As our wine expert Emilie mentioned, the key word for the wine business in Burgundy is “small” – small vineyards, small yields, small production, and small producers. The scale of wine production in Burgundy means that things are done a little differently there when it comes to making wine.
Especially in the glorified areas of Burgundy where the very best wines are produced, such as the Cotes de Nuit, many of the vineyards are so small that they can’t produce more than a couple hundred cases of wine. Although some of these single-site vineyards are so renowned for the wine they produce that they have earned their own AOC designation, there are many more that haven’t.
Some vineyard owners are only in the business of growing grapes and selling them to individuals called négociants who blend them with grapes from other sites to produce wine. Other vineyard owners, especially those who own an AOC designated vineyard, will grow the grapes and preside over the winemaking process – but are still to small an operation to bottle and sell their product – they will turn to a négociant to do that as well.
The négociants are very important figures in Burgundy – they are the ones who source grapes from several different sites and blend them into wine that they bottle and sell under their own name. They are also responsible for ensuring that some of the very best wines of Burgundy – those from tiny AOC-designated sites get bottled and distributed to collectors and consumers.
For information on the episode featuring wines of Burgundy, click Episode Guide: Picking Pinot Noirs from Burgundy.