Burgundy wine (French: Bourgogne or vin de Bourgogne) is made in the Burgundy region of eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône. The most famous wines produced here, and those commonly referred to as "Burgundies," are dry red wines made from pinot noir grapes and white wines made from chardonnay grapes.

Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as gamay and aligoté, respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wines are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and gamay-dominated Beaujolais are recognised as part of the Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d'origine contrôlé...Read more

Burgundy wine (French: Bourgogne or vin de Bourgogne) is made in the Burgundy region of eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône. The most famous wines produced here, and those commonly referred to as "Burgundies," are dry red wines made from pinot noir grapes and white wines made from chardonnay grapes.

Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as gamay and aligoté, respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wines are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and gamay-dominated Beaujolais are recognised as part of the Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated grand cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy goes back to medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry. The historical importance of the Burgundy wine region and its unique climats system led to sites in the region being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Climats, terroirs of Burgundy site.

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 Harvest time in the Chablis Premier Cru of Fourchaume

Archaeological evidence establishes viticulture in Burgundy as early as the second century AD, although the Celts may have been growing vines in the region previous to the Roman conquest of Gaul in 51 BC. Greek traders, for whom viticulture had been practiced since the late Neolithic period, had founded Massalía in about 600 BC, and traded extensively up the Rhône valley, where the Romans first arrived in the second century BC. The earliest recorded praise of the wines of Burgundy was written in 591 by Gregory of Tours, who compared it to the Roman wine Falernian.[1]

Monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church have had an important influence on the history of Burgundy wine. The first known donation of a vineyard to the church was by king Guntram in 587, but the influence of the church became important in Charlemagne's era. The Benedictines, through their Abbey of Cluny founded in 910, became the first truly big Burgundy vineyard owner over the following centuries. Another order which exerted influence was the Cistercians, founded in 1098 and named after Cîteaux, their first monastery, situated in Burgundy. The Cistercians created Burgundy's largest wall-surrounded vineyard, the Clos de Vougeot, in 1336. More importantly, the Cistercians, extensive vineyard owners as they were, were the first to notice that different vineyard plots gave consistently different wines. They therefore laid the earliest foundation for the naming of Burgundy crus and the region's terroir thinking.[1]

Since Burgundy is land-locked, very little of its wine left the region in Medieval times, when wine was transported in barrels, meaning that waterways provided the only practical means of long-range transportation. The only part of Burgundy which could reach Paris in a practical way was the area around Auxerre by means of the Yonne. This area includes Chablis, but had much more extensive vineyards until the 19th century. These were the wines referred to as vin de Bourgogne in early texts. The wines from Côte d'Or would then be called (vin de) Beaune. These wines first became famous in the 14th century, during the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy in Avignon, which was reachable by Saône and Rhône after some overland transport. In the extravagance of the papal court, Beaune was generally seen as the finest wine, and better than anything available in Rome at that time.[1]

The status of Burgundy wines continued in the court of the House of Valois, which ruled as Dukes of Burgundy for much of the 14th and 15th centuries. Their ban on the import and export of non-Burgundian wines, effectively shutting out the then popular wines of the Rhone Valley from north European markets, gave a considerable boost to the Burgundy wine industry.[2] It was during this era that the first reliable references to grape varieties in Burgundy were made. Pinot noir was first mentioned in 1370 under the name Noirien, but it was believed to have been cultivated earlier than that, since no other grape variety associated with Medieval Burgundy is believed to have been able to produce red wines of a quality able to impress the papal court. On 6 August 1395,[3] Duke Philip the Bold issued a decree concerned with safeguarding the quality of Burgundy wines. The duke declared the "vile and disloyal Gamay"[4]—which was a higher-yielding grape than Pinot noir in the 14th century, as it is today—unfit for human consumption and banned the use of organic fertilizer (manure), which probably increased yields even further to the detriment of quality. High-quality white Burgundy wines of this era were probably made from Fromenteau, which is known as a quality grape in northeastern France in this time. Fromenteau is probably the same variety as today's Pinot gris. Chardonnay is a much later addition to Burgundy's vineyards.[1]

In the 18th century, the quality of roads in France became progressively better, which facilitated commerce in Burgundy wines. The first négociant houses of the region were established in the 1720s and 1730s. In the 18th century, Burgundy and Champagne were rivals for the lucrative Paris market, to which Champagne had earlier access. The two regions overlapped much in wine styles in this era, since Champagne was then primarily a producer of pale red still wines rather than of sparkling wines. A major work on Burgundy wines written by Claude Arnoux in 1728 deals with the famous red wines of Côte de Nuits and the Œil-de-Perdrix pink wines of Volnay, but only briefly mentions white wines.[1]

After Burgundy became incorporated in the Kingdom of France, and the power of the church decreased, many vineyards which had been in the church's hands were sold to the bourgeoisie from the 17th century. After the French Revolution of 1789, the church's remaining vineyards were broken up and from 1791 sold off.[1] The Napoleonic inheritance laws then resulted in the continued subdivision of the most precious vineyard holdings, so some growers hold only a row or two of vines. This led to the emergence of négociants who aggregate the produce of many growers to produce a single wine. It has also led to a profusion of increasingly smaller, family-owned wineries, exemplified by the dozen-plus Gros family domaines.

 Vineyard in Côte de Beaune

The awareness of the difference of quality and style of Burgundy wines produced from different vineyards goes back to Medieval times, with certain climats being more highly rated than others. An early author on this aspect of Burgundy wines was Denis Morelot with his La Vigne et le Vin en Côte d'Or from 1831. In 1855, the same year as the famous Bordeaux Wine Official Classification was launched, Dr. Jules Lavalle published an influential book, Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne de Grands Vins de la Côte-d'Or, which included an unofficial classification of the Burgundy vineyards in five classes and which built on Morelot's book. In decreasing order, Lavalle's five classes were hors ligne, tête de cuvée, 1ère cuvée, 2me cuvée and 3me cuvée.[5] Lavalle's classification was formalized in modified form by the Beaune Committee of Agriculture in 1861, and then consisted of three classes. Most of the "first class" vineyards of the 1861 classification were made into Grand Cru appellations d'origine contrôlées when the national AOC legislation was implemented in 1936.[1]

Burgundy wine has experienced much change over the past 75 years. Economic depression during the 1930s was followed by the devastation caused by World War II. After the War, the vignerons returned home to their unkempt vineyards. The soils and vines had suffered and were sorely in need of nurturing. The growers began to fertilize, bringing their vineyards back to health. Those who could afford it added potassium, a mineral fertilizer that contributes to vigorous growth. By the mid-1950s, the soils were balanced, yields were reasonably low and the vineyards produced some of the most stunning wines in the 20th century.

For the next 30 years, they followed the advice of renowned viticultural experts, who advised them to keep spraying their vineyards with chemical fertilizers, including potassium. While a certain amount of potassium is natural in the soil and beneficial for healthy growth, too much is harmful because it leads to low acidity levels, which adversely affect the quality of the wine.

As the concentration of chemicals in the soil increased, so did the yields. In the past 30 years, yields have risen by two-thirds in the appellations contrôlées vineyards of the Côte d'Or, from 29 hectoliters per hectare (hl/ha) (yearly average from 1951 to 1960) to almost 48 hl/ha (1982–91), according to a study by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine. With higher yields came wines of less flavor and concentration.[citation needed] Within 30 years, the soils had been significantly depleted of their natural nutrients.

The period between 1985 and 1995 was a turning point in Burgundy. During this time, many Burgundian domaines renewed efforts in the vineyards and gradually set a new course in winemaking, producing deeper, more complex wines. Today, the Burgundy wine industry is reaping the rewards of those efforts.

^ a b c d e f g Cite error: The named reference OCW was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Lillelund, Niels (2004). Rhône-Vinene. JP Bøger - JP/Politikens Forlagshus A/S, 2004. p. 13. ISBN 87-567-7140-1. ^ Burgundy-Wines: History Archived 5 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine, accessed on 12 October 2008. ^ (in French) Le Figaro and La Revue du vin de France (2008) : Vins de France et du monde (Bourgogne : Chablis), L'histoire, p. 26. ^ Bazin, Jean-François (2002). Histoire du vin de Bourgogne. Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot. p. 48. ISBN 2-87747-669-3.
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