Burgundy centres around a long row of hillside vineyards called the Cote d’Or, with the Chablis region to the north and the Maconnais and Chalonnaise regions to the south. The Cote d’Or itself can be divided into a northern and southern half spread roughly either side of the small, pretty town of Beaune: the Cote de Nuits to the north and the Cote de Beaune surrounding the town and spreading into the south. Burgundy’s cool and stable climate, when combined with the complex, primarily limestone-based soils (with more chalk in Chablis), makes it ideal for the cultivation of early-ripening grapes and the region is focused almost exclusively on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties. Arguably it makes the finest and most sought-after expressions of these grapes found anywhere in the world.
The Cote d’Or is the centre of excellence for Burgundy and the vineyards are divided both into communes, named primarily after the villages that the vines surround, and into single, named vineyards; these are classified into three levels, with the best being Grand Cru, then Premier Cru, then Villages. Unlike in many other wine growing regions or countries, vineyards rarely have one single owner. Thanks to historic French law, which demands equal inheritance for every family member, many vineyards have been divided several times over through the generations and often producers will own less than a single row of vines!
The most famous sub regions or appellations in Burgundy include Corton-Charlemagne, Vosne-Romanee, Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis in the Cote de Nuits, and Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet in the Cote de Beaune. The most famous vineyards include the Grand Crus of La Tache, Richebourg and Musigny (for red wines) and Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet (for whites).
Chablis is quite distinct from the Cote d’Or both geographically and stylistically. It is around 100km north of Beaune, cooler, and with a different soil construct. It also focuses almost exclusively on white wines made from Chardonnay. As with the rest of Burgundy there are three levels of vineyard classification; however there are only 7 Grand Crus spread across one single set of undulating hillsides. The wines here have a distinctive marine mineral character and the best have the capacity to age for decades. Leading producers include Dauvissat, Raveneau, William Fevre and Christian Moreau.