The world of wine varietals, appellations, and classifications can often seem a confusing and inconsistent mix of foreign words and places, but the classification system for Burgundy is relatively straightforward and easy to understand when you know what to expect.
Burgundy's wine classifications are geographically-based, which means that the name for the wine you're drinking isn't based on the grape variety or producer, but on the region or vineyard instead.
Being able to read the wine label can help you buy wines that you'll enjoy, give you an appreciation for what you're drinking, and over time help you flesh and develop your palate.
Classification: Grand Cru
Less than 2% of total production
Grand Cru ("great growth") is the highest appellation given to wines in Burgundy (and in France more generally). The Grand Cru classification is generally reserved for the best a region has to offer and represents only a small portion of total production. Most Grand Crus are destined for cellaring and are best drunk after aging 5-10 years or more.
Fun fact: Most Grand Cru production in Burgundy comes from the Cote d'Or region, which is our area of specialization and the location from which we source most of our wines.
Grand Cru wine labels are minimalist, and include (along with the vintage and Domaine/winery name) only:
• The name of the vineyard where all of the grapes were grown
• The Grand Cru designation
Classification: Premier Cru
Around 12% of total production
The Premier Cru ("First Growth") appellation is given to specific vineyard plots considered to be of very high quality, if not quite as renowned as Grand Cru. Despite their slightly lower status, some of the best Premier Crus compare favorably with Grand Crus but are typically lower priced.
The Premier Cru appellation does not always extend past the specific plot within the designated vineyard. In other words, the appellation often applies only to a small section of vineyard, often because these small plots contain the perfect mix of environmental factors to make a great wine.
Often these plots are too small to produce enough wine to vinify and market them uniquely and will be combined with other Premier Cru grapes from other similar vineyards. In these cases, the name of the vineyard is omitted from the label.
• The name of the village of origin
• Their Premier Cru status
• Usually the name of the vineyard
• Domaine Marchand-Grillot: Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Petite-Chapelle (red)
• Domaine François Buffet: Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes (red)
• Domaine Bader-Mimeur: Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes (white)
Around 36% of total production
The Village appellation is given to less well-known wines produced in one of Burgundy’s 42 villages. Often these wines are a blend of different vineyards within the same village, but many of the best ones only come from a single vineyard.
Due to small variations in terroir, different villages in Burgundy are all considered to have their own unique taste and character. While they do not carry the prestige of Grand or Premier Crus, the Village appellation nevertheless contains some truly amazing gems, and often at much better value than their celebrated cousins.
• The name of the village where it was produced
• The name of the vineyard where the grapes were grown (if applicable).
(Note - Don’t be fooled! Many villages have added their most famous Grand Cru to the village name (ex: The village of Gevrey changed its name to Gevrey-Chambertin to celebrate their Grand Cru).
If you’re looking for a Grand Cru, make sure those specific words are on the label.
• All BurgDirect partners produce village wines, on our website, under “Domaines”, you can see a listing of the wines produced by each maker.