What is Red Burgundy?

Previously I covered the most widely known white Burgundy (Bourgogne Blanc) from Chablis. We learned that wines from Chablis are produced from the Chardonnay grape.

The other most notable wines from Burgundy are red wines (Bourgogne Rouge). And, the most widely produced red wine in France's Burgundy region is Pinot Noir.  French wine labels generally only identify the region where the wine is produced and not the grape varietal used to produce it. So you just have to remember that if you are looking for a French Pinot Noir, a Burgundy is what you are looking for.

Burgundy is the original home of Pinot Noir with records of its existence dating back to the 1300's.  And like most French wines, they are highly regulated. There are several levels of classification in Burgundy:

  • Grand Cru
    • These account for just over 1% of Burgundy's production from just 33 vineyards. And because of this, they go for top dollar. These wines are described as being bold, complex and worthy of aging.
  • Premier Cru (or 1er Cru)
    • These 635 vineyards, representing approximately 10% of Burgundy's production, may be located directly adjacent to Grand Cru vineyards, but are certainly more affordable.
  • Villages Wines
    • These wines are named for the town where are grapes are grown and represent 44 AOCs, or a bit over a third of Burgundy's production. These wines are fresh and fruity.
  • Regional Wines
    • These wines are made from grapes grown anywhere in Burgundy and may be labeled as "Burgogne Rouge" which is literally red Burgundy.  These regional wines, from 23 AOCs, account for approximately 50% of Burgundy's production.

Red Burgundy from France has been compared more with the Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley due to their bigger and bolder flavor of cranberry with notable earthiness versus Pinot Noir from the Central Coast of California (e.g., Sonoma and Russian River) that tends to have more strawberry, raspberry and cola flavors. 

While Pinot Noir is the most notable red wine produced in Burgundy, there is another red wine produced in Burgundy. You may have heard of it. It comes from the region of Beaujolais. It's produced from the Gamay grape and is usually known as Gamay Beaujolais.

While the Beaujolais Nouveau is widely popular, it is bottled immediately after harvest, is complete and arrives on store shelves within about two months of being picked.  The more sophisticated and aged Gamay Beaujolais will also offer a juicy, fruity scent, but they deliver a smooth texture with a bit of “earthiness” in the taste.  Because Gamay Beaujolais wine is produced at a much higher volume than the Pinot Noir, it is much less expensive, making it a great value for a nice French wine.

So if you are looking for a red wine with medium body, check out a Burgundy. Both the Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and Beaujolais (Gamay) are unlike any other wines produced in the world. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Louis Jadot Burgundy ($17)

This Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) is widely available and moderately priced. A great medium bodied wine with flavors of raspberries and a bit of earthiness. This wine goes great with most foods.  Louis Jadot is one of the few French winemakers that, for American's benefit, also identify on the label that this Bourgogne is a Pinot Noir.