Burgundy lies in eastern central France. It stretches out in a narrow strip for just over 140 miles, beginning about an hour south of Paris in Chablis and stretching about 4.5 hours south to Beaujolais. The heart of Burgundy, called the Côte d’Or, is a 2.5-3 hour drive from Paris. With this in mind, it’s Cartesian to assume there are both resemblances and differences in the wines from north to south.
Burgundy’s location gives it a semi-continental climate. Translation: it’s rainy, foggy, cloudy and cold in the winter but the summers are warm – rarely hot – and full of sunshine. In fact, Burgundy has more sunshine hours within its growing season than any other major Pinot Noir region. It is sunlight that is most important in ripening Pinot Noir; Pinot Noir doesn’t play nicely with heat.
In addition to the climate, a few other natural elements make Burgundy particularly special.
1. Most vineyards sit on east and southeast facing slopes, meaning they receive early morning to mid-afternoon sunshine.
2. The slope of the vineyards protects the vines from the cold, westerly Atlantic winds.
3. The limestone soils, created 150-180 million years ago, are primarily composed of marls and marine limestone. This limestone is free-draining and rather poor in nutrients (seemingly counter-intuitively, this is good for vines) and contributes to Burgundian wines its restrained fruit and distinct minerality.