The Grapes of Burgundy: Chardonnay And Pinot Noir

Burgundy does two things very well: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

There are a few other varieties permitted under Burgundian wine law: the white Aligoté grape, the white Sauvignon Blanc grape (grown in the Saint-Bris appellation), and the red Gamay grape. Gamay is used widely in Beaujolais (which, you may be surprised to learn, is part of Burgundy) and occasionally in a Bourgogne Rouge or a Bourgogne Passetoutgrains.

These “other” grapes are used only rarely, and you will almost never find grape varieties listed on bottles of Burgundy. If the wine is red, it’s probably 100% Pinot Noir, and if it’s white, it’s probably 100% Chardonnay.

For a while, any wine with “Pinot Noir” slapped across the label would automatically fly out of stores. Labels that said things like “Hautes Côtes de So-and-So,” however, had somewhat less appeal to US consumers.

We think it’s a shame that so many American wine drinkers’ only experience with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay comes from California wines. While California does produce a wealth of fantastic Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, Burgundy – the true historic home of both grapes – offers a completely different experience.

Burgundy also boasts a great breadth of wine styles. In Chablis (at the northern tip of Burgundy), Chardonnay is made lean and crisp, and retains incredible acidity. This, coupled with the general absence of new oak in the area, makes for wines that are piercing, steely, and indeed a far cry from the vanilla-oak bombs that so many consumers have come to associate with the Chardonnay grape. Taste this Chablis and you’ll know you’re not in California anymore!

If you prefer that rich California style, and you like your Chardonnay rich and unctuous, Chassagne-Montrachet (along with several other Burgundy appellations) produces big, weighty, substantial white wines. Still, these Chardonnays tend to be Burgundian at their core: mineral-driven with perfectly balanced acidity. These bottles typically have great aging potential – and you haven’t truly experienced Chardonnay until you’ve had a ten-year-old white Burgundy.

In much the same way, Pinot Noir from Burgundy can range from fresh and delicate to earthy and structured.

Have fun exploring the different regions at a discount today, and if you have any trouble navigating the sale, ask a member of our knowledgeable, helpful sales staff to help you choose. We’re always happy to help you start a love affair with Burgundy!

Visit our Cool Room for older bottles – or, if you can’t make it to the store today, browse through our Burgundy selection here.