Burgundy vs California: Two styles of Pinot Noir

As you probably know, Burgundy or Bourgogne is famous for two wines – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, known as “Red Burgundy” and “White Burgundy” respectively. Some of the most treasured examples from from Burgundy’s hallowed clos, and with miniscule production levels, they’re always in high demand. But over the years other regions have shown their fortitude at producing world class Pinot Noir, among them, California, where growers from the Central Coast up to Sonoma produces a wide range of styles.

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Let’s explore the main differences between new world California Pinot and the old world Red Burgundy.

California Pinot Noir

In general, California wines tend to be more fruit driven, ripe, and suitable for immediate enjoyment. The climate there is warmer which helps grapes ripen quicker and to higher sugar levels. Winemakers tend to favor modern techniques, using lots of new oak, extended maceration times, and cold soaks to extract more flavor.

This Pinot, crafted by the Tensleys, shows abundant ripe fruit, polished tannins.
This Pinot, crafted by the Tensleys, shows abundant ripe fruit, polished tannins.

Burgundy’s Pinot Noir

Pinot has been a mainstay here for centuries, grown by monks in the old days. The lands were split into an impossibly large number of plots thanks to Napoleonic era land laws, and today ownership varies greatly across the region. Styles of Pinot differ quite a lot too. In the Cote d’Or which includes the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune, the vineyards hosting the world’s most prestigious and expensive grapes. Vineyards here have been rigorously divided by their slope, height, soil types and position so that the premier crus tend to be mostly located on hills and the “villages” on the flat ground. Compared to California, Pinot from here tends to have lower alcohol levels, a more earthy funk, and less pronounced red fruit.

Resources:

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgundy_wine

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