A region large geographically, stretching from Auxerre in the north to Mâcon in the south. Despite its size there are few large domaines or châteaux, in contrast to Bordeaux. France's Code Napoléon has forced the fragmentation of vineyard ownership with the passing of each generation so that, as a consequence largely of inter-grower marriage, the typical producer today will maintain small plots but of numerous different vineyards. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rule, with red and white wines in roughly equal proportion. Whites are typically barrel-fermented and both red and white will be aged in barrel until ready to bottle: oak is therefore an important flavour character. In the past most wine was bottled by merchants with cellars in the principal towns; since the 1970s the region has seen a growing movement towards estate bottling, under the name of the individual grower. As a consequence the most demanded producers have found their wines enjoying a dramatic premium for scarcity.
2000 - Burgundy
Pinot Noir is not ostentatious but graceful, often reserved and most of all pleasurable, and if ever there was a vintage to show all these characteristics, it is 2000. It is a year of elegance and charm, with soft structure and balanced acidity. In many respects a repeat of 1992, another light vintage but which has provided magical moments for Burgundy lovers. A frost-free spring and balmy May permitted near-perfect fruit-set and provided the foundations for a crop of very even ripeness. September was fine too, and while the cooler June and July limited absolute development and structure, exceptionally well-balanced grapes were picked, the key to the pleasure of 2000. The finest wines have been produced in the northern districts, the Côte de Nuits, but volnays in the south are also hugely rewarding.
The reputation of the red wines of Burgundy rests squarely on the shoulders of Pinot Noir. At all levels above Passtoutgrains, where Gamay is blended with it, Pinot Noir alone is employed. Hardly an easy grape to ripen even in its homeland, the thin-skinned variety offers the potential of delicacy, complexity and refinement, and perhaps better than any other grape anywhere in the world could do, it holds a mirror up to each of the region's varying appellations, subtlely reflecting the characteristics of each. And when grown on the great slopes, despite its apparent fragility, Pinot Noir is capable of producing wines of penetrating presence, a heavenly affinity to oak and with tremendous ability to age. Pale in colour, it offers the scents of red berry fruits when young, a crisp, satisfying acidity and a captivating lithe body-weight. With maturity the flavours evolve into complex notes of game, undergrowth and spice. Around the world, winemakers have sought to emulate Pinot Noir's success in Burgundy. It is found in both Sancerre and Alsace where it makes a fragrant wine, though new wave versions aged in barrel are found. And in neighbouring Germany, as Spätburgunder, it produces a delicate red, almost rose in colour. It can be found today in the cooler regions of almost every wine-producing country of the world, from Italy to South Africa and New Zealand to the USA. In the latter, it is the state of Oregon that claims the greatest success to date. Pinot Noir is a key component of many sparkling wines, most notably in Champagne. Here it is usually blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, however many Blancs de Noirs styles depend exclusively on the variety.