It’s a good day that starts at 9 a.m. with an introduction to the wines of Burgundy. Or you could also choose educational programs on wines of New Zealand, Syrah, Champagne or Japanese whiskey and many other spirits and wines during the annual SommCon® conference held each year in San Diego. The three-day conference provides sommelier-level education and training for wine professionals and serious enthusiasts, from early to late each day, with some 50 sessions led by recognized experts.

Tanya Morning Star Darling, official ambassador for Bourgogne Wines, led a morning session the first day of the conference on “Bourgogne Wines: The First Step to the Notion of Terroir.”

Tanya became interested in fine food and wine as a young woman during her studies in France and New York City, where she worked in fine dining service for over a decade. She secured her degree Fine Arts from New York University and moved on to study wine at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) through the Diploma level. She is a Certified Wine Educator and French Wine Scholar and on the faculty at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle College, where she teaches Wine History, and Wines of the World subjects. Her wine education company, Cellar Muse, provides programs for Wine Scholar Guild Certifications in the Seattle area, where she teaches WSET coursework. She was named French Wine Scholar Instructor of the Year in 2018.

Tanya led us through an overview of the Appellations d’Origine Controllee (AOC) in Burgundy, then into tasting value wines from the Chalonnaise and Maconnais. She showed a pyramid of the hierarchy of wines in Burgundy. It now has 84 AOC‘s, as detailed on the Bourgogne wine website. There are seven regional AOC’s that make up 53% of the production. There are 44 village appellations with 46% of the production. The 33 Grand Cru appellations have just 1% of the production in Burgundy.

Grand Cru Wines Just 1% of Burgundy Production

Grand Cru wines can’t be blended from one climat to another. If they do, the wine gets labeled Bourgogne. The Premier Cru wines can be blended as village Premier Cru. Some 640 climats are labeled Premier Cru, or 10% of the production. The pyramid of the appellations, from regional, to Village, to Premier Cru, to Grand Cru, help determine the terroir and the sense of place.

“It is both cultural and legal,” Tanya said. “The AOC system was put in place to combat fraud.”

The regional AOCs can have additional names added to show names of the village within the region, such as Macon-Lugny. There are 14 additional regional AOCs, including Cote de Nuit, Hautes Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune and Hautes Cote de Beaune.

With rising Burgundy prices, she said smart Chardonnay buyers turn to the wines of the Cotes Chalonnaise and Maconnais. The Macon has amazing terroir, she said, and the values are good. It has a warmer climate but cold winds at night. She said the climate change is good for the regional AOC‘s. The grapes are getting ripe earlier, resulting in deeper fruit character. She highlighted some of the attributes of Mercurey and Givry as well.

Fine Wines, Values in the Chalonnaise and Maconnais

For the Mâconnais, she said this AOC produces 357,400 bottles of white wine a year (Chardonnay) and 80,600 bottles of red, all Gamay. The area has north and south fault lines and a diversity of soils. The wines typically have good acidity and ripe fruit. She mentioned Appellations Régionales (BourgogneBourgogne AligotéBourgogne Passe-Tout-GrainsCoteaux Bourguignons and Crémant de Bourgogne). Certain appellations Villages such as Pouilly and Saint-Véran are even applying to have their Climats classed as Premiers Crus. The Appellations Villages include: Pouilly-FuisséPouilly-LochéPouilly-VinzellesSaint-Véran and Viré-Clessé. For another smaller region to explore: Vezelay.

We tasted eight wines (with disciplined spitting around the room). Tanya said most have good distribution in the U.S.:

  1. 2017 Domaine Fichet “Chateau London” Macon-Ige, Maconnais, $22. Sharp, light mid straw gold; light stone fruit, citrus, pear, mineral nose; tight, long crisp semi tight finish. 16 UC Davis scale, 90 other scales
  2. 2017 Clos du Roi Cuvee Coline Coulanges la Vineuse Bourgogne, $20. Light mid brick; red fruit, floral, savory, Beaujolais-like nose; semi tight f fruit; round, semi chewy, woody, long finish. 16/90
  3. 2017 Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Lugny Les Charmes, $10. From a co-op. Sharp, light mid gold; clean Chardonnay nose; mid body, lush, round, ripe, good fruit and buttery finish; some malolactic, no oak. 40-year-old vines. Score 15.5-16/89-90. Great value!
  4. 2017 Domaine de L’Eveche, Cote Chalonnaise, Cuvee Reviller, White $22. Light mid gold; clean Chardonnay nose: floral; round, ripe, good structure; long Freddy finish. 16.5/91
  5. 2017 Didier & Catherine Tripoz Mâcon-Charnay Clos des Tournons, $18. Gamay. Mid-dark ruby; red fruit; raspberries, broken twig; mid to big body; fruity, tight and a little rough; rustic; food wine. 16-16.5/90-91
  6. 2017 Domaine Parigot Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Clos de la Perrière $32. Pinot Noir. Mid Garnet; light red fruit nose; berries; round, ripe; long fruity berry finish. 16.5/91
  7. 2018 Eric et Catherine Giroud Mâcon-Uchizy $20. Old vines. Organic. Light mid green gold; sour, green apple nose; mid-body; softening acid; round, ripe, better flavor than nose. 16-16.5/90-91
  8. 2017 Maison Bertrand Ambroise Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, $30. Chardonnay underwent oak fermentation, 40% new. Light green gold; green apple, lemon nose; mid body; tight acid; long semi-crisp finish. 15.5-16/89-90.