The Burgundy wines are famous worldwide and since ages. They are famous for their wide range of appellations, whose personality differ from one to another, and also evolve in your cellar, while passing ages. How to get the basics in this Ali Baba’s cave? Many tools are possible, like safaris through wineries at the discovery of local methods, guided with experts.. but also wine schools, like the inescapable École des Vins de Bourgogne, in one of the Burgundy wines‘ main cities, Beaune. This new age University proposes a huge choice of seminaries, destined both to professionals or just wine enthusiasts, in order to complete their knowledge in oenology. We will give you here a further presentation about it and the Burgundy wine appellation, so that you may be a little bit clearer for your next diners… By Alex Plato
Located at the northern outlet of the Rhône river corridor, the Burgundy vineyards enjoy a rather temperate climate in connection with the vegetative cycle of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties.
Some climatic nuances appear with the former and actual oceanic influences, especially in Chablis, but also Mediterranean in Mâconnais or even a glance of continental climate in the Côte d’Or department where is located the city of Beaune.
This is where you could train yourself in oenology thanks to the courses of the École des Vins de Bourgogne. This school depends of the BIVB, which is the Burgundy Wine Syndicate promoting all the territorial wineries (with an average surface of 8 hectares), within the 30,000 ha spread through the Burgundy area, versus 100,000 ha in the Bordeaux region.
Because of the great diversity of its vineyards, terroirs, appellations and its particular wine styles, those Burgundian vineyards may sometimes appear complex either for wine professionals and amateurs, willing to find landmarks. Especially in this rich and huge territory, pretty dependent on market trends, thus creating some floating vogues.. That’s why many events and initiatives are organized in order to orient and inform the Burgundywines enthusiasts (photo credits: Alex Plato).
By the way, for getting more geographical information about those Burgundianvineyards, and more broadly other French appellations, or even practical tips on how to select and pair a wine with your diner, La Carte des Vins s’il vous plaît is made for you. This french start-up proposes a collection of guides, posters and tasting aids about the vineyards of the world. At the origins, the two founders Jules Gaubert-Turpin and Adrien Grant Smith Bianchi noticed there was a real lack of modern and aesthetic supports regarding oenology contents.
That’s why, in 4 years, they decided to publish not less than 4 guides in 4 languages and mapped 92 vineyards, grouped in large size wine map posters or in their World Wine Atlas.
A good material to start your training at the École des Vins of Beaune, as one of those promotion organs for the cause of those Vins de Bourgogne. Created in 1974 in the heart of the vineyard, this new age school, is registered as an official training center and also by Atout France as travel operator. Thus, it proposes a dozen of different formulas, from 2 to 5 days, flexible according to your centers of interest, time and financial resources.
Oenological journeys and tailor-made courses are also offered in French and several other languages for groups.
The future (or current) students, whatever their backgrounds, professional or not, are more than welcome for initiation or tuition programs.
Those classes cover plenty of different topics, inherent to the knowledge and experience regarding Burgundywine thematics and its surroundings.
The programs are fully illustrated by interactive or blind tastings, of Burgundywines, straight from the prestige cellars of the BIVB. This huge and precious wine reserve is a real treasure, supplied by the selected contributions of the local wineries. Then, you would have an experience of the best Burgundywine bottles to complete the theory given by oenologist experts, in 2 high-tech amphitheater classrooms.
You have to know that any random wine sampling may be marked at each technical stage: in the vineyard, in the winery and in the cellar. So that certain parameters may emerge such as tannins or, conversely, dissolved oxygen, more prone to headaches.
Visits of local wineries are also possible, where you would admire behind the scenes… and then better understand the work achieved in and around, by winemakers. This sightseeing may also be extended in the grapevines and in many other typical sites, dedicated to this so coveted regional exchequer.
You may witness on the spot that the winemaker‘s touch plays a lot naturally in the development of his product and thus, his brand image.
This results varies regarding the choice of vine plots, grape varieties, organic cultivation, plus the selection of the proper harvest date or the planting density. And the more in compliance with regulations and collective tradition.
You would learn that many decisions in the winemaker’s strategy have also a lot to do regarding the evolution of their juice, in line with the style of the breeder. This character would eventually choose different parameters when deciding the different ages and origins of the barrels or stainless steel tanks, as well as their aging time.
Indeed, mastering the technique is essential, in order to avoid losing anything of the potential offered by mother nature.
For example, many prestige wine houses opens its doors to those visitors, in the occasion of private visits, like the Maison Louis Jadot, although this Beaune House normally hosts very few guests and only possible on booking.
Situated in a recent but stylish headquarters, the building dates from 1997 with multiple references to the logo of the house, a symbol of Bacchus, dating from the house birth in 1859, that additionally adorns the facade.
From where, the red wine vat room is directly accessible from the entrance hall, organized around a patio, from where start the tours. This experience is followed by the crossing into the prestigious cellar, where mature many liters of parcels.
Depending on their desires, the passing visitors would surely be amazed to have a deepened by a wine sampling at the end of the visit. Revealing the long history of this Burgundy winery, which exports most of its production to North-America, where it’s much appreciated and renowned.
The Maison Louis Jadot was founded in 1859 and has been evolving, since then, both its own vineyards (on a surface of 250 hectares but with various plot sizes) and also buys grapes from other growers. It’s vine properties extend from Burgundy (including Beaujolais Crus), where it only produces Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wines, through the Mâconnais region, with the Domaine Ferret in Fuissé and until the Beaujolais region, within the Moulin à Vent and also its Château des Jacques.
Those field trips would lead you as well to a farandole of other bucolic points of interest, such as staples of gastronomy and events.
For example, Les Musicaves de Meursault at each end of May, is always a good reason for hosting a training course about Grands Crûs over 3 juicy days.
Those many complex wines would not be a mystery anymore to you.. Therefore, you would be able to distinguish the nuances, from one year to another, depending on the tannins. Prime example and first tuition step, there is no Grand Crû appellation in Volnay, Meursault and Pommard.
“You have to learn oenology so you don’t have to use it.” Louis Jaillet
The tuition programs may last from a couple of hours to a many days workshop. In the initiation ones, you would learn, first of all, the basics about the cartography of the different families of Burgundy wines.
Multiple majors in white wine…
Thus, a first category of white Burgundy wines are lively, light and fruity.
They have a golden crystalline color with green reflections, including aromas that are generally expressed very early, especially on fruit notes and white flowers. These wines are to be paired with starters, salads and fish.
This line may be illustrated by a Mâcon-Villages 2016 from the Domaine de la Jobeline, combining fruit and flexibility.
For information, this wine has a regional appellation with a complementary geographical name of Macon Verzé, which spans 60 hectares with Chardonnay and Gamay.
Another part of the white wines from Burgundy, are supple, intense and floral, with pale yellow nuances, plus golden reflections. This could be found in the Village and Village Premier Crû appellations of Pernand-Vergelesses, (on 150 hectares).. Composed of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties, such as Les Combottes 2017, elaborated by the Domaine Rapet.
Then, the firm, tight and mineral white wines of Burgundy may be distinguished by their shades of pale gold and green reflections. Idea and citrus notes, with a mineral side, are ideal for accompanying fine fish, oysters and seafood.
These characteristics could be found, in particular, in the famous Chablis and Chablis Premier Crû appellations.
Those cover a large surface of Chardonnay, spread over more than 4000 hectares. An example given with a William Fevre‘s Chablis.
Finally, the last but not least, Burgundy white wines’ category, may be felt as ample, round and powerful, with reflections and deep and with a powerful and complex nose.
A mixture of softness and minerality, which would perfectly match with the finest and most elaborate dishes, such as lobster.
The Meursault appellations are a prestige illustration of this style, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties established on a production area of almost 400 hectares including 100 hectares of Premier Crû.
A fine and light expression that you may find in the Domaine Patrick Javillier, a Meursault 2016 (photo credits: Domaine Patrick Javillier).
Your happiness also possible in red red wine…
Moving on to Burgundy red wines, where different styles are also emerging.
There, you would find fruity red wines, light and above all, fine and elegant!
Most of them wear shiny transparent ruby dresses with gourmet fruit aromas, ideal for cold cuts or light meats.
A style illustrated by the Burgundy Côte Chalonnaise, still extracted from a regional vineyard on more than 400 hectares of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, like the Domaine de la Luolle. This one is an organic wine house…
In addition, there are other kinds of supple red wines with a brilliant and limpid ruby color, to express aromas of red fruits, including plum and morello cherry flavors. This, making a silky finish, that would allow you to accompany simmered dishes, including poultry.
This flexibility is revealed in the Monthélie appellation, located on an area of 120 hectares, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Domaine Brigitte Berthelemot would be a good example.
The section of solid and tannic red wines is dressed in an intense garnet red color and aromas of wild black fruits, to marry with a gastronomic universe.
The Mercurey appellation, spread over 600 hectares (150 hectares of premier cru), represents it well with its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties.
Finally, some powerful and complex red wines bring an intense garnet red color thanks to pinot noir. Voluptuous liquorice and spices’ aromas to combine with forest dishes.
The prestigious Clos de Vougeot, a legendary Grand Cru appellation, would represent the best those assets, thanks to a close parcel, on 49 hectares and its Tastevin Fraternity (for more information in this previous article about a Burgundy rally).
A chapter on Millesimes or vintages is also worth it!
Firstly, good to know, in terms of wines, the vintage corresponds to the year of birth of the wine. In Burgundy, the vintage mention is almost always specified on the label mark.
The cultivation in a mono grape varietal may be, in the mean time, a force because the soil expresses itself more purely through the grape variety, when it’s the most adapted to the local conditions. However it could also be a weakness due to the climatic variations, not possibly compensated by a second grape variety.
Indeed, the vineyards face risks throughout the year, depending on climatic variations, from one year to the next.
Consequently, three parameters define the vintage notion, namely annual rainfall, sunshine and temperature. Its profile will de facto be governed by the distribution of light, water supply and temperature.
Then, the evolution of each vintage differs from one vintage to another in other aspects such as its color, its aromas and its structure.
The older it gets, the more its intensity and clarity will decrease. Some aromas will reveal themselves like spices, dried fruits and roasting, while other aromas would somehow remain.
In another hand, a young red wine, born in a firm shape, may become more round and velvety with age. In addition, a lively young white wine may as well be more round over time.
Some specific years develop very distinct personalities with different temperatures, vegetative cycles or even bad weather.
Another strong part of the tuition, how to pair your meal with wine… Always a long dilemma!
The food and wine pairing workshop continues through a workshop around classic dishes such as foie gras, which the usual codes of service may be broken, thanks to a sweet wine. For instance, this session may be settled in the Comédie du Vin, still in Beaune. This former Casino, hosts now many events around the wine thematics.
Here is a white wine, a Chassagne-MontrachetPremier Crû, aged 12 months in barrels and without racking by the Domaine Bachey-Legros.
On the other hand, another option was offered with the red Gevrey-Chambertin wine, entirely composed of pinot noir (photo credits: SamediVin).
Then, to match with an other classics, a marinated and smoked salmon, why not a Chablis Premier Crû ? This time, this Chardonnay developed by the Domaine Besson, for 18 months, in stainless steel tanks.
Another scenario offered by an ox and its vegetables, typically served in Burgundy restaurants.
The BIVBprestige cellar thus offered two red wines. The first is a light organic Pinot Noir Bourgogne Épineuil Santenay Premier Crû wine, produced by the Domaine Dominique Gruhier, installed since 1990 in the Petit Quincy Abbey.
A real concentrate of naturalness, and its ingredients sometimes flowery and sometimes rustic.
The second, a Santenay Premier Crû, from the bicentennial Maison Prosper Maufoux, a Pinot Noir matured in oak barrels between 14 and 16 months for a very fluid rendering.
A last rehearsal with a product not mentioned before, the Crémant de Bourgogne… Its production has doubled in 10 years, going from 6% to 12% of total production in Burgundy. A good reason to pay attention to this sparkling wine!
For more information about the formations and the next programs, feel free to have a visit on the official website.
Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne
Adress : 6 Rue du 16éme Chasseurs, 21200 Beaune
Phone : 00 33 (0)3 80 26 35 10
If you would go deeper into the Burgundy vineyard heritage, and especially its legendary BurgundyClimates (registered at the UNESCO list), we advise to have a tour at the small but informative, Maison des Climats in Beaune.
This intimist setting, facing the Beaune Tourism Office, offers in particular a digital fresco with a sound design, a model over 9 meters long of the Côtes de Nuits and Beaune vineyards and also spaces for exploring the history, toponymy and geology of those Climates. Some additional information files complete your exploration path through those Climates, as well as on the “attributes” of the Bien, emblematic places of this Climates‘ historic construction.
Thereafter, a selection of digital devices enrich this scenographic installation, thanks to new sound modules and tactile tablets, available on the way.
A real opportunity to learn more about this wide and complex territory, before visiting any future wine landscapes, this exhibition is a very good introduction to any wine sampling or further sightseeing.
Through a short film, a large model of the vineyard and a historical frieze, the Maison des Climats provides the keys to understanding how the notion of terroir in the Côte d’Orcounty was built over 2000 years… and to discover all cultural and patrimonial heritage which results from it.
The added value of this permanent exhibition is a real pedagogical tool and otherwise to offer, in addition, 10 digital tablets for a simple and fun discovery from the realisation. In an other hand, thanks to an augmented reality equipment, everyone may visualize the 1247 Climates‘ names, see the areas of appellations, discover the historic monuments and travel through the ages.
Maison des Climats / Adress : Porte Marie de Bourgogne, 6 Boulevard Perpreuil, 21200 Beaune (France) / Open everyday from 9.30am to 12.30pm and from 1.30pm to 6pm / Free entrance / Phone : 00 (33) 3 80 20 10 40
The visit of this futuristic building, would include a tour, workshops, temporary exhibitions, shops and information spaces… The architect Emmanuelle Andreani and the Groupe Rougeot will design the future Beaune ensemble, in a style that evokes the tendril of the vine wrapping around the trellis wire. The binomial, contracting with the City of Beaune, will work in close collaboration with the Burgundy Wine Interprofessional Office (BIVB) and the Climats de Bourgogne vineyard association.
The Cité des Vins et des Climats de Bourgogne is a cultural and tourist project dedicated to Burgundy, its wines and its climates. It would be available in three sites in Beaune, Chablis and Mâcon, in order to reflect, as precisely as possible, the local offer and allow visitors to discover the many facets of this rich region.