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BURGUNDY LABELLING:
While Burgundy, is simple on the surface – Red = Pinot Noir; White = Chardonnay; Beaujolais = Gamay – it's a small area with many hundreds of producers and somewhat confusing labels, especially since the village name appears nearly 10-times bigger than the producers. This is the region where the idea of "terroir" was invented with the flavor profile from every miniscule plot noted and detailed. These are generally very expensive wines, since very little is produced, so if you plan to find your favorite vineyard, you better have a big pocketbook.
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  • Bourgogne: The lowest level. Grapes can come from anywhere in the region. Basically table wine. Usually under $20 a bottle. Some of the larger producers are beginning to put "Pinot Noir" on the label to help consumers know what's in the bottle. Mostly on wines exported to the US.

  • District: i.e Cote de Nuits Villages. These are wines from specifically delineated areas and are of better quality. Will give you some idea of the different flavors of that region.

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  • Villages: This applies to wines from vineyards within a single village, for example, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin, Volnay, Meursault. If it's not confusing enough the word "villages" will NOT be on the label, unlike the district wine. These define the flavors even more. If you drink enough of them you'll come to prefer certain villages over others.

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  • Premier Cru: This is a term to specify a first-class vineyard. The bottle will list the village and then have either 1er or the vineyard name on the label. Making it even more difficult is that there are many different producers making wine from each vineyard. One would assume that they all taste about the same, but those who love Burgundy would highly disagree. Some well-known Premier Crus vineyards include: Aux Combottes, Clos St. Jacques, Clos Bussieres, Charmes, Les Greves, Champans and Les St. Georges.

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  • Grand Cru: There are (32) top-quality vineyards given this designation. These wines are known throughout the world and are highly sought after. Their quality and scarcity is reflected in the price, upwards of $100 a bottle. A few of the most well-known are: Le Chambertin, Clos St. Denis, Le Musigny, Clos de Vougeot, Echezeaux, La Romanee, La Tache, Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, Bougros, Blanchots and Valmur. Which producers make the best is something you're going to have to explore on your own.
All this being said, you could spend decades trying to figure out the best wines from this region. VINTAGE ABSOLUTELY MATTERS. This is a cool growing region and the weather plays a huge role every year with vastly different results. While Burgundies can be expensive, when compared to Bordeaux or Napa you can actually find great wines for relatively good prices.

The best overall recent years: 1996, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2005.


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