top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Butler

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 4 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 !

At the time, the chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, Nicolas Rolin, decided to build an establishment to house the homeless and destitute people of Beaune. He thus created the Hospices de Beaune. In addition to its exceptional Gothic architectural style, the establishment had a vineyard as soon as it opened. The Hospices de Beaune's vineyard will grow over time, thanks to financial aid and donations of vine plants.

4) A Côte de Nuits on the Moon

The influence of Burgundian wines became so strong that, as early as the 19th century, the writer Jules Verne took hold of them in his work Around the Moon. In this anticipatory novel, the three protagonists Michel Ardan, Impey Barbicane and Captain Nicholl decide to go to the Moon via a giant shell fired from a cannon of the same calibre. When they reach their destination, they sprinkle their success around a bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges. A century later, astronaut Neil Armstrong decides, during the Apollo 11 mission, to pay homage to Jules Verne's novel and deposits a label of Nuits-Saint-Georges wine on the Moon!

40 views0 comments


Wine Encyclopedia.png

HK Butler Wine Encyclopedia

Keep a foot in the vineyard with our wine encyclopedia written by experts around the globe. The most up-to-date and comprehensive wine reference in the world, this stunning book is an oenophile's dream--and a must-have for anyone looking to become an expert in wine.

bottom of page