Climats of Burgundy
“Each Climat is a vine plot, with its own microclimate and specific geological conditions, which has been carefully marked out and named over the centuries. Each of them has its own story, produces wines with a distinct character and taste and keeps its own place in the hierarchy of crus (Regional Appellation, Village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru).” (https://www.climats-bourgogne.com/en)
Climat is a term only used in Burgundy to describe a section of vineyard with unique geological, hydrometric and exposure characteristics. Each climat produces only single grape varietals and the production is vinified separately. This results in labelling of wines based on climats rather than geographical location. This is particularly important as it is illegal to use the name of lieux-dits on Grand Cru labels. Climats have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since the 4th July 2015, helping to protect and preserve all cultural, natural and mixed sites.
First used in 1584, the term climat has been used to describe sections of land since the middle ages came to a close. As all Burgundy climats have evolved over the centuries, it was in the 1930s when the legislative decree came into effect and the boundaries became fixed. Congealed out of 2,000 years of history and vineyard work, these historical vineyards have become concrete in their location.
Throughout Burgundy there is over one thousand named Climats, extending along the 60km of the thin strip of vineyards running from Dijon to Santenay, just south of Beaune. Including some of the most famous names in the world of wine; Chambertin, Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, Montrachet, Corton, Musigny.
Climat Name Meanings
Terms from the sun and slopes
Larrey/Larrets - A slope or hillside that is east-facing and steep enough to prevent water from stagnating. Highly suitable for vine cultivation.
Terms from vegetation and land clearance
Toppes - Uncultivated lands which became vineyards.
Chaumes - Most common name given to the tracts of uncultivated land before planted with vines.
Bouchots/boucherottes/bouchères - Bushes and shrubs growing on the land before it was cleared for vine cultivation.
Les Epenottes/Epenots - Thorny bushes growing on the land or forming surrounding hedgerows.
Montrachet - Stunted and sparse vegetation found on hilltops, ‘bald mountain’.
Terms from the Roman Occupation
La Romanee - Evokes the proximity to a road that dates back from Roman times
Velle - From the Roman term Villa, used to describe the location in reference to the nearby village. Sous meaning below, Entre Deux meaning between two villages, Derriere meaning behind.
Chezeaux - From the Latin term casa, meaning ‘a suitable place to build a house on’.
Meix - Small enclosed village plots.
Clos - References the influential land ownership in medieval times by lords, monks, bishops, and dukes.
What is a Lieu Dit?
Not to be confused with climats, lieu-dit is a term arising from France’s land register. A more geographical term than specific to any terroir characteristics. Furthermore, everywhere in France has lieux-dits, but only Burgundy has climats that the vineyards sit within. There can be many lieux-dits within one climat, or only a partial section is within smaller climats. For example, around 78 lieux-dits make up the area of Chablis Premier Cru, yet only 40 climats.