What's the difference between Pinot Noir and Burgundy wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What's the difference between Pinot Noir and Burgundy wine?

—Malcom, Tasmania, Australia

Dear Malcom,

Pinot Noir is both the name of a red wine grape, and the wines made from this grape. Burgundy is the name of a wine region in France, and refers to the wines made from this region. The terms actually overlap quite a bit—Pinot Noir is the primary red wine grape grown in Burgundy, so if someone’s referring to a red Burgundy, they are talking about a Pinot Noir. Wine geek tip: Chardonnay is the primary white wine grape grown there; when someone refers to a “white Burgundy,” they're talking about a Chardonnay.

It's frowned upon to use the term "Burgundy" to describe a wine made from anywhere but Burgundy. It's one of those terms like "Champagne" that are supposed to refer specifically to wines that come from that place, not just wines made in the same style. (However, some wine brands have been grandfathered in to use the term, like Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, which is actually a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes but, ironically, not Pinot Noir.) Even though calling a wine “Burgundy” isn’t allowed, I often hear winemakers outside of Burgundy who make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir refer to theirs wines as being made in a “Burgundian style” or with “Burgundian techniques” as a way to pay homage to the French region.

—Dr. Vinny

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