Confusing, complicated, challenging, some of the adjectives regularly used to describe Burgundy and its wines. Well, as anyone who owns a digital camera knows, there are two ways to use it. One is to sign up for the photography course, buy a book on digital photography, read everything you can, learn how to manually adjust the aperture and speed, frame the shots and so on. And the other is to put it on automatic, shoot, and hope for the best!
The analogy is not perfect. Not many people would travel to Japan just to see where their camera is made, but it sort of works. Discovering Burgundy can be as complicated as you want to make it, or it can be pretty straightforward. As with most things in life, the balance is somewhere in between.
And the fuss about Burgundy wine? Is it really so special? This is where a bit of knowledge helps, because the absolute travesty is to visit Burgundy, and to leave without finding out. Sadly, in the absence of some guidance, that is all too common an experience.
So in a few words, what makes it special? Well for a kick off, the antecedents are pretty impressive. By the 6c, Dijon was a place reputed for the excellence of its wines. The monks were arriving in Burgundy in numbers to spread the christian faith. They were industrious, and particularly good at making wine. They soon worked out that the best land for the vines in Burgundy was the middle of the slope (Côte). They started clearing the land, and planting vineyards along the length of the long narrow escarpment which runs south from Dijon. And things have really not changed since. This is absolutely the place to be a vine, and it has been since before 600 AD! And while there are variations in the ground conditions from one vineyard to another, leading to slight differences in taste, the more important issue for anyone visiting Burgundy for the first time, is how to distinguish the good winemakers from the not so good. Because sadly, poor winemaking can and all too often does, make a mockery of the best terroir that Burgundy has to offer. And there is just nothing more annoying and frustrating than paying good money for bad wine. You feel completely cheated - well, we do!
Organic wines from burgundy
If there is one book that comprehensively categorises the best Burgundy estates, which it helpfully does village by village, it is Clive Coates - 'The Wines of Burgundy' - our 'Burgundy bible' - available on Amazon for the price of one good bottle of Burgundy village wine! It should be in the luggage of everyone coming to Burgundy who wants to taste and buy wine. Not everyone would necessarily agree with his Domaine categorisations, but that is the detail. The book will lead you in the right direction, and steer you away from disappointment.
Another way of approaching the onion (organic of course!), is to only buy Burgundy wine from organic and responsible producers. How to find them? Well they are not all certified organic, but a lot of them are. More than enough to provide a wide choice of quality wine for pretty much every village in Burgundy. It is a good starting point, and a list of producers can be found on the The Purple Mustard Club web site for the Cote de Nuits.
And finally, you can do what Thomas Jefferson did when he came here in 1787 - find a wine guide. Wine tours are informative, fun, and a good way to see some of the attractions that Burgundy has to offer. Some wine guides that we have worked with can be found in our Guides to Burgundy http://blog.theburgundyshop.com/wine-tours
Here is a link to an excellent video from BIVB which explains in a short clip what makes Burgundy terroir different