Burgundy: a short introduction to grapes and appellations

La Côte d’Or of Burgundy

Some of the most unique wines in the world – reds and white – come from Burgundy. A well-made red Bourgogne (or Burgundy wine if you prefer), made from the elusive pinot noir grape variety, is a wine of elegance, hardly found anywhere else. The fruity aromas are mixed with a hint of autumn leaves and spices and almost always a moderate use of oak barrels. Despite the pale colour, these can be very impressive wines.

The white wines, made from the popular chardonnay grape, can be powerful and oaky and need time in bottle to find the right balance. This is the case especially for the Grand Cru wines. The other white wines usually drink very well more or less as soon as they have been bottled. They have a very attractive roundness, sometimes even ‘fatness’ (or gras as they say in French, which sounds much better), that makes them mouth-filling and soft. And they often have a good minerality at the end.

A road sign for Beaune in the vineyards

A road sign for Beaune in the vineyards, copyright BKWine Photography

La Côte d’Or, the golden slope, is only 80 kilometres long, from Marsannay close to Dijon, down to Santenay and Maranges in the south. If you drive Route Nationale RN 74 you pass all the famous villages: Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Aloxe-Corton, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and so on. Vines are everywhere; in these villages, people work in the wine business, if it’s not the baker or the butcher!

Cote d’Or is divided into two parts: Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. Cote de Nuits makes almost only red wine (it is almost only, but not quite, Marsannay in the north makes white and rosé).

Côte de Beaune has not only some of the world’s most famous whites, but also some very fine reds. Côte de Beaune has only one red Grand Cru – Corton – but to compensate it is the biggest Grand Cru vineyard in the whole of Burgundy: 162 hectares.

A few facts about Burgundy

Main sub-regions:

  • Chablis
  • Côte d’Or, comprising Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune
  • Côte Chalonnaise
  • Mâcon
  • Beaujolais

Wine growing area: 46,000 hectares, of which the Cote d’Or is 9,000 hectares.

Wines for tasting in a cellar

Wines for tasting in a cellar, copyright BKWine Photography

Main grape varieties

White grapes:

  • Chardonnay
  • Aligoté

Red grapes:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Gamay (in Beaujolais and Mâcon, and it is blended with Pinot Noir for Bourgogne Passetoutgrain)

Grand Cru-vineyards in Côte d’Or

Côte de Nuits

All, except Musigny, are only for red wines.


  • Chambertin
  • Chambertin-Clos de Bèze
  • Charmes-Chambertin
  • Chapelle-Chambertin
  • Latricières-Chambertin
  • Ruchottes-Chambertin
  • Mazis-Chambertin
  • Griottes-Chambertin
The Golden Slope, Cote d'Or in Burgundy

The Golden Slope, Cote d’Or in Burgundy, copyright BKWine Photography


  • Bonnes-Mares (part of)
  • Clos des Lambrays
  • Clos Saint Denis
  • Clos de la Roche
  • Clos de Tart


  • Musigny
  • Bonnes-Mares (part of)


  • Clos de Vougeot


  • Echézeaux
  • Grands Echézeaux


  • Romanée-Conti
  • La Romanée
  • La Grande Rue
  • La Tache
  • Richebourg
  • Romanée-Saint-Vivant
In the famous vineyard

In the famous vineyard, copyright BKWine Photography

Côte de Beaune

All, except Corton, for white wines.


  • Corton-Charlemagne
  • Corton


  • Montrachet (part of)
  • Batard-Montrachet (part of)
  • Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet
  • Chevalier-Montrachet


  • Montrachet (part of)
  • Batard-Montrachet (part of)
  • Criots-Batard-Montrachet

This was a short introduction to the wine region of Burgundy. Many tomes have been written about the wines of Burgundy… You can read more about Burgundy on-line on our BKWine Magazine site with articles on wine.

We hope this can whet your appetite to discover more about the wines of Burgundy and come on a fabulous wine tour to Burgundy!

Travel to the world’s wine countries with the people who know wine and the local culture, with those who can give you the best experience. Travel with those who can take you to the best producers and the most beautiful spots. Where you get to taste the most exciting wines, personally meet the winemakers, and enjoy the true local gastronomy.

Travel with BKWine Tours!

Barrel cellar at Chanson in Burgundy

Barrel cellar at Chanson in Burgundy, copyright BKWine Photography

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