Burgundy with its great white wines
The Burgundy vineyard is a wine-growing region of France located in Burgundy-Franche-Comte in the departments of Yonne, Cote-d'Or and Saone-et-Loire. It extends 250 kilometers in length from the north of Chablis to the south of the Maconnais.
Burgundy majorly produces red wines, based on pinot noir and Gamay grapes, and white wines, based on Chardonnay and Aligote grapes. More white wines are produced than red wines, with 60.5% white wines, 31.5% red and rose wines and 8% cremant.
The Burgundy vineyard includes 84 controlled appellations of origin (AOC): 6 "regional" appellations, 45 “village or communal” appellations and 33 "Grand Cru” appellations. Burgundy classifies its wines according to a four-level hierarchy. At the base are the regional appellations, whose wines can be made from vines established throughout Burgundy.
Then come the communal appellations or villages: the wine bears the name of the commune (one or more villages) where the vines from which it comes are planted. After, we find the premier cru from climates defined within a village. Finally, at the very top of the pyramid, there is the grand cru, selected from the best climates.
Grape varieties of the white wines from Burgundy
White Burgundy is produced in the vineyards of Burgundy, more precisely in the wine-growing regions of Chablis, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise and Maconnais.
Each wine growing regions has different terroirs and characteristics. Its vineyard benefits from a temperate-oceanic and semi-continental climate and soil made of clay and limestone.
The main grape varieties used in the composition of white Burgundy wine include Chardonnay, Aligote, Sauvignon, Melon and Pinot blanc.
Chardonnay, which is very common in France and throughout the world, produces high-quality wines in its native Burgundy. Its preferred soils are moderately fertile with a dominant limestone character, in a hillside position, on marly formations that are sometimes very clayey.
The sugar content of the berries can reach high levels while maintaining a high acidity, which makes it possible to obtain wines that are particularly well balanced, powerful and full-bodied, with a lot of fat and volume. Its wines are moderately aromatic in their youth and increase with maturation and aging for two to four years.
The aromas are typical, complex and intense (dried fruit, hazelnut, grilled, tropical fruit, butter, etc.).
Aligote, which represents 6% of Burgundy's wine-growing area, is a vigorous and productive grape variety; DNA analysis has revealed that its lineage is the same as that of Chardonnay: it is a natural hybrid of the white Chardonnay and the pinot noir.
The Aligote is very susceptible to grey rot and spring frosts; it is more successful on plateaus and high slopes than in the foothills. It produces light, slightly acidic and fresh wines. They are low in tannins and have a low fragrance. The wines are to be drunk young and the Aligote is often consumed in mixture with creme de cassis which gives the kir drink.
Melon is an old Burgundian grape variety that is rarely used in its native region. It bud breaks early and is frequently affected by spring frosts. However, its secondary buds are fertile and provide part of the primary harvest.
Sauvignon blanc occupies less than 1% of the surface area in Burgundy. It is the only grape variety in the Saint-Bris appellation that became an AOC in 2002.
Pinot blanc is produced in very small quantities in some Burgundy AOCs (such as marsannay for example).
Harvest of the grapes is carried out manually after an assessment of maturation is done and are immediately transferred to a press for pressing on the day of harvest.
Once the juice is in the vat, settling is generally carried out after an enzymatic process. At this stage, a cold pre-fermentation (about ten to twelve degrees for several days) may be sought by some winemakers to promote the extraction of aromas, which hardly diffuse to the aqueous juice, from the vat. Most often, after twelve to forty-eight hours, the clear juice is extracted and fermented.
Alcoholic fermentation takes place with very particular monitoring of the temperatures which must remain approximately stable (eighteen to twenty-four degrees).
Chaptalization (the process of adding sugar to unfermented grape) is also used to increase the alcoholic strength by volume if necessary. The traditional fermentation of the great whites of Burgundy is carried out in barrels ("Meursault" method).
White Burgundy with their varied characteristics
White wines from Burgundy are marked by small differences due to the notions of terroirs but are generally quite full-bodied (especially when they have been transferred to barrels), with aromas of fresh flowers (floral note), white fruits, minerals (mineral note), citrus fruits, honey, spices, sometimes, wood (woody note).
They have a clear and crystalline light gold colour, often decorated with green reflections.
On the palate, they reflect flavours of smoke, dried or exotic fruits. They are fresh, lively, rich, fine without being light, full without being heavy, smooth and firm, dry and caressing, enveloped and quite deep, fat, not very robust but persistent.
→ What should we open them with?
Food pairing with white wines from burgundy differs according to their production areas. Generally, they go well with poultry, fish, shellfish, mushrooms, chicken, pork, any food in a cream sauce, and some cheeses.
→ Serving temperature
White wines are generally served between ten and twelve degrees on average for regional AOCs, village appellations, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru.
Depending on the type of wine, the serving temperatures vary light, fresh, lively wines between six and eight degrees, very aromatic wines between eight and ten degrees and full and wood-influenced wines between fourteen and sixteen degrees.
→ Aging period
The aging period for white wines from burgundy ranges from two to three years for a regional appellation, two to five years on average for a village AOC, three to ten years for first growth and eight to fifteen years (or even more for great vintages) for great vintages.