Burgundy wine labels are famously complex. Distinguishing villages from vineyards (and domaines from négociants) requires a certain understanding about how Burgundy's wine system works. Below is a typical label, and an overview of the region's wine classification and appellation system. For comprehensive information about the region itself (and listings of its wines), see Burgundy.
The variation in soil and climate (terroir) between Burgundy's many vineyard sites is the basis of the region's wine classification system. The quality of a Burgundy wine depends largely on its producer, but the vineyard site in which the grapes were grown is also of key significance. This explains why so many of the wine labels display a vineyard name along with their quality designation and appellation title.
Since the 1930s, Burgundy's better vineyards have been officially classified (by the INAO) according to the quality of their terroir, and thus the potential quality of their wines. They are either 'Grand Cru', 'Premier Cru' or 'Village'. Wines from unclassified vineyards qualify only for lower-level regional appellations.
In addition to its village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations, Burgundy has various regional (e.g. Bourgogne) and sub-regional (e.g. Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits) appellations which appear on labels. These are typically used for wines from unclassified vineyards, and cover a relatively wide catchment area – almost all of Burgundy in the case of Bourgogne. These are the only appellations to cover Burgundy's rosé and sparkling wines and those made from 'lesser' grape varieties, Aligote and Gamay. Confusingly, there are a number of villages (e.g. Chitry) and vineyard sites (e.g. La Chapelle Notre-Dame) whose names may be appended to the Bourgogne appellation title. These are quite distinct from the 'proper' village and cru vineyard appellations described above.
Domaine vs. Négociant
Burgundy's land ownership is extremely fragmented, so only a small proportion of vineyard owners make and bottle their own wine. Those who do will almost certainly state mis en bouteille au domaine ('bottled at the domaine') on their labels. The majority, however, sell their grapes or unfinished wine to co-operatives or, more commonly, négociants (who buy from many individual growers and market the wine under their own négociant brand).
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