Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
What’s the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy, and why can’t I find examples of either from California?
—Cathy, Modesto, Calif.
Bordeaux and Burgundy are both wine regions in France—and these terms refer to wines from those places. It can be confusing, but labeling laws vary around the world, and in Europe, wines are referred to by their geographic origin. Bordeaux and Burgundy (and Chianti and Champagne, among others) can only be used refer to wines from those regions.
In New World regions like the United States, South America and Australia, bottles of wine will typically note the region in which the grapes are grown—places like California’s Napa Valley, Argentina’s Mendoza or Australia’s Barossa Valley—and will also usually name the type of grape that the wine is made from (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, for example). If you want to know what grapes are in a bottle of Bordeaux or Burgundy, you have to do a little more research.
Bordeaux’s red wines are largely made from either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, along with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. White wines from Bordeaux are usually blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Meanwhile, Burgundy’s red wines are made from Pinot Noir, while white Burgundies are made from Chardonnay. (For more on those two regions, check out our short Wine 101 videos on the ABCs of Bordeaux and Burgundy.)
So if you’re looking for California versions of the wines of Burgundy, keep an eye out for Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and there are lots of Bordeaux-style Cabernet-based red blends made in the Golden State, which are sometimes referred to as Meritage. But keep in mind that California wines made from the same grapes as those of France can differ greatly in style.