WINE ROUTES BURGUNDY - GRAPE VARIETALS
Chardonnay – (Shar-doe-nay) grapes in Burgundy produces wines of a wide range of flavours, aromas and styles depending on climate and wine-making. From the more northern cool region Chablis, the wines are almost clear to pale straw colour, sinewy, high in acidity and steely rather than luscious and oaky. Fruit aroma and tastes of green apple and pear may be detected. Going South to Beaune and farther to more moderate climates, wines are usually aged in oak giving rounded, creamy – fuller. These wines are slightly deeper yellow and often show buttery textures with fruits of peach and melon. The best wines from here are the famous Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. From warm years and the Maconnaise regions you often taste more tropical fruit tastes - peach, banana, pineapples. Here the top wines come from Pouilly Fuisse and St. Veran. For value wines look for the labels Macon Village or Macon Lugny, these are reliable and often inexpensive. For Chardonnays with creamy, butter flavours, the production technique of malolactic fermentation is used to soften the wine. Flavours of vanilla and coconut appear when aged in oak – ( Chablis are not usually aged in Oak.) Good food matches are grilled fish and chicken dishes - turkey, veal or pork roasts. Creamy, oaked Chardonnays go with rich sauces on chicken, fish and seafood dishes - lobster - crab. Serve these wines chilled from10 -14 degrees C - 50- 56 F.
Aligoté the other white grape variety planted in some quantity in Burgundy ( a very poor second in production to Chardonnay ) is often planted on the poorer vineyard sites at the tops and bottoms of the slopes. The wines produced are high in acidity, and can be drunk young, showing aromas and flavours of green apples and lemons. The village of Bouzeron makes the region's finest wines of this variety - Bouzeron-Aligoté AOC. Often blended Aligote adds acidity and structure . It one claim to fame is that traditionally the cocktail – Kir – is made by adding cassis to Alogote white wine.
Pinot Noir (Pee-no Nwar) Now an international star, has its noble beginnings and defining qualities from centuries of cultivation in Burgundy. These red wine grapes are difficult to grow, rarely blended, with no roughness. Lighter in colour, body and with less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon; at there best they produce sensual silky smooth wine of pleasing but complex fruit. With age shows more earthy and gamey flavours. The Vineyards going South from Dijon (Nuits-Saint-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin, etc…) produce the most structured and powerful reds in Burgundy. Cote de Beaune Reds (aside from Pommard, which yields some rather muscular reds) and reds from the villages south of Nuits-Saint-Georges tend to be lighter with more forward berry fruit showing and softer tannins. The Cote Chalonnaise region is primarily known for its whites, but the villages of Givry and Mercurey produce some excellent reds, which are often better value than the more prestigious villages of the Cote d'Or. With age good Pinot Noirs show more earthy and gamey flavours. Suitable for a wide range of roasts, grilled meat and fish dishes - beef, turkey, ham, duck, salmon and sauce dishes as boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin. Serve at temperatures between - 15 an 21 degrees C - 59 to 70 F
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MAKING SENSE OF THE BURGUNDY APPELLATIONS - Burgundy is divided into hundreds of different appellations. Often these are tiny, sometimes covering only a single vineyard. So its easy to get confused. As in all French regions you should read the information on the bottle labels, and in Burgundy, the appellation of the wine will be clearly stated on the bottle. The classifications are according to very precise rules which are become easier to comprehend once as you travel the region. There are four appellation levels:
AC Bourgogne covers all of Burgundy. It‘s a generic AC that covers those wines that don't qualify for a higher level of quality classification. The regional appellation concerns wines produced in three departments (Yonne, Côte d'Or and Saône et Loire). It may be followed by the name of the grape variety (for example, Bourgogne Aligoté) or a production area (for example, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise). There are 23 regional appellations in Burgundy (53%of production).
Regional Appellations cover groups of villages, such as AC Côte de Nuits-Villages. These are usually good quality wines that can be drunk young Village ACs are communal - appellation referring to the wines produced on the territory of a wine commune (village)from which it takes its name (for example, Saint-Véran or Beaune). There are 44 communal appellations in Burgundy (35% of production). -
The “premier cru” designation is an additionalcriterion of quality concerning the communal - village - appellations produced on a particular climat ( a precisely delimited vineyard parcel) whose name may appear on the label (for example, Beaune Premier Cru Les Grèves). There are 622 climats classified as premiers crus (10% of production).
The “grand cru” appellation is the highest rating for wines produced from the the best vineyards parcels – climates. There are 32 grands crus in the Côte-d'Or and 1 in Chablis (on 7 different climats) representing less than 2% of wine production in Burgundy. In 2005 total production came to 176 million bottles, spread over 101 appellations d’origine contrôlées (AOC). This testifies to the scope and richness of the Burgundian wine area.
Be Warned - Consider Burgundy Premier Crus and Grand Crus as valued international commodies and as such the prices are now divorced from the wine qualities and inflated. Also these excellent wines – especially from good vintage years - improve with age so should be bought for cellaring not immediate drinking.
CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE – Sparkling Bugundy Wines The AOC "Crémant de Bourgogne" was launched in 1975. This wine (white or rosé) is made in through the “traditional” method which is exactly the same as that used in the making of champagne. The AOC, which covers the entire zone of the "Bourgogne" appellation, carries certain obligations and restrictions. The grapes must be harvested manually and transported in pierced crates. Different white and red grape varieties may be used to make these dry or semi-dry wines and the quality is often excellent with delicate fruit tastes, finesse on the palate and persistent bubbles. In the Yonne department, the large cellars of Bailly contain at any one time between four and five million bottles. The Disney like showcase for Crémant de Bourgogne is the Imaginarium at Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Burgundy Wine Trails. - Cote d' Or This refers to Cote de Nuit and Cote de Beaune wine areas.
The Yonne is the French department in which Chablis, Auxerre are located and it ends at Avallon.