How do you make a Chardonnay in Burgundy?

How do you make a Chardonnay in Burgundy?

Our house expert Karel de Graaf follows his eternal love wine across Europe, but just as happily looks for it closer to home. Like his own vineyard in Burgundy. Not only an area he almost single-handedly put on the Dutch wine map, but also a generous muse who regularly figures in his stories. -TEXT KAREL DE GRAAF | IMAGE SHUTTERSTOCK

How do you make a Chardonnay in Burgundy?

If a winemaker explains it to you, making a white Burgundy seems like a fairly simple production process. In the previous issue, I already covered the grapes and the must. In this issue, the continuation of the production process, from must to bottle of wine.


After débourbage, the must goes into 228-litre oak casks (from top tonnelliers like Damy, François Frères and Seguin Moreau), part of which - usually 15 per cent - is new and medium toasted. Alcoholic fermentation occurs naturally with the 'wild' yeast cells present on the grape and in the cellar. They convert fermentable sugars (fructose and glucose) into alcohol. Carbon dioxide is a by-product, so do not add (dry) yeast cells to thwart the unique terroir expression, although recent research has cast doubt on the contribution of so-called levures indigènes to terroir expression. The fermentation temperature should absolutely stay below 20 degrees Celsius. Above that, you run the risk of aromatic deviations. The cellar temperature should also be kept low to prevent the fermentation process from going too fast.


In spring, so-called apple-milk acid fermentation usually starts, the conversion of the aggressive malic acids into milder lactic acids. So basically no fermentation. Again, carbon dioxide is a by-product. Normally, this malo starts in spring, when the cellar temperature is slightly higher again. In warm years, it sometimes happens that it already starts during alcoholic fermentation. After malo, the wine is biologically stable and usually the producer then adds some SO₂. Bâtonnage, stirring up the died yeast cells in the barrel-the so-called groin-is a technique invented in Burgundy to give a wine a bit more fat and body. It was widely used in cool, fairly sunless years. Climate change has made bâtonnage obsolete.


In the 1990s, many Burgundy producers wanted to compete with the heavier and fatter Chardonnays from the New World. Later harvests and more new oak became the motto. Fortunately, they quickly backtracked from that. A maximum of 15 per cent new oak for village wines is now more or less the standard. Of course, one applies a higher percentage for the Premiers and rands Crus. It is now fashionable to give the wine a cask maturation of about 14 months and 6 months of maturation on stainless steel cuves on its own groin, to allow the oak to integrate better into the wine and get rid of its excess acidity. Two winters, in other words. In between, the wine is not crossed over. The carbon dioxide, an antioxidant, must remain in the wine.


Curious about the whole article? You can read it in the latest Winelife edition 69. Order this one here!

Don't want to miss a single edition? Subscribe then subscribe to Winelife Magazine now!

Want to stay up to date with the best articles? Follow Winelife magazine on InstagramFacebook and sign up for our fortnightly newsletter.

en_GBEnglish (UK)