Michel Picard, AOC Gevrey-Chambertin, Cote d’Or, Burgundy, France, 2010
Burgundy quality levels
It is often said that there are four levels, whereas the reality is that there are five, becoming spatially smaller in extent as one ascends the (potential) quality pyramid – in the basement are regional, followed by sub-regional or district, then commune or village, premier cru, and at the pinnacle grand cru.
- Regional appellations are labelled with Bourgogne eg Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, or Bourgogne Aligoté. These can only be produced from grapes grown within Burgundy, and may represent a blend from quite a large area. Together, regional and sub-regional or district appellations, below, account for about 40% of total production in Burgundy.
- Sub-regional, also known as district appellations, lie within the Burgundy region, and do not include the word Bourgogne in the AOC title. There are three of what could be termed sub-district levels: in the basement eg AOC Cote de Beaune or AOP Cote Challonaise; then, cross-village appellations, from one or more villages eg AOC Cote de Nuits Villages, and finally in some cases a specific, yet unclassified vineyard, may be mentioned on the label, exactly as eg AOP Cote de Beaune Villages “Les Abesses”.
- Commune, also known as village appellations, account for about 35% of total Burgundy production. The appellation name mentions the commune or village name (invariably double-barrelled, for emphasis, eg the village name eg Gevrey, hyphenated with Chambertin, to give eg AOC Gevrey-Chambertin, or AOP Ladoix-Serrigny. Additionally the village name may be appended with that of an individual vineyard, eg Gevrey-Chambertin Creux Brouillard or Gevrey-Chambertin Les Marchais.
- Premier cru represents a step up in quality from commune/village, accounting for about 20% of total production in Burgundy. There are 585 premier crus. The village name is appended with the name of the vineyard and 1er cru eg AOP Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Aux Combottes, or AOC Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières.
- Grand cru expresses the top-most level of potential quality in the Bourgogne region, drilling right down to an individually named vineyard, they account for less than 5% of total Burgundy production. There are 32 grand crus. The appellation is mentioned on the label as simply the vineyard itself, with no mention of grand cru eg AOC Corton-Charlemagne or AOP Richebourg. Confusingly, some grand cru vineyard names can appear as part of commune/village names.
This wine: lot no. LC130220C, a village wine, varietal pinot noir, coated natural cork closure, 13.5% abv, Vintage Wines, £32 (11/17)
Consumer tasting note: a nose of red fruits edged with hints of liquorice and oak, together with a floral peony and rose dimension, then dried herbs and berries; medium bodied, with notes of cranberry and cherry, then dried red berries edged with bees-wax. Finishes medium. Decant for 30-45 minutes.
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, pale intensity ruby, showing tears; no sediment.
Nose: clean, medium (+) intensity, developing, with aromas as they come, of ripe red cherry, red currant, red liquorice, touches of sweet oak, a floral peony-like lift then hints of tea rose, bees-wax, edge of dried herbs, dried cranberry and earthy currants, and after some time a whiff of toast.
Palate: dry, medium (+) acidity, ripe medium tannins, medium (+) alcohol, medium body, medium (+) intensity, a sensation of sweetness in mid-palate, with flavours of cranberry, red currant, red cherry, a sweet oaky edge, hints of dried red berries and bees-wax. A medium length with a clean red-berried bees-wax-edged finish, with slightly drying tannins and a slight bitterness on the end.
Quality: good, well-balanced acidity and ripe yet slightly drying tannins, with alcohol; good intensity throughout, slightly less concentration, showing moderate complexity from time in wood and bottle, with tertiary notes of bees-wax, dried herbs and dried berries. The mid-palate sweetness does not feed through to the medium finish, which has that slight bitterness on the end.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: drink now, unsuited to further ageing – the balance is fine(ish), since there is the slightly drying dimension of the tannins and the slight bitterness on the end, which detracts, and of course the length is modest. It will keep for a year.