The wines of Burgundy are divided up into 100 different appellations from the most generic, Burgundy appellation to the smallest Grand Cru of La Romanée.
The soils of Burgundy are distinguished by a patchwork quilt of different soils on bedrock of ancient limestone. Many centuries ago, the sea covered this area and many fossils and shells can be found in the soils. Winemaking here goes back to the Romans in the First Century but it was the Catholic church with its abbeys and monasteries that first began to exploit the riches of the Burgundy soils, especially the large hillsides running north to south, which they called the golden slope or the “Côte d’Or”. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic code changed Burgundy forever, giving the land back to the people and then making sure that family land was divided equally amongst the heirs. Burgundy producers with their small vineyard holdings, pride themselves on their attachment to the land: many practice sustainable, organic or biodynamic viticulture.
The two main grape varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
There are four categories of Burgundy wines:
Regional Appellations: These account for over half the wine made in Burgundy. A wine labeled Bourgogne Villages or Bourgogne Appellation Communale is an AOC produced in one of the six Burgundy regions such as Côtes de Nuits or in one of the three sub regions such as Mâcon. To these can be added 14 geographical names such as Bourgogne-hautes-côtes-de-nuits.
Communal Appellations: There are 41 of these, also known as village appellations such as Chablis or Volnay. They represent one third of all Burgundy wine.
Premiers Crus: These account for 10% of production and must have the communal name, followed by the climat which has Premier Cru status such as Vosne Romanée Premier Cru “Les Beaux Monts” or Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru “Les Cras”. There are 562 premier cru climats.
Grands Crus: These account for a tiny 1.5% of all Burgundy. There are 34 AOC grand cru climats in the Côte d’Or such as Clos de Vougeot or Montrachet and one grand cru in the Yonne which groups together the seven Chablis Grand cru climats such as Chablis Grand Cru “Blanchots” or Chablis Grand Cru “Valmur”.
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- Les Charmes Mâcon Lugny0.75l WhiteNew€10.45 €8.64Brother to Mathieu and son of Michel Paquet of Domaine des Valanges, Camille is the winemaker of the family. He believes in making his wines as naturally as possible using indigineous yeasts, no chemicals and using barrels that are always two or three years old so that the oak will not interfere with the beautiful fruit flavours. This new addition to the Paquet portfolio has a pale golden colour, light perfumed nose, lovely orchard and slightly tropical fruit and like its name, is really very charming. Lovely to drink now, this is a very balanced Macon with lots of flavour to accompany seafood, smoked salmon and grilled fish.
- Saint-Véran0.75l White€12.60 €10.41The Paquet family makes great wines over several appellations in Southern Burgundy. At Saint-Véran, where the winery is based, their signature wine has become a great favourite. The estate lost 70% of their crop to hail in this vintage so quantities are very small indeed which is a great shame as the 2016 is a great success. It has a fresh and sweet nose of hawthorn blossom, wild flowers and pears. On the palate it is generous and round with good acidity, fruity yet dry with a touch of minerality on the palate. Drink young with fish, seafood and white meat.
- Les Cras Saint-Véran0.75l White€15.50 €12.81Those of you who have already tasted the super St. Vérans from Domaine des Valanges, will enjoy tasting this wine from a small 1 1/2 hectare single vineyard site. The vines face south, south-east and are grown on stony, limestone soils. Vinified for 60% in tanks and 40% in oak barrels and allowed to age for nine months on the lees, only 9,000 bottles of this wine are produced each year. There is lots of perfume and fruit on the nose making the wine immediately inviting with rich Chardonnay notes balanced perfectly with a mineral freshness – clearly the influence of the limestone soil. Quite opulent on the palate, this is a superb Chardonnay combining lovely fruit and finesse. A superior bottling to be served with poached fish, white meats or refined first courses.
- En crèches, Hors Classe Saint-Véran0.75l White€15.50 €12.81This domain is going from strength to strength and the family is constantly looking for and finding great parcels of vineyards around the small winegrowing village of Davayé nestled at the foot of the Solutré Rock. New cellars, new vineyards and ambitious winemaking have resulted in some super wines. The “En Crèches” parcel faces south east, is sheltered from the north wind, has clay and fossilized limestone soils and lies at an altitude of 250 metres: a superb microclimate. The Chardonnay vines are over 60 years old and produce a fabulous wine with great minerality and tension. There is depth on the palate with honey, oatmeal, good oak and lots of vivacity. Unfortunately hailstorms in April destroyed much of the 2016 crop so there is less of this wine than usual so it is well worth reserving a few bottles for drinking for the next few years.
- Terra Mea Pouilly-Fuissé0.75l White€16.50 €13.64Françoise et Nicolas run this estate by themselves and their attention to detail and their old vines are the secret behind the quality of their wines. They pick their Chardonnay grapes quite late to bring out the character of their terroir, use only indigineous yeasts and carefully age the wines in their fine lees. We are very impressed by the concentration and precision of the 2016 vintage. It shows beautifully ripe fruit, rich aromatic notes of pear, almond blossom, linden and citrus fruit, great freshness mid-palate and a round, balanced finish. A lovely wine which tastes much grander than its appellation. Serve with white meat, fish and seafish.
- Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé0.75l White€18.69 €15.45This is the domaine's flagship wine and is produced from its oldest vines (75 years old) grown on the best climats in Fuissé. It undergoes very long fermentations, a proportion of which are in barrel, and has notes of honey, almond and orchard fruits, a very pretty persistence and beautifully fresh Chardonnay characteristics. We have quite a struggle to get hold of this wine, as it is much prized around the world for its beautiful Burgundian character and lovely persistent finish. A perfect match for fish, poultry and cheeses such as comté or chèvre.