Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bordeaux vs. Burgundy


Burgundian wineries are slightly different than wineries in Bordeaux as they grow their wines in single vineyards. Single vineyards are individual parcels of land inside of the winery's property. Each parcel produces a different type of wine that may contain different grapes, varietals or mixtures than the others, but will still carry the name of the winery on it's label.

Speaking of labels, it's very common for wine crates from Burgundy to brand their logo on the long side of the crate instead of the short side. In some cases, all four sides of Burgundy crates are branded. Most Burgundy crates are also slightly larger than Bordeaux crates. The average size of a Burgundy crate is: 20 1/2" L X 13" W X 7" H, which is approx. 1" longer than a Bordeaux crate. Below is a picture of a Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils crate. Definitely one of my favorites..

Going back to single vineyards, A perfect example of this winemaking method is Domaine Romanee Conti or DRC for short.

DRC is widely considered the best of Burgundy, and produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. In less than 50 acres, DRC holds 6 major single vineyards:

  • Richebourg
  • Grand Echezeaux
  • Romanee St. Vivant
  • Echezeaux
  • Montrachet
  • La Tache
The specialty of DRC is Pinot Noir.

Wine crates and boxes from DRC are incredibly rare, because the vast majority of collectors hold onto them if they're lucky enough to acquire a full case. DRC as a wine investment tends to be a good bet. The full collection of a DRC wine case with the original crate increases the yield of the investment down the road.

The design of a DRC crate is beautiful and distinctive. Below is a picture of one:

Burgundy as a region is complex and very old. It is said that Burgundy is the final destination of the true wine enthusiast. Even though I personally prefer Burgundy wines from all others, I still think there are a great many Bordeaux wineries that produce spectacular wines.

Before we get into Bordeaux, below are a few points on how to distinguish a wine bottle or crate from Burgundy or Bordeaux:

  • Domaine refers to Burgundy whereas Chateau refers generally to Bordeaux
  • Burgundy crates/bottles will show the winery and the single vineyard. Bordeaux crates/bottles will show the winery and sub-region such as St. Emilion, Medoc etc.
  • Your much more likely to see a Bordeaux crate than a Burgundy. Crates from Burgundy are fairly uncommon.
  • Burgundy focuses much more on wines that should be "put down" to drink in many years down the road. Many Bordeaux wineries craft wines to be put down as well, but Burgundy is much more known for this. 

Bordeaux generally produces the same wine from one vineyard. A unique aspect of Bordeaux is that many produce Second Labels which are the "run-off juices" of the First Label. This means that the Second Label will most likely have the same grapes, mixture etc. of the first, but it will be the second best juice. Some examples of famous Second Labels are: La Dame Montrose (First Label: Chateau Montrose), La Mission Haut-Brion (First Label: Haut-Brion) and Pavillon Rouge Margaux (First Label: Chateau Margaux).

Bordeaux as a region is broken down into sub-regions. If Bordeaux is a state, than the sub-regions could be considered it's cities. The major wine making sub-regions of Bordeaux are:

Left Bank:
  • St. Emilion
  • St. Estephe
  • Pauillac
  • St. Julien
  • Margaux
  • Medoc
*Left bank wine crate & Second Label:

Right Bank:
  • Pomerol
  • St. Emilion
  • Cotes De Bourg
*Right bank wine crate:

  • Pessac Leognan
  • Sauternes
*Graves wine crate: The king of Sauternes:

There are others, but for simplicity I went with the ones that produce wine crates for their wines.

There is much more wine production in Bordeaux than there is in Burgundy. This is why you'll see more crates from Bordeaux. Most wine enthusiasts tend to purchase Bordeaux over Burgundy for a few reasons:

  • Bordeaux is fairly simple wheras Burgundy can be quite complex
  • Burgundy mostly produces wines for the future. Many Bordeaux's can be consumed immediately.
  • Burgundy wines tend to be much less available and alot more expensive
  • Bordeaux is much more publicized than Burgundy.
From a wine crate perspective one has to take a look at the facts:

Burgundy Pros:
  • More rare than Bordeaux
  • Mostly have long side brandings with larger designs than Bordeaux
  • Generally have very unique and high detail designs on multiple sides
  • Slightly larger than Bordeaux crates
Burgundy Cons:
  • More rare means less available and more expensive
  • Not as generally recognizable than wineries from Bordeaux
  • Much smaller selection
  • Burgundy crates can vary a bit from winery to winery, so not all Burgundy bottles can fit in a Burgundy crate.
Bordeaux Pros:
  • Most Bordeaux crates are identical in size making them easy to work with
  • There is a much large selection of unique Bordeaux wine crates than Burgundy
  • More affordable because there are more available
  • The vast majority of Bordeaux bottles can fit in any Bordeaux crate
Bordeaux Cons:
  • Bordeaux crates typically only have one branding on the short front side
  • Although every wine crate is unique, Wine crates from Bordeaux are not as rare as Burgundy. You may find that your friend has a wine crate from the same Bordeaux winery you do.
Who wins? At the end of the day it's a matter of preference. Personally I am extremely fond of Burgundy all-around. However, Ill be hard pressed to turn down a finely crafted Bordeaux wine at any time of year.

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