The wine region of Burgundy is not very big. It is located on the western slope of the river Saône and stretches more or less from Dijon in the north to Lyon in the south. Except for Chablis, which is a part of Burgundy but is located a bit further northwest away from the rest of the region. Burgundy is the home of some of the worlds most famous and expensive wines.
Burgundy is divided into a few smaller districts, Chablis, Côte d’Or, Saône et Loir and Beaujolais. Côte d’Or consists of the areas Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, and Saône et Loir of Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. The most southern part of Burgundy is Beaujolais, but that part we will leave for another day. Today we will concentrate on Burgundy without Beaujolais.
Since it is not very big, the Burgundy region is perfect for winery visits. You can easily plan your wine tour and get to see many wineries even if you have a limited time.
What is special in this wine region?
When you talk with the winemakers in Burgundy you will hear them talk a lot about terroir. The terroir is one of the most important factors in wine production here. The classification of the wines is built on geographic differences, not on the individual winemaker like it is in Bordeaux. Monks made the classification system during the middle ages, the monasteries were big wine producers during that time. The monks were experimenting and wrote journals, discovered how important the type of soil, the climate and other conditions are for the quality of the wine. That was the beginning of today’s classification system.
In Burgundy there are more appellations than in any other wine region in France, and they are divided into four quality categories. In falling order:
- Grand Cru
- Premier Cru,
- Appellation Communale
- Appellation Régionale.
When you plan your wine route, you have to make sure to visit wineries with different geographical conditions, different terroir, to learn about the special characteristics the terroir gives the wine. If you go on a wine tasting here, it is very likely that the wine maker will show you this. They will let you taste a wine grown in one area and compare it to a wine from another area, made from the same grape variety, to feel the difference.
Wine tourism in Burgundy
Every year many wine enthusiasts visit Burgundy for wine tours and wine tastings. During the season there is a lot going on in in all the villages in the area. Especially during summer there are different activities being arranged almost every day. It can be music festivals, big wine tasting events, theaters or art exhibitions. Travel in Burgundy will never be boring!
In Burgundy white wine stands for about 2/3 of the total production, mostly made of the Chardonnay grape. That is if you don’t count Beaujolais. Pinot Noir is the most common grape for red wines. You can also find some rosé wine and sparkling wine here. Most of the wines in Burgundy are made of one single grape variety. Even if it is allowed to add a certain percentage of other grapes they don’t always do.
Many of the wineries will welcome you to visit their vineyards and their wine cellars, and they are happy to tell you about their wines and how they produce them. And they will let you taste their wines, of course. We will give you some examples of good wineries that we know will be happy to have you.
The Pidault family have been running this winery since 1989, but the estate itself was built sometime around year 887. The family takes pride in keeping their historic monument alive, and they are open to the public the whole year. They grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the 8 hectares of vineyards, and they produce excellent red and white wines.
If you decide to include this winery in your wine tour, you will need to contact them in advance to make a reservation. On the tour, your guide will show you around the area of the castle and the courtyards. He will also tell you about the history of the estate, and then take you through the wine cellars and you will learn about the whole wine producing process, from the harvest to the blending.
The wine tasting consists of three white wines: Mâcon-Pierreclos, Saint-Véran, and Pouilly-Fuissé, and one red wine: Burgundy Pinot Noir. All this for 9€ per person. If you want to have a little bite to eat with the wines, you can choose to do the tasting with gougères, french cheese puffs, for 2.50€ more per person.
Domaine Henri de Villamont is located in the middle of the village Savigny Les Beaune, in the district Côte du Beaune. It is a beautiful place surrounded by high walls and their vineyards belongs to the classification Premier Cru. They are making their wine by traditional methods and the grapes are harvested by hand. They are using the Chardonnay grape for white wines and Pinot Noir for their reds.
The owners are proud of their fantastic wine cellars, constructed 1880. They would be very pleased to show you around both the vineyards and the cellars. You will learn a lot of how every step in the wine making process is done carefully and with respect for the environment. They arrange two different wine tasting activities, the Prestige wine tasting and the Terroir wine tasting. Both include a guided tour, and at the Prestige wine tasting you will taste 5 red and white wines, with a Grand Cru wine as the highlight. The Prestige wine tasting costs 25€ per person. The Terroir wine tasting includes 4 red and white wines that will be selected for their organoleptic and sensory qualities. The Terroir wine tasting costs 15€ per person. Make sure to plan your wine tour in time, and make reservations.
Antoine and Celine Angst was a couple of really devoted wine enthusiasts, and were dreaming about to one day be able to make their own wine. They worked very hard to make that dream possible, and year 2013 they bought this estate in the village of Pontigny, close to Chablis. They have continued to grow and develop the winery and they produce wine in eight appellations. Two of which are Chablis Premier Crus; Côte de Cuissy and Côte de Jouan. As so many other wineries in Burgundy they use the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties. From those grapes they produce wine of all three colors, and also some sparkling wine.
They call their wine tasting activity “All about Chablis” and consists of a guided tour of Pontigny Abbey, the largest Cistercian abbey in the world. The guide will tell you all about the appey and its role in developing Chablis wines from the 12th century. After that you will have a wine tasting session with the owners of the winery. They will tell you the story of their winery and their wines. Which methods they choose to use to make their wine, and how they try to minimize the use of chemicals. They will also be happy to answer any questions you might have. The activity have a cost of 9€ per person, and should be booked in advance.