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Burgundy ( "Bourgogne" in French ) is a historic and famous wine region in eastern France. The wine-growing area extends about 300 kilometres and consist of a range of sub-regions, each with its distinct flavour profile. From north to south, Burgundy consists of five large sub-regions: Chablis and Grand Auxerrois, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâconnais.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both members of the wide 'Pinot' family of grape varietals, are the two most important grape varieties in Burgundy. Gamay and Aligoté considered their "poor relatives," are also produced in the region, creating more rustic wine styles.
The climate in Burgundy is predominantly continental, with short summers and cool winters and the landscape is defined by limestone soils, which impart a classic minerality and complexity to the wines, particularly the whites.
One of the most important aspects of winemaking in this region is terroir, and the wines are classified based on geographic characteristics. Basic village-level vineyards are typically situated on flat land or at the bottom of slopes. In contrast, premier cru and grand cru vineyards are typically found in the middle of a slope. These favourable hillside sites are less susceptible to frost than flat-land settings.
Before the French Revolution in 1789, the French church and nobility held most Burgundy's vineyards, but the revolutionary government sold them off and fractured them, and each succeeding generation has further divided them.
During medieval times, the Cistercian monks were the first to develop wine classifications in Burgundy, which was replaced by the Beaune Committee of Agriculture’s formal classification system in 1861. This Burgundy-specific classification system was replaced by the French appellation contrôlée system in 1936. Today, there are more appellations in Burgundy than in any other French wine region, and they are split into four quality categories: Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Appellation Communale and Appellation Régionale.
The techniques that are today associated with quality Chardonnay production (barrel fermentation, barrel ageing and Malolactic fermentation) around the world were pioneered by Burgundian winemakers.
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