There are many ‘Bourgogne’ labels, but the new one – Bourgogne Côte d’Or – is much more specific in two respects; 1) Geography and 2) what’s in the bottle – it can only be pinot noir or chardonnay.
Harpers were the first (that I’m aware of) to break the news that the long discussed label of Bourgogne Côte d’Or is finally approved. You can read most of the details of what will be allowed, in that link.
But what does that mean for you and me? Well, it should be a very good thing; it won’t make a bit of difference to the Bourgogne Pinot Noirs that you have been buying, nor will it change things much at well-known domaines – though they may, if they feel the need, take this new label – see the comment from Philippe Charlopin in the linked article.
Now it is instinctive to think that a Bourgogne Rouge comes from ‘Burgundy’ and that it is made from pinot noir. You would be forgiven for also assuming that ‘Burgundy’ means that the grapes come from the Côte d’Or – and for growers in the Côte d’Or this is overwhelmingly so – but for the bulk of Bourgognes this is overwhelmingly not so – this is where it will make a big difference – it will bring extra clarity.
What the hell am I talking about?
The Maisons, typically of the Côte d’Or have, for a long time, been playing a tough game with their neighbours in Beaujolais, trying to restrict their southern cousins’ use of the Bourgogne label. Those cousins would, after all, be competition. But at the same time, behind the scenes, those same maisons have been some of the largest buyers of Beaujolais wine – gamay wine – for their vast quantities of Bourgogne Rouge. It’s no secret but it’s also, for obvious reasons, not something that they publicise, i.e. that Bourgogne Rouge can contain up to 15% gamay from Beaujolais – so it shouldn’t ever be a surprise when your cheap Bourgogne smells like Beaujolais! Actually, this gamay can come from anywhere in Yonne/Côte d’Or/Chalonnais/Mâconnais/Beaujolais – some 50,000 hectares of vines are eligible – but Beaujolais is usually the king of cheap. By comparison, the ~1,000 hectares that are ‘allowed’ for this new Bourgogne Côte d’Or label sound much less generous!
It’s exactly the same for the whites, of-course; Bourgogne Blanc often contains wine from the Chalonnaise or the Mâconnais – without restriction.
So what you might have instinctively expected to find in your Bourgogne Rouge or Bouregogne Blanc, you will actually find in the Bourgogne Côte d’Or – though it’s fair to say that this ‘progress’ for the consumer has taken a very long time to come!
The take-home message is to keep buying the great stuff that you always have, but don’t be surprised if the label changes in the next vintages. But if you want an extra saftey-belt for your Bourgogne buying habit, then the Bourgogne Côte d’Or label will be the one for you – but it will of-course be more expensive than wines ‘cut’ with grapes from cheaper ‘sources…’