Africa Studio / Shutterstock
The wines of Burgundy are among the most sought-after and evocative on the market. Indeed, wine has not only been made in this beloved wine region in east-central France for the better part of a millennium, but the minute differences from one plot of vines to another have been charted and studied for centuries. As a result, the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are grown in Burgundy are considered to be benchmarks for both varieties. But the magic of Burgundy is about more than just the wines; it's about the stories behind them, the special plots of land they come from, and the incredible history of the region as a whole. To fully appreciate all that this magnificent wine region has to offer, check out our Burgundy wine guide below.
What Is Burgundy Wine?
Burgundy wine, according to many industry professionals, represents the apex of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The region also produces white wines made from the Aligoté grape variety – Bourgogne Aligoté is an AOC – but they don't account for a great amount of the total. Still, there are some excellent Aligoté wines that are more than worth seeking out. Among the reds, Pinot Noir dominates the landscape, though Beaujolais, to the south of the region — some maps include it as part of Burgundy, whereas others have it on its own — is where the Gamay grape variety thrives. Still, Burgundy proper, from Chablis in the north down through the Côte d'Or and south to the Mâconnais, is home to benchmark Pinot Noir and Chardonnay above all else.
Where Does Burgundy Wine Come From?
Burgundy is a wine region in east-central France that produces some of the finest Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays on earth. In French, the region is called Bourgogne (pronounced boor-GO-nyuh), but the best wines won't necessarily say so on the label. You can certainly purchase wines labeled Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc, since the grapes for those wines can come from a vast stretch of the region, but the best Burgundy wines come from more specific places. In this regard, the wines of Burgundy can be looked at as part of a pyramid, with the widest part at the bottom consisting of these more generic terms and others. Above them is a smaller subset of wines that come from specific villages or communes. These have place-names like Auxey-Duresses and Volnay, among others. The second highest level is reserved for Premier Cru, or wines whose grapes were grown in vineyards that have been ranked as Premier Cru (you'll also see it rendered as 1er Cru). At the top of the proverbial pyramid are the Grand Cru wines. These account for less than 1.5% of all wine production in the Burgundy region, and the labels will boast the term Grand Cru as well as the name of the vineyard in which it was grown. Names like Montrachet, Richebourg, and Romanée-Conti are among the most prestigious wines in the world.
Why Should You Drink Burgundy Wine?
If you're a fan of wine that expresses the place it's from with clarity and elegance, then the reds and whites of Burgundy should be at the top of your list. Whether it's through Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, Burgundy is a place whose magic reveals itself in rewarding, fascinating ways.
In the north of the region, the crisp, mineral wines of Chablis utilize the Chardonnay grape variety to express the character of the land through wines of coiled energy and often briny acidity. Oak is far less common here than many people are used to with Chardonnay. In the Côte de Beaune, on the other hand, the great wines of Meursault and Montrachet allow Chardonnay to take on a richer, denser character. There, the nature of the terroir and aging in oak barrels lends it the kind of richness, plusher textures, and spice notes that evolve beautifully over the years. Pinot Noir has a similar affinity for telling the story of the land through the liquid in the glass. Whether it's the elegance of wines from the village of Volnay or the lingering power of the Richebourg vineyard, red Burgundy wines have the ability to express the full flavor, aroma, and texture spectrum.
They also are very useful at the table, since both reds and whites in Burgundy can be light and energetic or denser and more propulsive, focused primarily on the fruit or influenced by a greater sense of spice, flowers, and savoriness. As such, there is bound to be a Burgundy wine to pair with most anything you serve, whether it's a hearty meal or something lighter.
On top of that, red and white Burgundy are among the most collectible wines anywhere, and while prices of the best of them have skyrocketed in recent years, there are still values to be found in less-famous parts of Burgundy, like Fixin, Santenay, and other locales.
What Does Burgundy Taste Like?
The best red and white Burgundy wines, though they can be more focused on the fruity or savory end of the continuum, on crisp minerality, on perfumed floral notes or earthy hints of forest floor and mushrooms, tend to maintain a sense of balance. Even oak-aged white Burgundy wines are not typically defined by their time in barrels, merely informed by it. In other words, Burgundy is generally synonymous with elegance and a focus on the terroir, even in more powerful vintages.
Five Great Burgundy Wines
There are countless great Burgundy wines on the market today. These five producers, listed alphabetically and recommended by esteemed wine professionals Alicia Towns Franken and DLynn Proctor, are a perfect way to start exploring all that Burgundy has to offer.
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé
Most famous for its Grand Cru bottlings of Le Musigny and Bonnes-Mares, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé produces a range of stellar wines that are mainstays of collections and auction houses around the world.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
Arguably the most famous domaine in Burgundy – and one of the most revered in the entire world – DRC, as it's known to its fans, is responsible for legendary expressions of Pinot Noir from La Tâche, Richebourg, and Romanée-Conti, among others.
Domaine Georges Roumier
Young by Burgundy standards – its roots go back to 1924 – Roumier exists at the upper echelons of Burgundy. In addition to standout Premier Cru bottlings from Chambolle-Musigny, Roumier also produces Grand Crus from Musigny, Bonnes-Mares, Corton-Charlemagne, and more.
Domaine Méo Camuzet
With a production that runs the gamut from Bourgogne Rouge all the way up to Grand Crus like Richebourg, Échezeaux, and more, Domaine Méo-Camuzet has something for everyone.
Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair
The domaine produces Grand Crus from Richebourg and Clos-Vougeot, as well as more approachable wines from the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and even a Bourgogne Aligoté.