Burgundy is located in the east-central part of France, sandwiched between Champagne to the north and the Rhone Valley to the south, close to the going further inland, away from the Atlantic Ocean. The region is about 25 miles long and 2-3 miles wide (roughly the size of Napa Valley).
It is one of the most complex wine regions in the world. The soil conditions show such diversity that wines grown on two adjacent vineyards can represent a completely different price category. Consequently, areas close to each other serve completely different wines.
Burgundy was not one of the most popular wine regions earlier because of transportation. You can make the best wine in the world, but if you couldn’t get it to a market, and in the case of France, the biggest market was Paris, you didn’t have a good way to get it there, then you can’t sell enough of it locally to be that profitable. But in the 1800s when the infrastructure, the road situation got a lot better. Therefore Burgundy was able to ship their wine to the market of Paris becoming more well known and very popular.
Two featured grape varieties
Burgundy is really about two grapes, but there are a handful of others floating around. Those two grapes are Pinot Noir, which is very finicky and very difficult to grow, and Chardonnay, which makes up about 60% of total vineyard acreage.
Burgundy is divided into five main sub-regions. Most of Burgundy clusters around the Saone River, there’s an outlying region about 80 miles (120 kilometers) away from the main body of Burgundy called Chablis.
The northernmost part of the main area of Burgundy is called Côte de Nuits. It’s known as a producer of high quality and often very expensive Pinot Noir. Côte de Beaune is located to the south of Côte de Nuits. It’s known mostly for its Chardonnay production though it’s an important Pinot Noir producer as well. Côte d’Or is the home of some Burgundy’s most prestigious and well-regarded vineyards. Just to the south of the Côte d’Or is the Côte Chalonnaise, also known as a Chardonnay producer. As we move south we find a region called Maconnais, which is located near the city of Macon.
Burgundy wine will be expensive because it has been grown on a special plot of land that has been proven for centuries, not because it displays the logo of a big-name winery. In the world of modern wine, we often pay for the label, the brand, but in Burgundy, the brand is the vineyard, the natural endowment.