An introduction to Burgundy

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It's very hard to summarise a region such as Burgundy. Buyer Toby Morrhall gives us a quick introduction. Video transcript

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Hello, my name's Toby Morrhall. I'm the wine buyer for Burgundy, which I've been doing for 27 years. I think Burgundy produces amongst the greatest pinot noir and chardonnays of the world, and what's fascinating is the endless kaleidoscope of terroir, growers and regions which add up to a wonderful diversity of styles. 

Where is Burgundy? Burgundy north-south is sort of in the middle, but it's towards the east of the country, so it's a very continental place. Warm summers, cold winters, and it's probably the most northerly fine wine producing region in Europe. 

Just a quick run through the regions north to south. In the north, you've got Chablis, which is cooler, and you have a Kimmeridge clay soil, and you make quite taut and fresh wines, often without oak. In the very south, the Mâconnais, it's much warmer, and again, this is mainly white wines, and the wines compared to Chablis are much richer, rounder, a little bit more buttery, perhaps melony, and often very good value, lovely things between £10 and £20. In the middle, the Côte d’Or, you've got the Côte de Beaune, which produces white wines, and that's often really a synthesis between the north and the south. 

They're very nicely balanced, they're often barrel-fermented, and they have the freshness of the north, with the richness of the south. And in the Côte de Nuits, this is the prime area for red wines. Because pinot has very low yields, it's necessarily expensive, so you've got to look really above £20 to look at anything. But here you have more clay soil, you have rich tannins, you have the lovely aromas of pinot, black cherries and so forth. Most of the best wines come from small domaines and they are small family domaines. The person who inherits the property may be good, mediocre, poor or anything between. And although the appellation is very important, the grower’s touch in terms of their style and their quality can be as important. And it's why we try and tend to suggest to you that if you're looking at Burgundy, don't just go by appellation. 

I mean, try and put the grower first, because one grower's little Bourgogne Rouge can be better than another producer's, Gevrey-Chambertin for example. 

There's so much variation, it's endlessly fascinating Burgundy, enough to keep you interested for a lifetime. If you want to do a little bit more study, I've written The Ultimate Guide to Burgundy, where I've laid out my thoughts in detail.

I hope you enjoy getting interested in Burgundy. 

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