What's the difference between Burgundy and Bordeaux?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What's the difference between Burgundy and Bordeaux wine?

—Lana, Philadelphia

Dear Lana,

Burgundy and Bordeaux are both regions in France, and these terms also refer to wines made in those regions.

Bordeaux is best known for its reds, Cabernet Sauvignon- and Merlot-based wines, blended with support from Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. By the way, if you ever hear someone talking about banks in Bordeaux, they're not talking about financial institutions. Several rivers run through Bordeaux. On the Left Bank, facing the sea, are the Médoc and Pessac-Léognan appellations (usually Cabernet Sauvignon-based). The Right Bank includes St.-Emilion and Pomerol (dominated by Merlot).

White Bordeaux, or Bordeaux blanc, is primarily a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. And let's not forget Sauternes, dessert wines that come from Bordeaux, such as the famous Château d'Yquem.

Burgundy is known equally for its white and red wines. The main grape varieties are Chardonnay (white Burgundy) and Pinot Noir (red Burgundy). Lest I sound like a snob, I should also mention Gamay, a grape that hails from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy. The wines of Beaujolais are not typically held in as high esteem as those from elsewhere in Burgundy, but many cru Beaujolais wines are of good quality, and lots of people enjoy fresh, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau every November. However, when people talk about red Burgundy, they're talking about Pinot Noir, not Gamay.

—Dr. Vinny

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