Bourgogne Wines

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Bourgogne wines, as a term, refers to wines grown in the Burgundy appellation of France. Despite all the variations in Bourgogne wines--of which there seem to be thousands--they are all pretty much made from one of two grapes. There's a red one, and a white one. The red grape is the Pinot Noir, and the white one is Chardonnay. Bourgogne wines are richly reputed to produce velvety and subtle full- and medium-bodied reds, and sensual and characteristic whites. After this point, understanding all the ins-and-outs of Bourgogne wines can become very confusing. There are White Burgundies, and Red Burgundies, and what's inside a bottle may vary wildly from one Domaine to the next. Entire books have been written on the subject. But don't despair. Beyond her Burgundies, there are two distinct wines produced by this region that are easy for both novices and aficionados to enjoy, with few pitfalls.

Home of Chablis and Beaujolais

Burgundy produces nearly four times as many reds as white wines. Nonetheless, many agree that her whites are among the finest in all of France. Though there are long lists of fine wines produced in the Bourgogne, the two need-to-know's of the region are her Chablis, and her Beaujolais. As with many European wines, both of these wines are named not for the grapes from which they are pressed, but for the regions which produce them.

Chablis is a Burgundy appellation. It is also the name of the wine produced by that appellation. It has aromas of nuts and butter. It is made from the Chardonnay grape, and uniquely flavored by the soil of the area. This "taste of the earth" is referred to as "terroir," and in Chablis, is the result of clay, fossils, limestone and marl. Chablis is characterized as being dry, fruity, and "brisk." Chablis is said to be excellently well-paired with shellfish, poultry, grilled salmon, and is also delightful with goat cheese.

Beaujolais is another Burgundian region. The Gamay grape, an offshoot of the Pinot Noir grape, gives this wine its unique flavor. In general, Beaujolais is praised for being light, fruity, dry, and in general, affordable. There are four categories of Beaujolais: that made in the northernmost area, where the earth is limestone rich (called simply "Beaujolais"); Beaujolais Superior, the same as the former, except with a higher alcohol content; Beaujolais Cru which is grown in granitic earth, and considered to be a step-up in quality; and Beaujolais Village, where the wine is made in one of 39 officially-listed, superior villages. The latter is noticably more concentrated, and is considered by many to be worth the extra dollar or two. Because of its lighter, fruitier body, Beaujolais, in general, is often said to be a "red wine with white wine characteristics." For instance, many say that Beaujolais may be served at a "white wine temperature," that is, around 55 degrees or so. Further, many culinary experts say that the light quality of Beaujolais makes it an appropriate companion to fish and poultry, depending, of course, on sauces and side dishes. The exception to this is the creme de la creme of Beaujolais, Moulin a Vent. Moulin a Vent is richer and more robust than her sisters, and is often referred to not as a "heavy Beaujolais," but rather likened to a "light Burgundy."

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