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An Intro to French Burgundy

The French are very serious about their wine.  From what I understand, each region has different rules/laws by which it is governed.  Today I will try and give you a very basic introduction to the Burgundy region of France, or Bourgogne.   We took a fantastic 1 day tour with Burgundy Discovery.  We had delicious wine and saw absolutely beautiful landscapes.


First and foremost, the French classify their wine by region (unlike the US where we classify by grape varietal).  So here in the US we may ask for a syrah or a chardonnay but in France you would ask for something from the Côte de Rhone or from Burgundy.

There are generally two types of grapes grown in Burgundy: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  There are also the lesser known Aligoté and Gamay but to simplify, assume you are getting a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir if you are drinking a Burgundy wine.

Then come the classifications: Regional (52% of production), Village (34% of production), Premier or 1er Cru (12%) and Grand Cru (2%).  In theory, the regional wine is the starting point (for decent wine) and you can work your way up to the prestigious Grand Cru.  But it really all comes down to the land.

Regional wines are made by blending grapes from different areas or villages within Burgundy.  The label will simply say “Bourgogne” and either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.img_2246

Village wine is made from grapes grown in one village.  It does not have to be from grapes in the same plot of land, just in the same village.  The name of the village will be on the label.img_2240

Premier Cru is made from grapes grown in a specific vineyard, in a specific village.  Both the village and the vineyard will be on the label.  But, it will also say either Premier Cru or 1er Cru on the label, making it easily identifiable.

Grand Cru wine will only list the vineyard (not the village) on the label.  It will also say “Grand Cru” so again, there won’t be any confusion.img_2155

The main principle is that the land, or terroir, gives very specific qualities to the wine.  So, if you like wine from a certain village you might like all wines from that village.  Grapes designated Premier Cru or Grand Cru usually are in the middle of the slope (of the hill).  So, you can drink wine made from grapes a few rows up (or down) on the hill and save beaucoup bucks.  I’m not saying they will taste the exact same (wine aficionados are probably cringing); I’m just trying to point out the 2 yards up or down the hill could be at least a $50 difference.  It’s all about finding something you like.

Another big difference that we Americans need to get used to, you need to store your French Burgundies for a while.  They are not meant to be opened for several years.  The French are better and tasting something now and knowing if they will like it in a few years… not a talent of mine.  I want to drink it now.

Our tour took us to three different wine producers:

  1. Domaine Henri de Villamont in Savigny Les Beauneimg_1943img_1939
  2. Domaine LeJeune in Pommard (my favorite)
    Giant wood wine tank from the 17th century they still use!


  3. Domaine D’Ardhuy in Côte de  Nuits

    Giant old wine press from the 18th century; they built the current house around it!

I have a wine map on my “France Trip” Pinterest page if you are interested.

Another beverage that originated in Burgundy is Kir (pronounced Keer).  I had a Kir on my first night in Paris and it is my new favorite thing!

For those of you who don’t know, Kir is an aperitif, or a drink you have before a meal.  But really, they are so good I don’t think they should be restricted to only a “before dinner” drink.  I think they should be enjoyed whenever the mood (responsibly) strikes.  The mood struck me a lot on this trip.

I actually learned a bit about Kir while I was in France so if you want a mini history lesson please continue reading.  If you just want to know how to make them skip down to the “recipe.”

Kir is a cocktail of cassis and dry white wine.  Crème de Cassis is a thick, sweet liqueur made from black currant (or cassis) berries grown in the Burgundy region of France.  Traditionally the white wine used in this aperitif was Aligoté, a lesser known white grape varietal grown in Burgundy.  Aligoté is a very dry, acidic wine and not always the best tasting on its own.  So someone (Felix Kir?) started mixing it with Crème de Cassis and voilà- now we have Kir!

That is where it started but now people mix it with other whites, often a chardonnay or Chablis.  There is also a Kir Royal which is Crème de Cassis mixed with Champagne.  They are both divine; you can’t go wrong with either choice.  Just make sure you use a dry wine/champagne to balance out the sweetness of the cassis.

As I said, these are usually an aperitif but I think they would be excellent with brunch as well.  People always think of mimosas.  Why not switch it up and serve Kir or Kir Royals to your guests.


Serves 1

1 part Creme de Cassis
6 parts Dry White Wine, chilled

Pour the cassis in the bottom of a wine or champagne glass then, pour the wine over the top.

Kir Royal

Follow the same recipe as above but substitute chilled dry champagne for the wine.

Kir/Kir Royal should be pink in color and not too sweet.  Go ahead and play around with the ratio a bit until you find your perfect blend.  Salut!

5 thoughts on “An Intro to French Burgundy

  1. I, of course, loved this segment and will experience this region; hopefully sooner rather than later. The photos and information are interesting and exciting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Yum! I am hosting a brunch in a couple of weekends and will definitely be switching up the usual mimosa for a Kir Royal — thank you for the idea! Also, the brief tutorial was very interesting, thank you!

  3. I will let you know! I think I may also serve jambon et beurre…the picture of the sandwich (from your previous post) looks delightful and an easy prep item!

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