I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realise Burgundy and Bourgogne were the same place, Burgundy is just the name in English. Boeuf Bourguignon is one of my favourite meals to make at home and I never clicked. I also didn’t realise how ignorant I was around French wine, so needless to say our little adventure to Bourgogne was an eye opener.
Having no plans for the week, I thought we were overdue for a wine tasting getaway! We drove to the historic town of Beaune and spent the afternoon wandering around the beautiful cobblestone streets and the Hospices de Beaune. The hospice (hospital) was set up in 1443 primarily for the poor & disadvantaged and focused on good diet. Naturally wine is essential in a balanced diet, so they acquired several hectares of vineyards close by and are still producing wines to this day. It is no longer a working hospital, so they have a big famous wine auction every year and the proceeds go towards the new hospital and the the upkeep of the old building. So we had to buy a bottle.. for charity.
The next day I signed us up for a wine tour. Being Australian I thought we would drive around to various wineries, have more than a few tastings and generally get a bit shlozzled, but no, this is France and that would be very unbecoming. We only went to one tasting but the tour was amazing, I learnt so much and had no idea how different it is to Australian wine in every way.
I had heard of old vs new world wines, but I just through it was a geographic classification. Oh no, it is much more than that!
Old World wines, like the ones produced in Burgundy, must follow strict rules around the grape variety that they grow, the specific area where these grapes are grown, and the wine making process.
In contrast, it seems Australian wineries can grow any type of grape they want, blend whatever they fancy, use new and innovative techniques, and put a cartoon cat on their label if they want to.
In Burgundy each vineyard is categorised according to their ‘Terroir’ or the environmental characteristics of the particular plot. The classifications start from Appellations Regional, to Villages, to Premier Cru, then to the big guns of Grand Cru. So you can have one winemaker who was lucky enough to get their Grand Cru rating and then across the the path, 10 metres away, you might get a winemaker who is stuck with the ‘Village’ category. If you believe your Terroir is up to the next level, the process of applying with the French governing body can take decades.
Reading French wine labels makes a lot more sense to me now. I would get confused because it wouldn’t say what type of wine it was on there. Turns out you are just supposed to know. Burgundy = Pinot Noir, Beaujolais = Gamay, Rhône Valley = Syrah, Bordeaux = Merlot or Cab Sav. The information on the label is usually the vineyard’s location and terroir classification. So there you go!
I wonder when the French learn this stuff? School? Around the dinner table? Anyway, I have a lot more respect for the history, process, and culture of French wine now. Santé!
Romanee Wines from this vineyard are some of the most expensive in the world, fetching up to $10k per bottle!