While working on a recent issue of The Grapevine—the official newsletter for members of the wine clubs of Vinesse—I received an email from a member of The World of Wine Club.
“My wife and I just returned from a tour of Burgundy, and we tasted some very interesting wines,” he wrote. “In part because we’re fairly new to wine, and in part because of the language barrier, we’re finding it challenging to learn about Burgundy wines. Do you have any ideas for helping us sort it all out?”
It’s a great question because its gist can apply to every major wine-producing country in the world—France (the home of the Burgundy wine region) included.
When learning about any wine region, it’s best to begin with a very broad view and then gradually get more specific.
In the case of Burgundy, that means looking for bottles that are labeled simply “White Burgundy” or “Red Burgundy.” You may even be able to find Burgundy-designated wines that have the varietal names—Chardonnay or Pinot Noir—on the label.
The idea is to simply get a feel for how the grapes taste in Burgundy, which is different than versions from California, Oregon or elsewhere. At this level, don’t expect to be blown away by any of the wines; just get familiar with their aromas and flavors.
Once you’ve done that, move on to a more specific geographic designation within Burgundy, such as Pouilly Fuisse or Macon-Villages. In bottlings from those areas, you’ll begin to notice the mineral flavors for which white Burgundy is known.
Among red Burgundy wines, look for designations such as Cote de Beaune or Cote Chalonnaise.
Finally, once you’ve trained your palate to appreciate the flavors of Burgundy, move on up to the best of the best—the Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines. The difference you’ll notice in them is their concentration. In good vintages, the aromas seem to jump out of the glass, and the flavors are intense, yet the feeling in the mouth remains silky smooth.
There’s a lot to learn about Burgundy; enjoy the journey!