Burgundy Wine and Its Terroir

Vineyard in France during sunriseThere’s an incredible irony that many only know Burgundy as a rich shade of dark red, when the color itself originally comes from the color of the wines of that region. For those in France and the fans of French wine, the very opposite could be true. The fame of the Burgundy region for its wine in a country known for wine has many sources, but one term in particular – one that shows up in vineyards the world over – might be the biggest reason: terroir.

The History of Burgundy Wine

Burgundy is a place with wine in the soil and a history of wine production that fades into the mists of history. Archaeological evidence establishes the horticulture of grapes – viticulture – as early as second century AD, and could have started before the Roman invasion of the lands in 51 BC with Celt cultivation. The first recorded praise of the wines of Burgundy was in 591 AD by Gregory of Tours, a Gallo-Roman historian and the Bishop of Tours, who compared it to the much-venerated Roman Falernian wines. The monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church in Burgundy were the source of these wines, holding huge tracts of land and being able to observe and track changes in their grapes and wine due to the environment.

Terroirs and Their Boundaries

The word terroir (pronounce tehr-wahr) has its roots in the word terre (land) and is the set of all environmental factors that give a crop qualities outside of its own genetics. These include:

  • Climate: such as the temperature range, weather, rainfall, and humidity.
  • Soil Type: such as the mineral components of the soil, physical qualities, and pH.
  • Geomorphology: such as the local valleys and mountains, and changes they impart.
  • Plant Interactions: other plants growing in or near the crop.

Collectively these factors come together to influence the grapevines of vineyards, imparting a character upon them and subsequently to their wines. Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries and monks mapped these characteristics in relation to their regions, marking boundaries on the land where their grape crops had specific characteristics. These terroir boundaries are still in use today throughout Burgandy, specifically its Grand Cru vineyards.

Burgundy’s Grand Cru

A “Grand Cru” is a great title for any French vineyard, a regional wine classification that marks the vineyard with a historic reputation for producing great wine. Meaning “great growth” in French, this distinction doesn’t actually focus on the wine producing process, but instead of the vineyard crop itself and the terroir of the property. For most French wine producing regions, the grand cru is the highest level of classification for AOC wines.

If you are interested in learning about the white Grand Cru wines and Maison Louis Jadot wines, be sure to attend our March 2016 Liquid History Class: Featuring White wines of Burgundy & Louis Jadot. Or, to learn more about wine, read our blogs, then come in to Julio’s Liquors for all of your wine, beer, and liquor related needs!

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