 52° F, to complement the natural crispness.

What temperature to serve Burgundy Wines

What Should You Serve With Burgundy Wine?

Both red and white Burgundies pair well with a variety of foods. Red Burgundies pair best with savory selections like charcuterie boards, lamb, and chicken. White Burgundy complements these meats as well, but it also pairs great with seafood and fresh salads. Gouda, goat cheese, and parmesan are excellent cheese pairings for white Burgundies, and rosemary, garlic, and peppercorn are common herbs and spice pairings.

How Long To Age Burgundy Wine

The good news is that both red and white Burgundies can be enjoyed after aging for only 1-3 years. They are excellent wines with a lot of complexity and flavor nuance. However, something unique happens when Burgundies fully develop. After 12-15 years of aging, the wine’s most distinctive flavor notes reveal themselves. Once you sip these more mature wines, you begin to understand why a fully developed Burgundy is so special.

Where To Begin

So, how do you begin your adventure with Burgundy? In our opinion, the best way to tackle Burgundy is just to start exploring. You can take the first steps of your Burgundy adventure by ordering our Coteaux Bourguignons, or sample more wines from Europe in our Passport Collection.

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Big Reds

Our Favorites

Big. Bold. Unapologetic. The rich, unmistakable flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, and Bordeaux Rouge in our Big Reds collection are perfect for the unwavering palate that demands something more.

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Vine Voyage Top 3

Our Favorites

The Vine Voyage bundle will remind you why France and Italy are two of the most well-known, wine-producing countries in the world. Take your senses to the European countryside with Montepulciano, Rosé of Sangiovese, and Nerello Cappuccio.

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Light Reds

Our Favorites

Like the infectious laugh of a best friend, these wines will warm your soul and lighten your mood. Our Light Reds bundle with a Grenache, Coteaux Borguignons AOC, and Pinot Noir are sure to be your new wine besties!

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International Whites

Our Favorites

Experience a world-class wine tour for your tastebuds from the comfort of home. This bundle features incredible selections from France and Italy that will have you ready to grab your passport and hop a plane.

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California Wine Mixer Top 3

Our Favorites

Californian wine is a state of mind. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and Red Wine from our California Wine Mixer bundle can transport your state of mind (and palate) all the way to The Golden State.

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Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Sauvignon Blanc

La Pluma

We couldn't have rosé and Pinot Grigio at the La Pluma party without inviting its ring leader, Sauvignon Blanc. If Pinot Grigio is the dry, acidic friend of the group and rosé is the always highly affable one, Sauvignon Blanc exists between the two to create true Zen. An interesting and addictive blend of grapefruits and herbs set this white wine apart and makes it incredibly difficult to resist, especially when the temperature is high and your desire for refreshment is higher. La Pluma Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect poolside or beach companion; just be sure to bring a few bottles because your friends will definitely want to partake, and we don't blame them!

Barbera

Wild Child

The perfect pizza wine. Barbera is a simple wine that’s not only easy for winemakers to make, but easier to drink. It’s low in alcohol and an Italian red wine we implore you try chilled because it’s truly *chef’s kiss*. Classic Barberas are fruity, medium bodied and offer the perfect hint of tartness. It’s also the best of both worlds in terms of light and heavy red wines. Let’s say you’re having a friend over who always prefers a cab, but you’re more of a Pinot Noir kinda gal. Order a pizza and open the Barbera for a perfect middle ground kind of evening. After all, the combo of good red wine and pizza is the great equalizer.

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Cabernet Sauvignon

Unprecedented

If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Rosé

La Pluma

While it's the unofficial official wine of summer and warm weather situations, La Pluma's Rosé is one you can drink year-round, no matter the occasion. All rosé wine is derived from red grapes, and the result exceeds expectations in terms of highly-sippable, easy-drinking wine. This La Pluma Rosé is as light as its feathery namesake and is best served extremely chilled for an extremely chill afternoon of nothing but vibes. And maybe a few snacks.

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Nerello Cappuccio

Wild Child

This is not your average Italian red. Nerello Cappuccio is a dark-skinned grape variety from Sicily, the Mount Etna region to be exact (yes, the volcano). Although its color is vibrant, you might be surprised to know that it’s a much softer red than it looks to be. Our Nerello Cappuccio is cherry-forward, with other tasting notes of vanilla, light coffee (like your favorite breakfast blend), and minerals. The delicate tannins in this Sicilian wine will surprise and delight you and tastes exceptionally good paired with margherita pizza or arancini balls (drool).

Chardonnay

Unprecedented

Ah, Chardonnay. This full-bodied and diverse wine is polarizing in its very nature: from an oak barrel-aged buttery, oaky, rich white wine, to a stainless steel-aged, mineral-driven neutral wine. Our classic Unprecedented California Chardonnay is the former, and will surely become a new favorite. Its buttery vanilla nature pairs extremely well with like-minded buttery, creamy foods such as brie cheese, lobster, crab cakes, crème brûlée, squash, corn, and mushrooms.

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Red Wine

Unprecedented

We’d love to introduce you to our old friend: Unprecedented Red Wine. She’s a 2019 blend that has been with us through it all and grown to be one of our more popular wines. She’s a mix of all the best Italian grapes: Barbera, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo with a splash of Mourvèdre and a few others. They’re all hanging out, having one big, juicy, delicious party! Tasting notes include a touch of spice, a hint of leather, and some of the best juicy fruits, including blackberries. She truly gets along with just about everybody!

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Tempranillo

Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Dolcetto

Andiamo

The Dolcetto grape is an easy, laid-back, relaxed Italian wine experience. Its literal translation may throw you, though—Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, but this wine is anything but. Packed with black fruit flavors like plum, blackberries, and black raspberries, this wine has the tasty necessities that make it a true Italian drinking wine. With moderate tannins and relatively low acidity, our Dolcetto is the perfect choice for just about any occasion. This lighter red Italian wine tastes even better when paired with poultry dishes like duck or chicken and really shines with a lighter pasta.

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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