French Corner: Burgundy (February 2016)
Welcome to the "French Corner", the Consulate’monthly rendez-vous dedicated to the promotion of France’s culture and patrimony in video! In February, discover Burgundy and its region full of History and Gastronomy
Burgundy (in French, Bourgogne) is a historical territory and a former administrative region of east-central France. Burgundy comprises the following four departments: Côte-d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Yonne and Nièvre. The region runs from Sens in the north to Mâcon in the south, or Lyon, if the Beaujolais wine area is included as part of Burgundy.
A Bit of History
Historically, "Burgundy" has referred to numerous political entities, including kingdoms and duchies spanning territory from the Mediterranean to the Low Countries.
Famed over the world for its wines, Burgundy is also one of the great historical regions of France. During the Middle Ages, Burgundy was indeed a great dukedom which rivaled in power and prestige with the kingdom of France itself. In those days, it covered a large part of central eastern France, including half of modern-day Switzerland.
Burgundy is one of France’s main wine producing areas and, as such, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015, as an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the High Middle Ages.
It is well known for both its red and white wines, mostly made, respectively, out of Pinot noir and Chardonnay grapes, although other grape varieties are also in use, such as Gamay, Aligoté, Pinot blanc, and Sauvignon blanc.
The main wine regions are as follow:
- Chablis, a white wine made out of Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other small appelations in this northern part of Burgundy include Irancy (red whine) and Saint-Bris (white wines made out of Sauvignon blanc).
- the Côte-d’Or vineyard, where Burgundy’s most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards are situated (except for Chablis Grand Cru. The Côte d’Or itself is split in two parts:
- the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and run till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges;
- the Côté de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges.
- The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 25 miles long and, in most places, less than 1.2 miles wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of this hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. Names of villages such as Vosne-Romanée, Vougeot, or Gevrey-Chambertin are music to the ears of connoisseurs as they trigger the thought of some of France’s most outstanding vineyards: the Romanée-Conti, the Clos de Vougeot or the Ruchottes-Chambertin appelations.
- Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where the most famous appelations are Mercurey, Rully and Givry.
- Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, know for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and affordable white wine, with the notable exception of the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyard, 100% Chardonnay, and considered as one of France’s great white wines.
- Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made out of Gamay grapes.
Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by cold winters and hot summers. The weather is highly unpredictable, as rain, hail and frost are all possible around harvest time. For these reasons, the quality of Burgundy’s vintages varies considerably.
The reputation and quality of the top wines, together with the fact that they are often produced in small quantities, has led to high demand and high prices, with some Burgundies ranking among the most expensive wines in the world.
French Corner is our monthly rendez-vous where we showcase a French region and introduce you to its highlights and secrets, appeal to your palate and culinary talents with our local recipe of the month and fspotlight France’s scientific and educational competitiveness with school and universities of the region! We use also this opportunity to interview one of our expats’ of New England