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If you love chardonnay, you’ve likely crossed paths with a bottle or two of white Burgundy in your life. Deemed the birthplace of the concept of terroir, Burgundy is home to some of the finest (and most expensive) expressions of chardonnay on the market. Aside from housing some of the best vineyard sites in the world, Burgundy is also home to some pretty serious winemakers. If you’re looking for a bottle of chardonnay to break any and all preconceived notions you had about the grape, this is exactly where to look.
What Is White Burgundy?
Wines referred to as white Burgundies are chardonnay-based wines from France’s easterly Burgundy region.
How Is White Burgundy Classified?
Like all wines in France, white Burgundies adhere to the AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system, meaning that bottles are classified as AOCs, IGPs (Vin de Pays) or Vin de France.
However, Burgundy takes it a step further in that many wines are classified into regional designations, village-level designations, premier cru designations and the almighty grand cru designations, based on the vineyard sites from which they come. White Burgundy wines will also often be labeled with specific clos (walled-in vineyard) or lieu-dit (plot) labelings, which identify the exact vineyard site from which the fruit comes.
In terms of region and appellations, Burgundy is broken down into five major zones: Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits and the Mâconnais. White Burgundy from Chablis is often referred to simply as Chablis. Red wine reigns king in the Côte de Nuits, and although some red is made in the Côte de Beaune, this area is known for its prestigious white Burgundies. The Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais offer some of the most budget-friendly white Burgundy options in the region.
How Is White Burgundy Made?
White Burgundy is crafted in a variety of styles, which are heavily influenced by the exact vineyard plot from which the fruit comes, as well as the vinification choices used by the winemaker in question. Most white Burgundies generally see some form of oak aging, though the percentages of new versus old oak is very producer-specific.
Higher percentages of new oak will generally impart flavors of vanilla or warm baking spices onto the wine, whereas white Burgundy aged in neutral oak will show more restrained notes of these flavors.
What Does White Burgundy Taste Like?
White Burgundy is vinified dry and is known for its flavors of green and yellow apple, lemon, cream, grilled notes, toast, butter, vanilla and more. When vinified using specific techniques, white Burgundies can also show pleasant notes of reduction, which reveals itself in the forms of matchstick and gunflint aromas. White Burgundies crafted by top producers are some of the best expressions of chardonnay to stow away in the cellar, as their balance and structure make them ideal for long-term aging.
Which Food Pairings Go Well with White Burgundy?
White Burgundy’s balance of weight, fruit forwardness and vibrant acidity make it ideal for serving with a variety of equally rich foods. Serve a bottle slightly chilled with hearty fish dishes (seared scallops, buttery lobster, etc.), creamy pasta sauces or roasted poultry, or simply pop a bag of popcorn into the microwave and get to snacking. You really can’t go wrong when pairing food with these wines.
These are five bottles to try.
Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet
This bottle packs a serious punch. Rich and creamy flavors of brioche, stone fruit, vanilla and salted butter lead to a sappy palate-coating finish. Although vinified in 25% new oak, the wine’s palate remains balanced by truckloads of refreshing acidity. Sip it with buttery lobster or cream-based dishes for an out-of-this-world pairing.
Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc
Originally founded in 1903, this producer makes wines that have become benchmark staples for lovers of Burgundy everywhere. Fruit for all its wines is sourced from organically and biodynamically farmed vineyard sites, then vinified in a combination of oak and steel. This ripe-yet-balanced wine oozes with mouth-coating flavors of juicy apples, lemon oil and honey, with vanilla undertones. Drink it now, lay it down in the cellar or grab multiple bottles so you can do both.
Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine
Founded by legendary vigneron Dominique Lafon, this estate highlights the often-overlooked potential for world-class chardonnay in the Mâconnais region of Burgundy. Flavors of yellow apple, tropical fruit, lemon cream and a touch of brioche lead to a lengthy saline-tinged finish. Considering the hands at which this wine is produced, this bottle is an absolute steal.
Crafted in the most northerly region of Burgundy, this textured and tasty Chablis from Moreau-Naudet is perfect for year-round sipping. The estate’s Chablis is the only wine that sees any oak in its cellar, which adds a bit of oomph to the final wine (though always only in restrained amounts). Expect ample amounts of zesty acidity to shine through on the palate, with flavors of green apple, citrus rind, flint and a touch of cream.
Simon Bize & Fils Savigny-lès-Beaune
After the unexpected passing of her vigneron husband, Chisa Bize took the reins at the family’s eponymous estate, now overseeing all aspects of the Savigny-les-Beaune domaine. In this bottle, ripe citrus, matchstick, honeysuckle and grilled nuts are beautifully interwoven by the wine’s undeniable minerality, making for an approachable splurge that promises to blow your mind.