With a veritable jigsaw puzzle of over 500 different possible terroirs that make up the Burgundy climate and thousands of growers ready to plead their cases of what makes their piece of the raisin pie different, there will be no shortage of knowledge to unearth for a lover of all things terroir and its subtle mysteries of antiquity. And yet, underneath a world of complicated nuances and traditions, there are the wines: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, simply enjoyable and expressive. No other region in the world can claim to have complete mastery of these two pleasing noble varietals. The secret to Burgundy is that it is essentially as simple or complex as you'd like it to be.
Whether you'd like to absorb the subtle nuances of the great Pinot Noirs from Gevery-Chambertin to Vosne-Romanée or search out the legendary Chardonnays of Montrachet, Meursault and Chablis, this ethereal land offers an abundance of travel-ready destinations among a myriad of picturesque villages, abbeys, restaurants, hotels and museums of fine art and history. And beyond the limitless culinary and viticulture delights, the region offers countless links to the past including the Hospice de Beaune and the Beaux-Arts Musée of Dijon complete with a stunning cache of Françoise Rude sculptures, religious masterpieces and the immaculate tombs of Burgundy's famous Ducs.
Burgundy can be a bit sleepy in some winter months with an almost eerie atmosphere to the wine villages as often times there is not one person in sight. Many cellars close to visitors for the month of December until the famous Saint-Vincent Tournante festival (following the 3rd Thursday in January) which sees the region come alive once more for the patron Saint of winegrowers as the towns are adorned with beautiful hand-made paper flowers to create a spring-like atmosphere for wine tasting, music and food vendors.
The warmer months are an exceptionally festive time with a myriad of festivals, activities and sunlight-drenched patio cafés welcoming visitors for regional terroir cuisine and wine. Meanwhile, the months of October and November can offer exceptional weather at times and present a great opportunity to bypass the crowds and secure visits to some of the region's most-prestigious appointment-only cellars. If you dream of tasting out of the barrel at Clos des Lambrays, Anne Gros or Domaine Dujac this is the time of year to do it.
The town of Beaune located in the heart of the Cote d'Or makes a great reference point for starting each day's adventures along the Routes des Grands Crus that encompasses the regions’ most-renowned vineyards for both red and white wines. Between Nuits-Saint-Geroges and Beaune, Chardonnay begins to takes over as the hills spread out and the Cote de Beaune takes shape. The vineyards of Montrachet (Puligny, Chassagne, Batard, Chevalier) are among the most sought after white wines in the world and can range in price from €20 to well over a thousand per bottle. Montrachet's northernly neighbor, Meursault, can be a heady, hedonistic wine; more rich, nutty and mushroom-laden in flavour offering unforgettable weight and intensity. Around these vineyards you will find unimaginable and often-overlooked values from the likes of Saint-Aubin, Monthélie and Santenay which are deserving in their own right. Famous reds of Cote de Beaune are most notably Corton, Pommard and Volnay. Although not technically of the same Grand Cru caliber as many Pinot Noirs north of Beaune, the locals will be keen to prove to you that they are of Grand Cru caliber.
First sowed with vines in the 3rd century, the Chablis region, situated around its namesake town of less than 3,000, is heaven on earth for Chardonnay. Teeming with a dazzling minerality of stone and salt, Chablis also has a seductive quality with tree fruit flavours and perfumed floral beauty all balanced upon a vibrant acidity. The wines of Chablis simply demand your attention and your nose with undoubtably guide you to the nearest glass. The throwback 18th century streets are filled with half-timber buildings, blossoming flowers and bridges over the Serein river's dreamy banks. The smell of the local tripe sausage (andouillette) can be alluring enough for an early lunch. Excellent local goat cheeses and artisan goods can be found in many friendly shops or at the vibrant Sunday morning market. Many properties advertise via wooden marquee or painted walls “vente & dégustation”, welcoming visitors with open arms, while other more cult estates lay behind the scenes and will require appointments to visit. Interestingly enough, due to the sizable amount of Premier and Grand Cru land under planting, even the most modest estates tend to have a few cru classée feathers in their cap. And if that isn't enough to send you hunting about the tasting rooms, 1st growth wines in Chablis can be complex and cellar-worthy yet available for purchase around the €20 mark.