We partnered with sommelier, author, and educator Hillary Zio (@hillaryzio), to walk us through the iconic region of Burgundy and what makes these wines so special. Now, pour yourself a glass (we recommend Lot 160 Bourgogne Pinot Noir) and let's dive in!
Burgundy is one of the world’s most sought-after wine regions, producing some of the best wine money can buy. There are several reasons why everyone’s so crazy about Burgundy. First and foremost, there’s just not a lot of wine. One vineyard is often owned by several people, usually due to family inheritances. As you can imagine, this can go on for generations and you’ll likely see a vineyard with a different name on each row of vines! Even the sizes of the vineyards are small. You can practically hold your breath through the villages of Pommard or Volnay, and the population is a mere 1,000 combined.
Burgundy’s vineyards are like a collage of soil types, and plots just minutes apart can vary greatly in climate and soil type. Another factor that makes Burgundy so special is the sea life within the earth. Millions of years ago, the region of Burgundy was covered in shallow seawater with countless creatures and mollusks with hard, calcium-rich shells. Today, the limestone and marl-based soils offer incredibly unique, ocean-like minerality in the wine. This makes red and white Burgundy undeniably inimitable and complex. Due to the variances throughout Burgundy, their vineyards have been classified in an increasing scale from regional wines, village wines, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. Grand Cru vineyards make up about two percent of Burgundy. These wines are aggressively hunted by wine collectors all over the world.
All red Burgundy is from Pinot Noir, and white Burgundy from Chardonnay. Pinot Noir has very thin skins and is similar to Gamay in terms of color and tannin. It’s a bit more substantial by way of tannin and body, and tends to take better to oak-aging. Some common notes for red Burgundy include red cherry, strawberry, cola, mint, mushrooms, wet soil and vanilla. The fruit, herbs and earth can be attributed to the varietal and terroir. Vanilla, dill and chocolate can usually be explained by the wine spending some time in oak after fermentation.
Lot 160 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 90+ Cellars' first Burgundy, has ripe red cherries and strawberries on the nose. Mushrooms and pine come across on the palate, as well as a hint of spice such as anise and cumin. The only tasting note I don’t find here that I often do with Burgundy is vanilla. This is because this wine was not aged in oak. Oak-aging can also act as a preservation method, allowing some Burgundy to age for decades. This one is best to enjoy over the next few years or so for that reason.
Some of my favorite pairings for red Burgundy include herb-roasted chicken and vegetables, pasta with creamy mushroom sauce, Cornish hen, and mushroom stroganoff. Dried salami is also exceptional with Burgundy, especially a slightly oaked style. Cooking spices like fennel and anise always seem to pair beautifully with a red Burgundy. Some fall vegetables in season now like squash, artichokes and beets make it the perfect time of year to enjoy a light Burgundy too.