Many argue that Bordeaux enjoys such worldwide acceptance has a lot to do with its systematic classification of “growth” (first to fifth) of the chateaus since 1855. Unfortunately, no such universally recognized system exists for Burgundy domaines. The quality of the vineyard is a key determinant of the quality of the wine. As such, the nomenclatures of Burgundy wines largely gravitate towards the describing the vineyard itself.
30-second explanation of the system - if it’s grand cru, they will tell you in your face the cru name and their “grand cru” status… so proudly that they won’t tell you their originating village (e.g. you work in IFC, no need to mention Central). For premier cru, they tell you the village name, name of the cru, and their “premier cru” status. For village wines, label will tell you specific village name, more often nowadays with the name of vineyards if producers like them. Bourgogne, simple, it will always say “Bourgogne”; also trending towards more description as well.
2-minute version, see below - actually a lot easier than you think…
Four levels of wines, from bottom to top: Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru
Bourgogne (~50% of Burgundy production)
- Wines produced from vineyards located across the Burgundy region, with no specific mentioning of the exact location of the vineyards.
- While some labels will add additional description or cuvee name, but “Bourgogne” will always appear on the label. (e.g. Leroy Bourgogne or Anne Gros Bourgogne Blanc).
Village (~30% of volume)
- One level higher than Bourgogne; come from vines planted in specific villages (e.g. Vosne-Romanee, Gevrey-Chambertin, Volnay, etc.)
- The wine can come from a mix of vineyards as long as they all come from the same village.
- They could even come from premier or grand crus, maybe younger vines. If producers feel that the wine is not ready to be classified as premier or grand cru yet, they may sell them as village wine. Wine label will clearly show the name of the village.
- Some labels may also carry the name of the specific vineyard (e.g. J-F Mugnier Nuits-St-Georges Clos des Fourches) if the producers like it.
Premier Cru (~18%)
- Second highest level vineyard, the wine label will clearly state the name of the village as well as its “premier cru” status, quite likely with the name of the specific vineyard as well, e.g. Meo-Camuzet’s Nuits-St-Georges aux Murgers Premier Cru.
- If the wines come from a mix of premier cru vineyards, but not specific one, then it will only say “Premier Cru”, e.g. Leroy Meursault Premier Cru.
Grand Cru (only less than 2%, truly rare)
- Top of the hierarchy, the wine label will only specify the name of the grand cru as well as its “grand cru status”, without mentioning the name of its originating village.
- This would require customers to do a bit more work and remember the originating village of each grand cru
- For instance, Simon-Bize Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru; this grand cru is located in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin, but the label will not specify the village name.
We will talk more about producers in future newsletters. Please stay tuned!