The Differences Between Bordeaux and Burgundy

In Bordeaux they blend the wines from a few different grapes, in Burgundy they don’t. One of the reasons they use a number of grapes in Bordeaux is the unreliability of the weather. In order to protect against spring frosts, hail and autumn rain they plant vines that flower and bear fruit at different times. That way, the entire crop will not be devastated by one bad weather event.

The main red grapes in Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Malbec and Carmenere are also grown in the region. The main whites are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. They also have a Left-Bank/Right Bank thing going on. On the Left Bank of the Garonne river Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the blend, while on the Right Bank the main grape is MerlotSome of the famous regions on the Left bank are Médoc, Haut Médoc (which itself contains St. Estèphe, Margaux, Pauillac and St Julien), Pessac-Léognan and Graves. Pomerol, St. Emilion, Fronsac and Côtes de Blaye are among the regions on the Right Bank.

In Burgundy there is no blending of grapes and the wines are 100% varietal. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the two great grapes of Burgundy. Aligoté is the ‘other’ white Burgundy grape, best known for the addition of blackcurrant liqueur to make a Kir. Chablis is considered part of Burgundy and, while Beaujolais is often referred to as part of Burgundy, it is a distinct region of its own.

Apart from Chablis, Burgundy contains the Côte d’Or (consisting of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais.

In Bordeaux, estates are referred to as Châteaux, while in Burgundy the term Domaine is used in the estate’s name. There are over 7,400 Châteaux in Bordeaux, and most of them are nowhere near a castle.

Rules and Regulations:
Throughout France, the AOC system operates, but it has different variations of the rules in each region, and sometimes with an appellation (St. Emilion is one such case). The rules are way too involved and boring to go into here, but a couple of the basics can be helpful. For example, the biggest AC in Bordeaux is Bordeaux AC, and Bordeaux Superieur is simply any wine that is more than 0.5% stronger in alcohol than Bordeaux AC wines. Bourgogne is the basic Appellation in Burgundy, and can represent good value, particularly when the wine comes from close to a designated village, such as Meursault or Volnay.

A Bordeaux bottle

A Burgundy bottle