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WINE CLASSIFICATIONS BURGUNDY

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WINE CLASSIFICATIONS BURGUNDY - Devillard

WINE CLASSIFICATIONS: A LONG-STANDING FRENCH TRADITION

Burgundy and its classification system stand out for the attention paid to the terroir to determine the quality of the wines. The vine plots are delimited in appellation areas, and geographical position constitutes an essential criterion for establishing different appellation levels. The notion of terroir is therefore of capital importance, as the soil essentially gives its name to the wine. The terroir is also called ‘climat’ in this magnificent wine region. A climat does not only constitute the meteorological conditions from which the vines benefit, but rather the plot of vines as a whole, from its very precise limits to the unique soil type, and its very unique history. Indeed, the origin of the names of the climats dates back, for the most part, to medieval times. These names bear witness to the very significant impact of monks, lords and members of the clergy on the local economy throughout the centuries. The "clos", plots surrounded by walls, reflect, in particular, the history of the vines combined with that of the nobility and the clergy. Indeed, the monks once worked particularly hard to delimit the terroirs and to identify them. In the Middle Ages, religious communities received donations from the nobility, mainly in the form of land. Above all, these plots were used to produce wine for mass consumption, but the monks’ meticulous and rigorous work made it possible for the viticulture to evolve very quickly, achieving a higher level of quality and yields. They were then allowed to sell wine and, from the 15th century onwards, their quality was recognised throughout Europe. Recently, these climats have been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, their unique character marked by a fascinating history thus also acknowledged abroad. Based on this delimitation of the terroirs, the Burgundy wine classification system recognises 4 levels of appellations: regional appellations, village appellations, Premier Cru appellations and, finally, the illustrious Burgundy Grand Crus.

HOW ARE BURGUNDY WINES CLASSIFIED?

Burgundy and its classification system stand out for the attention paid to the terroir to determine the quality of the wines. The vine plots are delimited in appellation areas, and geographical position constitutes an essential criterion for establishing different appellation levels. The notion of terroir is therefore of capital importance, as the soil essentially gives its name to the wine. The terroir is also called ‘climat’ in this magnificent wine region. A climat does not only constitute the meteorological conditions from which the vines benefit, but rather the plot of vines as a whole, from its very precise limits to the unique soil type, and its very unique history. Indeed, the origin of the names of the climats dates back, for the most part, to medieval times. These names bear witness to the very significant impact of monks, lords and members of the clergy on the local economy throughout the centuries. The "clos", plots surrounded by walls, reflect, in particular, the history of the vines combined with that of the nobility and the clergy. Indeed, the monks once worked particularly hard to delimit the terroirs and to identify them. In the Middle Ages, religious communities received donations from the nobility, mainly in the form of land. Above all, these plots were used to produce wine for mass consumption, but the monks’ meticulous and rigorous work made it possible for the viticulture to evolve very quickly, achieving a higher level of quality and yields. They were then allowed to sell wine and, from the 15th century onwards, their quality was recognised throughout Europe. Recently, these climats have been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, their unique character marked by a fascinating history thus also acknowledged abroad. Based on this delimitation of the terroirs, the Burgundy wine classification system recognises 4 levels of appellations: regional appellations, village appellations, Premier Cru appellations and, finally, the illustrious Burgundy Grand Crus. .

BEHIND THE LABEL OF REGIONAL APPELLATIONS

The regional appellation in Burgundy includes wines from a terroir that brings together all of the wine-growing villages in Yonne, Saône-et-Loire and Côte-d’Or. In other words, the wines produced under this appellation level come from an area which spans an entire sub-region. This category represents more than half of the wines produced in Burgundy, with no less than six recognised regional AOCs: Burgundy, Coteaux Bourguignons, Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains, Bourgogne Mousseux and Crémant de Bourgogne. In addition to these AOPs, there are 14 additional geographical denominations. We therefore find wines with a label bearing the word "Burgundy", with a few exceptions, such as Mâcon Villages. Production conditions for regional AOPs with geographical denominations are more restrictive and, thus, the standards are higher compared to the regional appellations without a denomination.

THE IMPORTANCE OF VILLAGE OR COMMUNE APPELLATIONS

The village appellation in Burgundy, also known by the name of “commune” appellation, brings together the wines produced in one part of Burgundian vineyards. The production area sometimes covers a village, though can also cover several. All in all, nearly one third of Burgundy wine production comes from this AOC level, with 45 communal AOCs, named "village appellations", which extend through the vineyards of Basse-Bourgogne, Côte des Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâcon. Therefore, these wines are directly related to their villages of origin, which they highlight on the label. This is the case, for example, for the essential wines of Pommard, Meursault, Vougeot, Gevrey-Chambertin and even Vosne-Romanée.

THE PREMIER CRU APPELLATION: AN EXPRESSION OF EXCELLENCE WITHIN BURGUNDY’S VILLAGES

The Premier Cru appellation level in Burgundy designates an appellation at the very heart of a village appellation. In reality, it concerns a terroir with exceptional characteristics, which set it apart from other terroirs in a village appellation. The wines from this AOC level therefore bear the name of the village appellation where they are located, followed by the name of a Premier Cru-classified climat. While there are 562 Premier Cru climats, the wines produced in this appellation represent 10% of the region’s total wine production. These are thus rare terroirs, remarkable in their beauty, ranking just ahead of the very famous and highly valued AOC Grand Crus. This appellation is not only distinguished by its geographical position, but also by its history. In the middle of the Second World War, the wines were entirely requisitioned by the German military or sold at very low prices. However, the army had asserted that they would not touch the premier crus or the grand crus. This decision led the Burgundian winegrowers to ask for a reassessment of the classification in the hope of having a greater part of their wines classified among the Premier Crus.

THE QUINTESSENTIAL BURGUNDIAN GRANDEUR OF GRAND CRU APPELLATIONS

The Grand Cru appellation in Burgundy embodies the pinnacle of appellation excellence in the region’s wine classification. Unlike the Premier Crus, which are rooted in the village appellation decree, the Grand Crus have their own specifications. Unlike other appellation levels, the label only highlights the name of the climat of origin. These wines are exclusively produced on very specific plots, a handful of winegrowing villages on the Côte de Beaune, Côte des Nuits and Côte de Chablis. The criteria following each step of the development of the Burgundy Grand Crus are much more selective and demanding than for the other three appellation levels. The highest level of quality there is, Grand Cru appellation wines only represent 1.5% to 2% of wine production in Burgundy. This scarcity adds to the unique and exceptional character of these exceptional wines. In total, 33 AOC Grand Crus are recognised, with the vast majority located in Côte-d’Or and only one rooted in Yonne, known by the name of Chablis. Among the wines of this appellation, we can find iconic names which have shaped Burgundy’s history and landscape, such as Corton-Charlemagne, Bonnes-Mares, Romanée-Conti and even Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, as well as the seven Chablis Grand Crus.

THE BURGUNDY WINE CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM, A REFLECTION OF THE LOVE FOR THE TERROIR

The classification of Burgundy wines reflects the spirit of the region, that of men and women who are passionate about their vineyards and vines, and who have maintained this respect and love for centuries. Here, the terroir and the climats convey the importance of a balance between the soil, the grape variety and human intervention, three essential elements for the development of excellent wines. With devoted winegrowers, innovative estates and wide, open spaces imbued in a fascinating history and terroir, Burgundy is undoubtedly a region which has everything it takes to conquer the hearts of fine wine enthusiasts. It is therefore very natural that this wine classification should express the nuances between each terroir and highlight the consistent quality of the region’s wines. Among the most popular in the world regardless of appellation level, Burgundy wines have established an exceptional level of quality. These four appellation levels therefore demonstrate a typical, general quality classification for the region’s wines, all while offering the consumer a clear frame of reference as toward the origin of each wine. Behind each label of great Burgundy wine lies a deep respect for the terroir and an utterly remarkable excellence in winemaking.

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