A wide, deep fracture defines the morphology of the vineyards of the Côte. This ancient fault (35 million years old) corresponds to the western border of the rift valley of the Saône and separates the limestone plateaus of Burgundy from the clave plain of Bresse. According to the nature and the age of the sedimentary Jurassic subsoil, we can distinguish the Côte de Nuits to the north from the Côte de Beaune to the south. Moreover, the vineyards of the Côte enjoy maximum sun exposure and are sheltered from harsh west winds.
The Middle Jurassic of the composition of the Côte de Nuits is essentially limestone: crinoidal limestone rich in fossil fragments (Bajoccian) in the Bonnes Mares vineyard at Morey-Saint-Denis, Ostrea acuminate marls (with small oysters fossils), Prémeaux limestone with chert nodules, and granular white limestone of Comblanchien (Bathonian). The slope of the Côte de Nuits is punctuated by short valleys called "combes" that cut deep into the hillside (the combes of Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin, etc.); perpendicular to these combes are large tills composed of the boulders and cobbles resulting from glacial erosion during the last glacial period. The presence of these tills increases the diversity of the soils, slopes and expositions of the Côte de Nuits.
The limestone and marl of the Côte de Beaune date from the Middle Jurassic and especially the Late Jurassic. These included the limestone formations of Chassagne, Pholadomya beeline marl (Bathonian), the rock of Corton and Ladoix (Callovian), the marls of Pernand and Saint-Romain (Oxfordian), and the limestone of Mantoux and the Mountain of Beaune. Throughout the Côte de Beaune the juxtaposition of limestone and more or less siliceous marl encourages great white wines like Meursault and Montrachet to flourish in close proximity with subtle reds such as Volnay and Pommard. For example, on the hill of Corton, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sit side by side on Callovian limestone and the marl of Pernand, respectively.
Extract from The Wines of Burgundy (Sylvain Pitiot and Jean-Charles Servant)
In total, around 150 separate AOCs are used in Burgundy, including those of Chablis and Beaujolais.
The soil is what makes the different characteristics of a wine, so the geology is the key opening the quality door. (Limestone is the most common stone to be found in the Burgundy soils). But the climate (what we can also call the vintage) is also very important for the quality of the grapes and the health of the vines.
Monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church had a huge influence on the history of Burgundy wines.
The cistercians monks, founded in 1098, named after the town of Cîteaux created Burgundy largest wall-surrounded vineyard named the Clos de Vougeot in 1336. They were the first to notice that different vineyard plots gave very different wines. Thus, they laid the earliest basis giving access to this notion of Terroir.
Terroir is meant to explain the specific geography and climate of a certain place interacing with the plants genetics. Very important to know: a terroir does not exist without the human beings’ influence.
It is the result of the climate specifities of a particular year. If we always mention the year of the harvest on the bottle, is to show the impact of the weather on the grapes quality, and then on the wine. Each vintage is unique.
The slope, on which we generally have the best plots, giving birth to the “Grands Crus” plays the role of a drainer when it rains in Burgundy. Indeed, there is never a surplus of water. All the rain is conducted to the Bourgogne plots (generaly located on flat and deep soils). The water is just here to provide quantity. Speaking of wines, quantity is always the opposite of quality.
To produce an axcellent wine, we have to produce a small quantity of it, that is why in the Grands Crus plots, we have a small amount of water, so a small amount of juice, and a high concentration. The rate between the skins and the juice is well balanced.
The higher we are on the classification ladder, the longer we can keep the wines (due to the concentration of them)
That is why, even if Burgundy is a little region, way smaller than the one of Bordeaux for instance, a lot of diversity is to be discovered here).
Geology, Climate, Slope and water draining and human bengs are what explain this famous and more-real-than-ever notion of TERROIR.