Terroirs of Bourgogne: The Remarkable History of "Climates"

By Anne Schoendoerffer

Follow us as we explore the rich history and exceptional quality of Bourgogne wine, renowned for its "Climates" – a term designating the unique parcels of vines that contribute to the distinctiveness of Burgundy wines. With 1,247 "Climates" listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, Burgundy's wine region is celebrated worldwide for its legendary appellations, chardonnay, and pinot noir.

Terroirs of Burgundy

In this article

Understanding Burgundy's "Climates"

Dating back to the Middle Ages, Burgundy's monks meticulously marked out parcels of vines, creating what we now refer to as "Climates." Unlike the weather, these "Climates" represent each vineyard's unique characteristics, such as geology and exposure. Each parcel's production is vinified separately from a single grape variety, and the resulting wine takes the name of its originating "Climate." In 2015, UNESCO recognized 1,247 of these "Climates" as World Heritage sites, highlighting Burgundy's global significance.

 

The Five Wine Regions of Burgundy

Spanning 230 kilometers and encompassing 30,000 hectares of vineyards with 84 world-renowned appellations, Burgundy is divided into five distinct wine regions, including the famous Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.

Côte de Nuits: Known for its elegant and powerful red wines, this region includes prestigious appellations such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vougeot, and Vosne-Romanée, home to the esteemed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC). DRC produces some of the world's most coveted wines, including Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg, and Romanée-Saint-Vivant.

Côte de Beaune: This region is celebrated for its exquisite red wines like Pommard and Volnay and is particularly famous for its refined white wines, including the Montrachet appellation, renowned as the world's finest dry white wine. The Montrachet "Climate" is notably bare at the hilltop, adding to its unique character.

 

© Charles Monnier

The King Grape Varieties of Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Burgundy's vineyards are traditionally single-varietal, a rarity in France.

Pinot Noir: This ancient grape variety is the cornerstone of Burgundy's red wines. In its youth, Pinot Noir offers a bouquet of fresh red fruits, such as cherries, alongside spicy notes of pepper and cinnamon. As it ages, these aromas evolve into rich, jammy, and kirsch-like scents, with additional complexity from oak barrel aging, introducing undergrowth, animal and leather notes. The wines are round, with fine tannins and often a long finish.

Chardonnay: Equally revered for white wines, Chardonnay in Burgundy is unmatched in finesse and precision. Its primary aromas include citrus, pear, and peach, complemented by oak aging notes of vanilla, butter, and hazelnut. Burgundy's diverse terroirs and meticulous winemaking practices enhance Chardonnay's complexity and elegance.

 

Experience the Diversity of Burgundy Wine

To deepen your understanding and appreciation of Burgundy wines, the winegrowers of the region opened the Cité des Climats et vins de Bourgogne in Beaune. This center offers a gateway to the tastes and traditions of the region, inviting visitors to explore its "Climates" and discover both renowned and lesser-known appellations. You can also visit the Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie in Dijon to enjoy an immersive experience around the Burgundy wines. 

Anne Schoendoerffer’s selection

🍷 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine - Pommard - Notre Dame de Bonne Espérance
This cuvée invites us on a magnificent journey to the land of black cherries and spices. Its texture is elegant and powerful. The journey continues for a long time in the mouth with roasted and herbaceous notes. 

🍷 Domaine de l'Enclos - Chablis - Mont de Milieu - Organic
This chardonnay takes us on a waltz between yellow peach and honey. It is lemony with mineral notes in the mouth, with an intense finish. Sensual.

> Interested to learn more about the secrets French wines? Check out our Beginner's Guide To French Wine!

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