What's the difference between Burgundy and Bordeaux?

Ask Dr Vinny

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 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

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Why are grapes harvested in bins instead of in a big truck bed?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why large plastic bins are ubiquitous in wine …

Dec 5, 2022

What is “reverse osmosis” in relation to wine? How and why is it used?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the science (and the motivation) behind the …

Nov 28, 2022

I need advice on Thanksgiving wines. Which wines pair best with turkey and sides?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice on selecting wines for the Thanksgiving …

Nov 21, 2022

What is a “second wine”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the "second wine" concept and what it means in …

Nov 14, 2022

Is it bad if an old bottle of wine has sediment in it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that sediment happens—and how to deal with it.

Nov 7, 2022

Is it OK to change my mind about a wine after I've approved a sommelier to serve it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that there's a reason that sommeliers show …

Oct 31, 2022