Burgundy Wine FAQ
We get questions about Burgundy… lots of questions!
Sometimes people are new to wine and are embarrassed to be asking. (And sometimes they aren’t new to wine but still embarrassed to be asking.)
But nobody should be embarrassed to ask questions about wine! We all started somewhere and, frankly, learning about wine is half the fun. We consider ourselves lucky to still be asking questions and learning about wine every day!
Q: Bourgogne vs Burgundy, what’s the difference?
There is no difference between Bourgogne and Burgundy, Burgundy is just the English name for the French region of Bourogogne, and the wines that come from there. They’re the same thing!
Q: Why am I hearing “Bourgogne” more and more, lately?
A: Many of Burgundy/Bourgogne’s growers and organizations have begun to lean into the French name lately. Bourgogne/Burgundy has been a bit of an outlier in France, as one of the few regions to identify so strongly with a different name in foreign markets (Burgundy, in English speaking countries) than at home (Bourgogne).
We are also seeing more wines in America that have “Bourgogne” right in the name. Not just Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc, but also “Crémant de Bourgogne” (sparkling wine from Burgundy) and various regional appellations like Bourgogne Tonnerre and Bourgogne Épineuil.
The pendulum is starting to swing back!
Q: How do you even pronounce Bourgogne?
A: Most English speakers pronounce “Bourgogne” as these three syllables: “Boor-gon-nye.” (One fancy way of writing that is burˈ-gɔn-yə.)
Q: But it sounds sort of different when the French say it.
A: Don’t sweat it! They sort of roll the “r” a bit, and the “nye” sound is actually close to the “nion” in onion. But nobody’s judging!
Q: Can I just say Burgundy?
A: Of course! We use the two interchangeably on this site
Questions about the wines of Bourgogne
Q: What is considered a Burgundy wine?
A: Burgundy wine (aka, Bourgogne) refers to a wine from the Burgundy region of France (in French the region is also known as Bourgogne).
Q: What type of wine is Burgundy?
A: There are lots of different types of Burgundy wines. There are red Burgundy wines and white Burgundy wines, and there are pink Burgundy wines -- rosés -- too. There are also sparkling wines called Crémant de Bourgogne.
Q: What grapes are the wines of Bourgogne made from?
A: Most White Burgundies are made with Chardonnay, though some are made with Aligoté. Virtually all Red Burgundies are made with Pinot Noir.
Q: Is Pinot Noir the same as Burgundy?
A: Pinot Noir is not the same as Burgundy, but they are pretty closely related.
Virtually all Red Burgundies are Pinot Noirs, but since you can grow Pinot Noir around the world, not all Pinot Noirs are Red Burgundies.
Q: Is Burgundy wine expensive?
A: Some famous Burgundy wines are very expensive, but many are not expensive at all. We have lots of delicious Burgundies that won’t break the bank!
Q: Is there Merlot or Cabernet in Burgundy?
A: Nope, there is no Merlot or Cabernet grown in Burgundy and if you grew either grape in the region and made a wine from it, you wouldn’t be allowed to call it Bourgogne!
Q: Are Burgundy wines dry or sweet?
A: Burgundy wines are dry. (OK, there are a few exceptions, mostly in the Macon, but they are extremely rare and the Bourguignon don’t seem to think of them as traditional wines of Burgundy.)
Q: Is Red Burgundy Smooth?
A: Burgundy wines can be very smooth, but they aren’t always. Young Red Burgundy wines from some regions can have plenty of tannins. Tannis feel like dryness in your mouth (if you've ever left your tea bag in water too long and found the dried your tongue out... that was tannins from the tea leaves).
But as those wines age the tannins mature and become smoother. Other Red Burgundy wines start life with fewer tannins and can be smoother feeling even in their youth.
Many white burgundy wines feel very smooth, with roundness from oak barrels and malolactic fermentation. But even these wines almost always have enough freshness and zip to keep them from feeling cloying or dull.
Q: What makes Burgundy wines so special?
A: SO MUCH! We’re writing a whole blog series on this, which you can start reading [here]. But in a nutshell, Burgundy (Bourgogne, in French) is a unique region that not only makes absolutely delicious wines that are incredible with food, but where the tiniest change in site can have a meaningful impact on the wines it produces. This “terroir” makes Burgundy wines as intellectually fascinating as they are sensually enrapturing.
Other Questions about Burgundy
Q: Is Burgundy the color related to the wine?
A: Apparently, yes: Burgundy the color, a deep red, is named after the color of the red wine. There are references at least from the 1800s.
Q: Is there rosė Burgundy?
A: There is rose Burgundy, both Bourgogne Rosė and Marsannay Rosė. Both rosės are Pinot Noir-based.
Q: Does Burgundy make sparkling wine?
A: Absolutely! Burgundy makes great sparkling wine that has a lot in common with Champagne, called Crėmant de Bourgogne. Crėmant de Bourgogne is based on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but can include other grapes. You will be able to read more about Crėmant de Bourgogne in our guide to Cremant de Bourgogne, which is coming soon.
Q: Is Burgundy a good region to visit?
A: Burgundy is a great region to visit! The food is incredible (hey, it’s the home of beef bourguignon). The countryside is lovely, and if you go during the right season you can ride bikes through the vineyards like some sort of Eat Love Pray cosplay. The people are friendly (this is far from Paris and if you show an interest, you’ll be richly rewarded). And there’s old ruins and churches and all that other Old World touristy stuff. Also, Beaune is a sort of underrated city and it’s fun to hang out there.
Q: Can I age Burgundy?
A: Yes, the best Bourgognes, both red and white, age and improve for many years. Even many basic Bourgognes will improve with a little aging.
Q: Can I drink Burgundy wines when they’re young?
A: Also yes! Although many Burgundy wines age beautifully, the best wines drink well at any age. And many of the lower appellation wines are mostly drunk in their youth.
Q: Can I decant Burgundy?
A: There is plenty of debate and lots of Burgundy purists prefer not to decant Burgundy on the theory that the rapid oxygenation of the wine strips it of too many subtleties. Many Burgundy purists, if they are drinking a young Burgundy, will open it very early in the day and let it breath super-slowly through the neck of the bottle.
But plenty of others think that’s overly fussy and if you’re short of time you should absolutely decant. If you don’t know how you feel about this it can be fun to decant half the bottle and then compare and contrast.
Q: How is Burgundy Wine Organized?
A: The wines of Burgundy are organized along a few dimensions. First, there are different types of Burgundy wine (red wine, white wine, rosé and sparkling wine).
Burgundy is also organized geographically by regions such as the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune, and by villages such as Nuits-Saint-Georges and Volnay.
Finally, Burgundy is organized hierarchically by appellation, into Regional Appellations, Village Appellations, Premier Crus, and Grand Cru Appellations.
Q: How many Bourgogne Grand Crus are there?
A: Burgundy has 33 Grand Crus.
Q: What are the Grand Crus of Burgundy?
A: Here’s a list of the Grand Crus of Burgundy
- Chablis Grand Cru
- (note that Chablis’ Grand Cru is subdivided into seven climats)
- Chambertin-Clos de Bèze
- Clos de la Roche
- Clos de Tart
- Clos de Vougeot
- Clos des Lambrays
- Clos Saint-Denis
- La Grande Rue
- Grands Échezeaux
- La Romanée
- Ruchottes Chambertin
- La Tâche
Q: What are Chablis’ Grand Cru Climats?
A: Chablis’ seven Grand Cru Climats are: Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir.
Q: How many Village Appellations of Bourgogne are there?
A: Burgundy has 44 Village Appellations.
Q: What are the Village Appellations of Burgundy?
A: Here’s a list of the Burgundy’s Village Appellations:
- Côte de Beaune
- Côte de Beaune-Villages
- Côte de Nuits-Villages
- Marsannay Rosé
- Petit Chablis
Q: What are Burgundy’s Regional Appellations?
A: Here is a list of Burgundy’s Regional Appellations (known as Appelations Régionales in French):
- Bourgogne Aligoté
- Bourgogne Mousseux
- Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains
- Côteaux Bourguignons (Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, Bourgogne Ordinaire)
- Crémant de Bourgogne
Q: What are the dénomination géographique complémentaire, or DGCs, I sometimes see on a label?
A: Dénomination géographique complémentaire, or DGCs, are known in English as Complementary Geographical Denominations. They are smaller geographical regions that are permitted to add their names to labels of wines from the Regional Appellations of Bourgogne or Macon.
A geographical denomination can encompass either a region like in Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, a village like in Mâcon Verzé or even the name of a Climat like in Bourgogne La chapelle Notre Dame. They are very affordable wines.
Q: Do you have a list of all the DGCs?
A: Sure do! Here’s your list of Dénomination géographique complémentaires:
- Bourgogne Chitry
- Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise
- Bourgogne Côte d’Or
- Bourgogne Côte Saint-Jacques
- Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre
- Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois
- Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse
- Bourgogne Épineuil
- Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune
- Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
- Bourgogne La Chapelle Notre-Dame
- Bourgogne Le Chapitre
- Bourgogne Montrecul
- Bourgogne Tonnerre
- Mâcon-La Roche-Vineuse
- Mâcon-Serrières (only for red and rosé wine)