Burgundy is the name of a wine region in France; however, most of us are familiar with the name not because of high school geography, but because it’s what we call the famous red and white wine the region produces. These wines are considered to be the best money can buy, which is why they’re some of the most expensive in the world. But before we explain why so many people feel this way, we’re going to briefly explain red and white Burgundy.

Red Burgundy is wine that is made in the Burgundy region of eastern France using 100% Pinot Noir grapes. That’s right, red Burgundy is just a Pinot Noir. White Burgundy is also made in Burgundy, but, since it is white, it is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. That’s it. Pretty simple, right?

Over the centuries, Burgundy has become known for being the best land in the world for producing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

So now that we understand that both red Burgundy and white Burgundy are simply other names for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, let’s understand what makes these wines more coveted than versions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from other parts of the world.

What makes both Burgundian wines so special, is that Burgundy, more than probably any other wine region in the world, is completely influenced by its terroir. Terroir is a sense of place, it means that when you drink a wine, you completely taste the region where the wine was made. Most simply, terroir is the concept that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that single vineyard.

The cross marking the Romanée-Conti vineyardThe cross marking the Romanée-Conti vineyard. This Grand Cru is one of the world’s most famous and expensive wines.

Over the centuries, Burgundy has become known for being the best land in the world for producing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and it is for this reason that Burgundy wines have received such acclaim. In fact, the quality of the land is considered to be so important to the creation of red and white Burgundy, that inside the Burgundy region, vineyards are classified by four levels, depending on how exceptional it is believed one’s plot of land is for growing the grapes. When buying a bottle of Burgundy, one of these four classifications will be labeled on the bottle:

  • Grand Cru – This classification is reserved for the best vineyards. Only about 2 percent of all vineyards in Burgundy receive this classification. Wines with this classification receive the highest prices and are aggressively pursued by wine collectors.
  • Premier Cru – These wines are produced from vineyards that are still considered to be of stellar quality, but just a small step down from Grand Cru. These vineyards make up about 12 percent of all vineyards in Burgundy and can also produce wines that are quite expensive.
  • Village Wines – These are Burgundies that are produced from grapes sourced from several vineyards in 1 of the 42 villages of Burgundy. You will know it’s a Village wine because the name of the village where the grapes were sourced will be labeled on the bottle. These wines represent 36 percent of all Burgundy. Vineyards that produce Village wines may be right next to vineyards classified as Premier or Grand Cru, but for some reason they do not receive the same classification. Due to this, you can find excellent bang for your buck among Village wines.
  • Regional Wines – Finally, Regional wines are considered to be the lowest level of classification. These are wines that are created from a combination of vineyards from a variety of villages within Burgundy, as opposed to a single village, like Village wines. As such, wines of this classification will simply be labeled as a wine of Bourgone. These wines represent 50 percent of all wines produced in Burgundy and in this classification you will find excellent wines meant to be drunk now.

With all of these classifications, we can’t forget that, even at the lowest Regional level, these are all still wines made in one of the best wine regions in all the world. Both red and white Burgundies are the wines that made Pinot Noir and Chardonnay famous and they are worth enjoying no matter what level you purchase.

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