The region in eastern France covers 32,000 km². The capital is Dijon, but the wine capital is Beaune. Administratively it is divided into the four départements Côte d'Or, Nièvre, Saône-et-Loire and Yonne. The wine-growing region of Burgundy, however, does not correspond to this. The wooded Nièvre with its oak wood for the production of barrique barrels belongs to the Loire wine region. The department of the Rhône in the south (not to be confused with the Rhône wine-growing region), the home of the Beaujolais, has great independence. Administratively, it belongs to the Rhône-Alpes region, but is considered part of the Burgundy wine region. The northern Département Yonne with the Chablis area is also called Basse-Bourgogne.
Burgundy is one of the oldest and most important wine growing regions in France. Wine-growing was already influenced by the Greeks before the Romans came later. They delivered wine and art objects to the Celts (Gauls) who lived here at that time. The famous crater of Vix (a mixing jug for wine) in a Celtic princess grave from the 6th century B.C. testifies to the trade between the two peoples. The first evidence of viticulture dates from 312 in a document addressed to Emperor Constantine (288-337). Bishop Gregory of Tours (538-594) wrote in his History of the Franks that a noble wine comparable to that of Falerno grew in the mountains west of Dijon.
According to legend, Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) owned a vineyard in the municipality of Aloxe-Corton which still exists today. Burgundy consisted of two kingdoms from 879 and was an independent duchy from 947 to 1493. The great importance of the Catholic Church for French and European viticulture is inseparably linked to the Cistercians. This order was founded in the Cîteaux monastery in 1098 by Robert de Molesme. In the year 1308 Avignon was founded as a place of exile of the popes. They enjoyed the "Beaune wine" and Pope Urban V (1310-1370) issued a bull in 1364 in which he forbade the abbot of Cîteaux to send even a drop of Beaune wine to Rome under threat of excommunication.
Under the Burgundian Duke Philip the Good (1396-1467), the famous Hospices de Beaune were founded in 1443. Their income comes from a vineyard and has been used for the care of the elderly and sick for 600 years. The Duke is credited with having personally selected a variety of Pinot Noir and made it compulsory for the region. He also enacted laws that already at that time constituted a kind of appellation system in Burgundy. At that time, wine from Beaune was among the most famous in the world. The clergyman Claude Arnoux (1695-1770) published the book "La Situation de la Bourgogne" in 1728, in which he described the Burgundy wines and their preparation.
The history of Burgundy viticulture was very varied in the following centuries. In the 1930s, the late effects of the First World War (1914-1918), abstinence movements and several years of poor harvests led to a major sales crisis that forced many landowners to sell their vineyards. Two Burgundian patriots therefore founded the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in 1934 to preserve the tradition of Burgundy wine. This brotherhood organises annual events such as Les Trois Glorieuses and Saint-Vincent Tournante.
Over 10,000 winegrowers cultivate around 40,000 hectares of vineyards. Most of them own only one or two hectares, which is why Burgundy is also known as the "land of small landowners". Only about one third of them are exclusively engaged in viticulture. The large vineyards here are not called "Château" as in Bordeaux, but mostly "Domaine". The very different soils consist of granite and slate, marl and limestone as well as gravel and clay. The largely continental climate is characterized by cold winters and, due to the northern location, relatively short summers. In the months of May and June as well as October there is often abundant rainfall.
The terroir concept plays a major role in the centrally organised quality grading system for the appellations. Small plots of land next to each other are often completely different. In the Côte de Nuits area, for example, around 60 different types of soil have been identified, which differ in physical and chemical characteristics, slope, etc., and which led to a classification into quality classes a long time ago. Every single vineyard (Cru, Climat) on the Côte d'Or and in Chablis (but not in Beaujolais and Mâconnais) is precisely recorded. The system, which applies to the entire region with more than 100 appellations, is considered complicated, but is consistent with the Bordeaux classification. It is largely based on the system already established in 1861 by Jules Lavalle (1820-1880). This is described in detail under Burgundy Classification.
Starting in the 1990s, Burgundy began to rethink its approach to natural viticulture. Anne-Claude Leflaive, the owner of Domaine Leflaive, warned of the consequences of exploitative cultivation and predicted that there would be no more Burgundy vineyards and no more wines in the foreseeable future if the soil was not taken care of. Her winery and also the famous Domaine de la Romanée-Conti converted to Biodynamic viticulture and were thus pioneers not only in Burgundy but also in the whole of France and other countries for organic (ecological) viticulture.
About 75% of the production is white wines and 25% red and rosé wines. The big difference to Bordeaux and other regions is that the wines are mostly produced varietal. Due to the climatic conditions, early maturing varieties are best suited. The four dominant varieties are Chardonnay and Aligoté for white wines, and Pinot Noir and Gamay (Beaujolais) for red wines.
The largest areas (where other appellations are listed):