Drink

Why White Burgundy is the World's Most Versatile Wine

Julia Coney

Burgundy wines have always enjoyed a somewhat mystical admiration from sommeliers and wine directors. Their allure is usually associated with the pinot grape, but when it comes to building a food-friendly wine list, consider white Burgundy, an easy-drinking wine produced in various regions within Burgundy.

While white Burgundy is usually made exclusively with chardonnay grapes, it’s ideal for guests who say they don’t like chardonnay (which is likely because they’ve been drinking the wrong chardonnay, most likely from the wrong country). Sharing the same grape can lead guests to confuse it with often over-oaked California chardonnay without realizing it’s distinctly different, with an array of diverse notes, from floral to nutty.

White Burgundy is produced in four primary areas of Burgundy; styles include the lesser-priced Bourgogne Blanc, Chablis, Mâconnais, and Côte de Beaune, which is considered to yield wine of the highest quality (and price).

Coming from anywhere in the region of Burgundy, Bourgogne Blanc is usually young and meant to be drunk within two years of purchasing. It works great as an aperitif and is an ideal complement to charcuterie and cheeses like Roquefort and Brie.

Chablis also serves as an ideal aperitif. It’s light in structure, but its floral depth peeks through the richness of items like saucisson and chèvre.

Côte de Beaune is a subregion of Burgundy and produces richer, more structured wines. They’re aged in oak and, once bottled, benefit from aging for five to 10 years. With their nutty, oaky characteristics, these wines complement rich foods such as buttery foie gras and umami-rich pasta with truffles.

The grapes used to create Mâconnais receive good amounts of sun, which produces faster ripening and intense flavors, making it a nice partner for hearty vegetable dishes, like a gratin of thinly sliced zucchini, squash, and sweet potato. Acid in a seafood ceviche will bring out the floral notes of the wine, while seared veal in a mushroom sauce speaks to the nutty, caramelly notes.

A sauvignon blanc from Burgundy works well with spicy cuisines. At Kith/Kin in Washington, D.C., Executive Chef Kwame Onwuachi loves how white Burgundy complements African and Caribbean flavors. “The acidity really cuts through the spice and makes it a perfect match,” says the chef, who pairs the wine with his whole fried red snapper with brown stew sauce, lime, and cilantro.

While chardonnay dominates the white wines made in Burgundy, wines made with the more obscure aligoté varietal render a wine that’s fresh, crisp, dry, and earthy. Serve them with hearty game dishes like a rustic rabbit stew in the colder months.

And speaking of cold, no matter which white Burgundy you stock, be sure to pour it at around 55 to 60 degrees F. Any colder will throw off the balance, and too warm will lessen the acidity and lively symphony of food-friendly notes that make this diverse and beloved varietal a rich addition to any wine list.

Julia Coney loves white Burgundy with Gulf Coast shrimp and grits with homemade andouille sausage and Louisiana Hot Sauce.

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