Understanding Burgundy labels

Are you worried about choosing a Burgundy wine in a store or restaurant? Don’t speak French? Feel you don’t know enough about Burgundy wines? Read on…

First step, the French language.

One word you should know is Burgundy in French…it’s Bourgogne (pronounced “borgone”)

Second step, the Burgundy classification.

Burgundy is an AOC pyramid (AOC = controlled appellation = official status) and the percentage of wine produced is noted alongside.

Grand Cru (1.4%)

1er Cru (10%)

Village Appellation (36.6%)

Regional Appellation (52%)

Most Burgundians drink the Regional or Village appellations, which together represents nearly 90% of all Brugundy wines produced…Burgundy produces approximately 200 million bottles per year…

Burgundy appellations or “Bourgogne” cost between 7€ and 15€

Village appellations (there are 44 villages that it would be good to know…or at least half a dozen which you like…yes I know this takes time…and money!)

The “TIP” to understanding????

Look at the label and read the biggest writing first…this will give you a good idea of the classifiction and the village (see photo)…


The appellation status is the most important information: regional, village, 1er cru or grand cru. Then the vintage, oftenr written “Récolte 20…”. Récolte means “harvest”, so when the grapes were harvested and not the year it was bottled.

With the “Bourgogne” appellation, this is the only time you will see the grape varietal mentioned…i.e. Pinot Noir

The village name is straight forward, you should just know some or all of the 44 villages.

1er cru is a little different, as you will see the name of the village and then the words “1er Cru”. Underneath this will be the name of the particular vineyard that the grapes were picked. There are 684 1er cru vineyards or “plots”.

Finally the “grand cru” will only give the name of the grand cruu vineyard and not the village. There are 33 grand crus.

The estate name should be on the bottom of the label. Particular attention should be paid to the name of the estate (a gage of quality for certain) and also the vintage, which will indicate how long you can keep the wine or when you should best drink it.


Et voila!

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