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Burgundy wine labeling: Bourgogne, District, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru

Burgundy labeling can be frustrating for even the most experienced wine drinker.

We’re talking about SO MANY regions, sub-regions, vineyards, and appellations. It’s head spinning.

Let’s break it into some basic groups, along with examples.

BOURGOGNE = The bottom rung of the Burgundy ladder. Any grapes grown anywhere in the Burgundy district can be labeled Bourgogne. Some are better than others. Many producers work hard to produce a high quality Bourgogne to bring customers into their orbit via wine by the glass pours, or grab-and-go at a retailer.

DISTRICT LEVEL = A collection of villages from a particular sub-set of Burgundy. Examples would be “Cotes de Beaune-Villages” or “Hautes-CĂ´tes de Nuit.” So smaller than “Bourgogne” but larger than a village level wine.

Note: “District Level” is a classification of my own, since there is a collection of wines above Bourgogne but below village level. So I call them “district wines.” You’ll not find this designation on most websites or on the chart below, where instead they group Bourgognes with what I call districts.

VILLAGE LEVEL = This will be the meat of this wine course. We’ll be going village-by-village talking about what makes them special, and these also represent the easiest to find higher quality wines of Burgundy in general. Examples would include: Volnay, Chassagne-Montrachet, Fixin, and dozens more.

PREMIER CRU (look for “1er” on the label … that means Premier if it doesn’t say the word “Premier”) = A special place that has been singled out for consistent quality. If the name of the vineyard is on the label (which is the case for most Premier Crus) then 100% of the grapes come from that particular vineyard. Sometimes there is no vineyard listed, such as “Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru.” In that instance, the wine is entirely from that village and entirely from Premier Cru vineyards within that village.

GRAND CRU = The highest POTENTIAL for greatness. Note it doesn’t mean the greatest wines necessarily, but rather these are the single parcels that give the greatest historic potential for legendary wines. Grand Cru wines, in general, need at least 10 years of aging to really start to show their stuff (this includes white wines!). Here is a list of all the Grand Crus of Burgundy including their size (note they list “Chablis Grand Cru” as a single vineyard, which is true … it’s one Grand Cru vineyard that is further sub-divided into multiple sections … told ya Burgundy label is confusing!).

More links for learning

Ever Wonder How to Read a Burgundy Label?

Burgundy Wine Label Information (Winesearcher)