While certainly not the largest wine growing region in France, Burgundy located in the east-central part has built a giant reputation for quality wines.
The region which is most famous for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is divided into 5 growing areas (not including Chatilonnais and Beaujolais) Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. Chablis is in the north of Burgundy. Côte de Nuit, just south of Dijon produces world class Pinot Noir from a patchwork of Grand Cru vineyards. Côte de Beaune, which is named after a medieval village, is situated in the heart of Burgundy and it is known for its outstanding Chardonnay. Côte Chalonnaise, located between the towns of Chagny and Saint Vallerin, is a bit more rural in nature and is known for its fine white and rosé sparklers. Finally, Mâconnais in the south, has a more Mediterranean feel and the warmer weather tends to produce very well structured Chardonnays.
The history of viticulture in the area goes way back to the second century AD with early praise of the region’s wines being recorded in 591. The first to nurture the early vineyards were the Roman Catholic church. In the early times, Burgundy, which is land-locked, was isolated from the rest of France and much of their wines remained only available in the local area. Over the centuries the wine trade of the area ebbed and flowed, however, since the mid 1980’s Burgundy has established itself as one of the world’s premier growing regions.
Wines in the area are classified as either Grand Cru - the best, Premier Cru- still outstanding but not quite as good as Grand Cru, Village appellation- wines produced within the boundaries of one of 42 villages, or Regional Wines made from grapes located anywhere in Burgundy. While these Regional Wines can also be good, they tend to be lighter and perhaps a bit less complex.