Burgundy is dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plantings. From a business point of view you’d be nuts not to make sure you had a finger in that marketing pie if you were a producer. With lots of different AC names you can use with these two grapes, most of the producers in Burgundy can put something impressive on the bottle if they make their wine from one of these grapes.
There are however two regionally historic grapes that are still sticking about, and once you’re in or around Bourgogne (the french for Burgundy) you can get hold of them for pretty reasonable cost.
The first is Aligoté. It’s not usually much to write home about when it’s made into a still, dry white wine. Producers i think are really struggling to cope with the acidity of the grape. I’ve tried a few different ones, some are like slightly flavoured water, others drying my mouth up with a bitter twang at the end. But I have to say, some are spot on, nothing too complex, but most of the time you’re just after something pleasant to drink. You’re not after sitting there for hours thinking what else you can get out of this. I liked them and if I could get hold of them, then I’d definitely get a couple for cupboard.
One great distinction of Aligoté is that it’s often used as a packer in blends for Crémant de Bourgogne. Crémant is a sparkling wine made in many areas of France using the same method as they use to make Champagne. It’ll say Crémant de “Somewhere” on the label. The direct translation of Crémant is “creamy”, which gives you a hint of what it’s like. It’s usually made using the best base wines the producer can make, so usually pretty high quality. It’s not massively cheap, starting at £10 upwards for an entry level, but it’s cheaper than champagne, and it’s a really quality drink. Do try it if you see one.
Finally I guess we need to mention a grape called Gamay. It’s a red wine grape, producing very light and fruity wines, used very famously a bit further south in France in the Beaujolais region. It used to be a massive grape in southern Burgundy too, but as we said at the start most producers have ripped up the vines to grow Pinot Noir or Chardonnay instead. So now it’s mostly popped into local blends and such, but if you see it on the shelves anywhere (a long shot) it’s a bit different, and chances are it’ll be slightly cheaper than Beaujolais.
So you can see, Burgundy isn’t exactly famous for it’s diverse grapes or anything. I think we nattered about 4 of them, and that’s pretty much covered most bases. What it is very famous for is the land, and we’ll talk about that next time.
In the meantime, get that bottle of creamy bubbly into the fridge. It’s Friday!