Although Burgundy is one of the largest of France’s 27 regions, the amount of land used for grape cultivation is actually really small: the area “under vine” extends for a mere 40 kilometres (25 miles) north to south and, in most places, less than 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) east to west. And yet, despite its small size, the region produces vast quantities of wines which range from those that are downright disappointing to wines that have gained huge international fame with prices to match.
I don’t doubt that some of the more expensive Burgundies (like their counterparts in Bordeaux) are superior in quality, and that this justifies premium prices. However, as with some other, often, French wines, I sense that price is strongly influenced by the pretentions of international wine investors who are attracted by the status associated with the Nikes, Guccis and Pradas of the wine world. In recent years, the price of French “fine wines” has been buoyed by nouveau riche investors from major emerging markets such as Russia and China. To some extent, Burgundy has benefitted from investor interests diversifying away from Bordeaux.
In the Growing and Making sections of the website I briefly touch on another grape grown in Burgundy, and one which dominates the Beaujolais region to the south. This is Gamay Noir, used to make Beaujolais wines such as Fleurie and Brouilly. In some countries, Beaujolais wines have become even more popular than those of Burgundy, with the annual release of the season’s first wines being celebrated with elaborate bathing rituals.
The Drinking section of the website highlights the flavour and aroma characteristics of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and looks at how Chardonnay can be buttered-up using wood. Oaking Chardonnay in wood also has potential to transform the sort of foods it can be partnered with. Meanwhile, when not being used as hair dye, a red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) makes a excellent partner for poultry served in a citrus or red wine sauces (see Pairing section).
I hope you enjoy this week’s Burgundy-coloured update to The Drake Vine. Next week we’re leaving France and heading to neighbouring Germany.