3 anecdotes about Burgundy wine

You surely know that France has 13 wine-growing regions. You have also probably heard that Burgundy, with its 28,000 hectares, is one of the largest French vineyards and that it is divided into 6 sub-regions.

But do you know why pinot noir is currently the main grape variety used to make Burgundy red wines? Do you know the history of the famous Hospices de Beaune auction? Here are 3 anecdotes to help you learn more about Burgundy.

1) Tell me about Climats!

“In Burgundy, when we talk about a Climate, we don't raise our eyes to the sky, we lower them to the earth". In saying this, the writer and journalist Bernard Pivot illustrates a characteristic of the Burgundy vineyard that is found nowhere else: the Climats. A bit misleading, this term does not refer to the weather, but to plots of vines, carefully delimited according to specific criteria (history, soil, subsoil, geolocation, micro-climate).

In total, Burgundy has over 1500 climates, stretching from Dijon to Santenay, south of Beaune. Wines from one Climate are classified according to a precise hierarchy (Regional Appellation, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru). Some wines have even given their name to Climats, such as Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot, Corton, Montrachet, Musigny and Romanée-Conti.

2) Why is pinot noir mainly found in red Burgundy wines?

Any self-respecting lover of Burgundy wine knows that most of the red wines of Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir. But for a long time, it was the Gamay grape that held the first place in Burgundy. Until Duke Philip II of Burgundy, nicknamed "Philip the Bold" got involved.

Anxious to restore the reputation of Burgundy wines, the sovereign wrote an edict in 1395 ordering the uprooting of Gamay plants in favour of Pinot Noir, a grape variety much less known to the general public at the time and capable of producing more complex wines. But despite the ban, the inhabitants of Burgundy clung to Gamay, which gradually reappeared in the vineyards. Until 1935, when Burgundy obtained the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) label and the territories were completely reorganized. The gamay is therefore transferred to its neighbouring Beaujolais vineyard and officially replaced by pinot noir.

3) Hospices de Beaune: 5 centuries of history 

Every year, not only the top names in the wine world, but also wine lovers flock to Burgundy to attend what has become, in the space of 155 years, one of the most important events in the world of wine: the Hospices de Beaune auction. This major annual auction offers AOC Côtes de Beaune wines produced in a vineyard attached to a hospital that was built in... 1443 !