Exploring Burgundy’s Sub-Regions: A Journey through the Heart of Burgundy Wine

Burgundy, located in eastern-central France, is one of the world’s most prestigious and complex wine regions. Famed for its highly sought-after wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Burgundy boasts a rich winemaking history, unique terroir, and intricate classification system. In this deep dive, we will explore some of the intricacies of Burgundy, delving into its key sub-regions, grape varieties, classification system, and winemaking practices.

Sub-regions of Burgundy

Burgundy is divided into several distinct sub-regions, each with its own unique terroir and wine styles. The most important sub-regions include:


Located in the northernmost part of Burgundy, Chablis is renowned for producing crisp, mineral-driven Chardonnay wines that express the region’s unique Kimmeridgian limestone soils.

Côte de Nuits

Part of the larger Côte d’Or, the Côte de Nuits is home to some of Burgundy’s most famous red wines made from Pinot Noir. The area is characterized by its limestone-rich soils and famous appellations such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, and Chambolle-Musigny.

Côte de Beaune

The southern half of the Côte d’Or, the Côte de Beaune is known for both its world-class Chardonnay wines, such as Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet, and its elegant Pinot Noir wines from appellations like Pommard and Volnay.

Côte Chalonnaise

Located south of the Côte d’Or, the Côte Chalonnaise offers a more affordable range of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, with notable appellations like Rully, Mercurey, and Givry.


The southernmost sub-region of Burgundy, the Mâconnais is best known for its value-driven, approachable Chardonnay wines, with Pouilly-Fuissé being the most famous appellation in the area.

Grape Varieties

Burgundy is predominantly focused on two grape varieties: Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for white wines. However, smaller quantities of Gamay (used in Beaujolais wines) and Aligoté (a white grape variety) are also grown in the region.

Burgundy Wine Classification System

Burgundy’s wine classification system is based on the concept of terroir, emphasizing the importance of vineyard location and soil type. The classification system, from highest to lowest quality, is as follows:

  • Grand Cru: The highest classification, representing the top vineyard sites in Burgundy. Grand Cru wines are often the most expensive and sought-after wines in the region.
  • Premier Cru: Representing exceptional vineyard sites, Premier Cru wines offer a high-quality, yet slightly more affordable alternative to Grand Cru wines.
  • Village: Wines from a specific village or commune in Burgundy, often representing a blend of vineyards within that area.
  • Regional: The most basic classification, representing wines made from grapes sourced from various vineyards across Burgundy.

Winemaking Practices

Winemaking in Burgundy is deeply rooted in tradition, with minimal intervention and a focus on expressing the terroir in each wine. Key winemaking practices include:

  • Hand-harvesting and careful grape selection to ensure the highest quality fruit.
  • Use of indigenous yeasts for fermentation to preserve the unique character of each vineyard site.
  • Aging in French oak barrels, with the level of new oak dependent on the quality and style of the wine. Higher-quality wines often see more new oak, while entry-level wines may see less or none at all.
  • Minimal use of chemical treatments in the vineyard and adherence to sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices to preserve the health of the vines and the environment.
  • Light filtration and fining to maintain the natural texture and flavor profile of the wines.

Aging Potential and Vintage Variation

Burgundy wines, especially those from top vineyard sites and appellations, are known for their exceptional aging potential. High-quality Pinot Noir wines can age for 10-20+ years, while top Chardonnay wines can age for 5-15+ years. However, the aging potential of each wine depends on factors such as terroir and vintage variation.

Vintage variation is an important factor in Burgundy, with climate playing a significant role in the quality and style of each vintage. Cooler vintages often produce wines with higher acidity and more delicate fruit flavors, while warmer vintages can produce wines with more ripe fruit character and softer acidity.

Burgundy’s unique terroir, centuries-old winemaking traditions, and focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have cemented its status as one of the world’s most esteemed wine regions. The complexities of Burgundy’s classification system and diverse sub-regions contribute to the region’s wide range of wine styles and flavors. By exploring the intricacies of Burgundy you can gain a deeper appreciation for the exceptional wines produced in this iconic region and the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into every bottle.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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