Terroirs of Bourgogne: the remarkable history of "Climates”

By Anne Schoendoerffer

In Burgundy, the terroir has 1,247 "Climates" listed as World Heritage by Unesco. What lies behind these “Climates” that makes the wines so well known around the world for their typicality? A journey through the terroirs of Bourgogne, its climates, its legendary appellations, chardonnay and pinot noir.  

Terroirs of Burgundy


The monks weren’t wrong. From the Middle Ages, they marked out their parcels of vines, thus defining what is referred to in Burgundy as “climates”. This does not refer to the weather of this wine region, located in the heart of France, and its semi-continental climate. Instead it designates each parcel of vines with its own characteristics, such as geology or exposure. The production of a climate is vinified separately, from a single grape variety. The wine thus produced takes the name of the climate from which it comes. In 2015, Unesco listed 1,247 as World Heritage. A global first. 


Burgundy: 5 wine regions 

Spanning 230 kilometres and 30,000 hectares of vines with 84 world-renowned appellations, Burgundy is divided into five wine regions. These include the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. 

The Côte de Nuits is emblematic for its elegant and powerful red wines. Like Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée where the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is located. It is considered one of the most prestigious estates in the world. Referred to by insiders as "DRC", this estate not only produces one of the most expensive nectars on the planet, Romanée-Conti, but also other exceptional wines such as La Tâche, Richebourg and Romanée-Saint-Vivant. 

Côte de Beaune also produces great reds such as Pommard and Volnay. It is especially famous for its refined and deep white wines. Such as the Montrachet appellation, a superb grand cru ranked first in the world for dry white wines. Anecdotally, the Montrachet "climate" has no vegetation at the top of the hill.  


Charles Monnier

The king grape varieties of Burgundy: pinot noir and chardonnay 

Rarely for France, vines in Burgundy are traditionally grown as a single-varietal. In red, with one of the oldest grape varieties that made Burgundy famous: pinot noir.  

On the nose, in its first years, this grape variety delivers a diversity of aromas ranging from fresh red fruits, beautiful fresh cherries in particular, through to spicy (pepper, cinnamon, and so on) and empyreumatic notes like coffee. Over time, the fresh fruits caramelize into jam or kirsch. With its ageing in oak barrels, the wine develops undergrowth and animal notes of leather, fur, and the like. It is round in the mouth, with fine tannins. Some appellations have a very long finish. 

If pinot noir is the king grape variety of red Burgundy wines, chardonnay is its equivalent for whites. Some say that nowhere else does Chardonnay express itself with as much finesse and precision as in Burgundy. Its principal aromas are citrus, such as lemon and fruit, over pear and peach. The wines, aged in oak barrels, deliver delicious notes of vanilla, butter or hazelnut. 

The diversity of Burgundy terroirs can be sensed in the glass. Their complexity too. To better understand it and bring it to life, the winegrowers are opening a centre in June 2023: the Burgundy climates and wines centre. A gateway to the taste of the region, it invites us to embark on a journey through its "Climates" and to discover a new generation and lesser-known appellations. 


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. 

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