The Grands Jours de Bourgogne is a biannual event organised by the Burgundy Wine Board, to show off the wines of the region, which is aptly named in france ‘Cote D’Or’, the golden Hillside. La Romanee Conti, a tiny vineyard a few miles north of Beaune, Burgundy’s cultural and Historical capital, is recognised as the most expensive plot of land in the world, which is not surprising when you consider the value of it’s annual crop exceeds £40m for 4 acres of vines. Indeed it is probable that the world’s finest red and dry white wines are produced along this 70 mile long strip of land which in places is less than half a mile wide spanning from Chablis to Beaujolais..
We spent four days at the end of March tasting samples of the great 2010 vintage, which has been in bottle only a few weeks at some properties. With over 700 different appellations Burgundy can be a bit of a minefield. Unlike in Bordeaux where the art is in blending several grapes to make the best wine, in Burgundy, appellation laws decree that reds wines are made from a single grape variety ‘Pinot Noir’ and whites from only Chardonnay. The complexity and distinctive character of these noble wines is defined by the’ terroir’, which is the term the French use to describe the geological and metrological conditions effecting particular vineyard plots. The soil is extremely diverse from one vineyard to the next and even within one small plot the combination of limestone, clay, sand and gravel can change from the lower to the upper part of the slope. The undulating hillside also facilitates a multitude of microclimates with the changing angle of the slope to the rising sun, the best sites are south west facing enjoying more hours of sunshine throughout the day. The result is a fascinating study of flavour nuances that mesmerises wine lovers worldwide.
There are four classifications of quality, generic wines labelled Bourgogne Rouge or Bourgogne Blanc and then there are the village wines which generally take their name from the village from which they come, often annexed with the most famous vineyard in that village, such as Gevrey Chambertin, or Puligny Montrachet. Premier Crus wines are made from the better vineyard plots usually higher up the hillside, then the finest quality of all, the Grand Cru wines, are from the best plots, made in very small very sort after quantities.