Exploring the Burgundy Wine Region

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Vineyard with sign for Puligny-Montrachet in Bourgognes.
Puligny-Montrachet is a village within the Côte de Beaune of Burgundy (Bourgognes). Photo by: Liao Junjia

Travel Southeast of Paris and you’ll arrive in Chablis, one of the regions within Burgundy. Continue on to the East and you’ll find the remaining regions lined up from North to South: Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnais, Mâconnais, and Beaujolais.

These regions are the preeminent growing grounds for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These noble grapes originated in Burgundy and have been grown here for centuries.

Map of France with a close up of the Burgundy region.

Climate and Soil in Burgundy

This region enjoys a cool climate that’s perfect for these two noble grapes. Keep this in mind and look for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from other cool climate regions like Oregon, Washington, California’s Russian River Valley, and New Zealand’s South Island.

The terrain is made up of sloping hills and valleys that contain a mixture of limestone, clay, and gravel. The tops of the hills are predominantly limestone which Chardonnay vines love. Moving down the slopes, the soil becomes more clay predominant which Pinot Noir vines love.

Classifications and Labeling in Burgundy

There are four wine classifications: Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village, and Regional. These classifications are based on plots of land (aka climat) that were identified way back in medieval times.

You’ll find Grand Cru classified grape vines running along the middle of the hillsides, while Premier Cru grows along the tops and bottoms of the slopes. The Village and Regional classified vines grow upon the valley floor.

Classification pyramid of Burgundy wine with Regional at the base, then Village, then Premier Cru, and finally Grand Cru at the top.