Wine characteristics and classification

Grape variety


Burgundy region produces both white wines and red wines. The best-known wines are made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals, and come from the Côte d'Or, although also viticulturally part of Burgundy are Beaujolais, Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâcon.

Wine characteristics and classification


Burgundy is in some ways the most terroir-oriented region in France; immense attention is paid to the area of origin. The quality of the sol, the sub sol, the exposition to the sun and the microclimat of the plot are making the différence between wines. The main Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are: Grand crus, Premier crus, Commune or Village, and finally generic Bourgogne


The AOC Bourgogne classification refers to wines that can be sourced or blended from anywhere in the Burgundy region. These wines make up the rest of production at 55 hectoliters/hectare. These wines can be consumed up to 3 years after the vintage. On the label there is always “Bourgogne” followed by the grape variety name.




Village wines are made with grapes wich come from plots of a specific village. From this level of quality, the whites wines are made with chardonnay and the reds one are elaborated with pinot noir hundred Percent. It will show the village name on the wine label, eg "Pommard", and sometimes - if applicable - the name of the single vineyard where it was sourced is added. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hectoliters/hectare. These wines can be consumed 2-10 years after the release date, depending of the quality of the vintage.




Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyard sites that are still considered to be of high quality. Premier Cru wines make up 12% of production at 45 hectoliters/hectare. These wines need to be aged 3-5 years, and again the best wines can keep for much longer. Premier Cru wines will usually list both the name of the village of origin - together with the status of the vineyard - eg "Volnay 1er Cru" as the appellation, and then the name of the individual vineyard (eg "Les Caillerets") on the wine label.




Grand Cru refers to wines produced from 33 of the best vineyard sites in the Cote d'Or. Grand Cru wines make up 2% of the production at 35 hectoliters/hectare. The best examples can be kept for more than 15 years. Because these exceptional wines are well balanced some Grand Cru are good to drink very soon. Very few Chardonnays or Pinot Noirs in the world can be aged and continue to improve as well as these wines. Grand Cru wines will only list the name of the vineyard as the appellation - such as Charmes chambertin or Montrachet - on the wine label.





Other Burgundy AOCs that are not as often seen are:


Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains AOC (which can contain up to two thirds Gamay in addition to Pinot noir),


Bourgogne Aligoté (which is primarily made with the Aligoté grape), and


Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire. The latter is the lowest AOC, and Grand is intended to refer to the size of the area eligible to produce it, not its quality.

There are certain regions that are allowed to put other grapes in miscellaneous AOCs, but for the most part these rules hold.


Sparkling wine is also produced, as Crémant de Bourgogne.



Chablis wines are labeled using a similar hierarchy of Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Village wines,

whereas wines from Beaujolais are treated differently again.


In total, there are around 150 separate AOCs in Burgundy, including those of Chablis and Beaujolais. While an impressive number, it does not include the several hundred named vineyards at the Village and Premier Cru level which may be displayed on the label, since at the Village and Premier Cru level, there is only one set of appellation rules per village. The total number of vineyard-differentiated AOCs that may be displayed is well in excess of 500.