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Red Burgundy Wines - California Wines

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Red Burgundy is always referred to simply as "Burgundy:" It is the name used to describe the red table wines from Burgundy in France and those wines from other countries which possess the same over-all characteristics. They are usually fuller in body, and of a deeper red color than clarets.

There is a present tendency in the U.S.A. to call any generic red table wine burgundy. If this custom were to become general, "burgundy," in American wine parlance, would take the place once held by the term "claret."

California burgundies of the generic order are so labeled. The finest varietal is Pinot Noir. Very fine also are Gamay Beaujolais and Gamay. Some so-called Red Pinots have a charm of their own. Use and Service Traditionally served with turkey and other domestic fowl and with all wild fowl, venison, and game. Also with red meats and roasts.

Burgundy should be served at room temperature. Chill only, and then slightly, when the wine is much too warm. Uncork the bottle an hour before the meal.

Burgundies are very popular in cooking. As with all wines the better grades should always be used to obtain maximum flavor. So-called "Cooking Burgundy" should be avoided as flavorless and useless for the purpose.


Pinot noir is the famous grape which yields the finest of the Red Burgundies of France and the "Blanc de noirs" wines from which most of the unblended French Champagnes are produced.

In California, where it is best suited to the cooler areas of the northern coastal counties, Pinot noir* produces what are by far the finest wines of the red burgundy class in the country. They can be superb in aroma and flavor, harmonious, soft, smooth, and velvety. Some are darker in color and body than others, depending on the vineyard of origin. They vary much in quality, depending on the percentage of Pinot noir grapes in the wine.

*Pinot Noir is the correct spelling for the mine and Pinot noir for the grape of the same name. This principle applies to all wines and vines where the second word is an adjective.

Napa, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties originate the best. Pinot noir, however, is a vine very difficult to cultivate and the wine itself as difficult to produce properly. The vine is only sparsely grown and is as sparse a yielder. Availability of the true Pinot Noir is therefore limited. The wine is bound to be expensive and there is many a so-called Pinot Noir which is in reality produced from dark Pinot grapes other than the true Pinot noir.

If the highest-quality California red burgundy is desired, Pinot Noir is the wine to purchase. It matures well and will sometimes throw off a deposit in the bottle. Such wines can also be acquired for laying-down purposes. They should be decanted or poured carefully from the bottle nestling in a wine cradle.

GAMAY BEAUJOLAIS (Ga-may Bo-zho-lay) and GAMAY:

The Gamay is the grape that made the Beaujolais wines of France famous and is responsible for their gay character and fruitiness. It was at one time outlawed in France as it threatened to displace the Pinot on account of its greater productivity, but yielded wines of less high quality and character. This, however, was in the fourteenth century. In Beaujolais and elsewhere today the Gamay is looked upon as a noble vine.

In California the Gamay produces a light-colored, lively and fruity wine with a delicate flavor, notably in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties. It is labeled either as Gamay Beaujolais or as Gamay.

There are many varieties of the Gamay grape and vine. In Napa County a variety is grown which yields a wine similar in character to that of Gamay Beaujolais. This Napa wine is always labeled simply as Gamay.

It may be noted that Gamay, like Beaujolais in France, is often served at cellar temperature.

Red Pinot

A burgundy-type wine produced from dark Pinot grapes other than Pinot noir, such as Pinot St. George, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Pernand. The best known are derived from the Pinot St. George grape and exert their own distinctive charm. They are soft, fruity, heavy-bodied, and fragrant at their best and some notably fine ones are produced in the Napa Valley.

It is important with wines of this name to ascertain the exact variety of grapes from which they have been produced and which should be indicated on the labeling.

Black Pinot

The term has been used as the translation of Pinot Noir to indicate that particular wine, but this leads to confusion. The modern tendency is to designate thereby a burgundy-type wine made from dark Pinot grapes other than Pinot noir. Some very good Black Pinot was produced at one time in Southern Alameda County from the Pinot Meunier grape.

Pinot Rouge

Another term used to indicate a red burgundy-type wine produced from dark grapes with a Pinot name other than Pinot noir.

GENERIC: California Burgundy

The generic table wine labeled "California Burgundy" is medium to deep red in color, dry, and full-bodied.

It is produced from a large number of grape varieties, the best of which include various Pinots, Gamays, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Refosco. California burgundy is often derived from the same grapes as claret, the lighter-bodied wines being labeled with the latter name and the heavier-bodied with the former.

Burgundy is the most popular of the California generic red table wines and most producers bottle an inexpensive standard-quality burgundy wine.

Note: So-called "Sweet Burgundy" is a contradiction in terms, as burgundy should always be dry. It is obvious that such a wine should never have been produced at all, or, at best, labeled "Sweet Red Table Wine."


Many of the California winegrowers are of Italian descent and numerous grape varieties have been imported from Italy, many of which have proved very successful in the California climate and soil. The Italian taste in wines has also been very influential, whether the varieties used were of Italian origin or not.

California red table wines of Italian type form a distinct group. They are usually full-bodied with a pronounced character which can be described as Italian, the particular flavor depending on the wine. A popular generic wine of this group is California chianti. In recent years another generic type, a mellow red table wine, similar to that produced by so many Italian and other home wine makers, has won wide acceptance. For purposes of class identification this type of wine has been called "Vino Rosso" in the Guide.

The best-known varietal of this group is Grignolino; others are Barbera and Charbono.

Use and Service-Both California chianti and Vino Rosso are suitable with almost any meal, especially of the more informal kind. All red Italian table wine types, both varietal and generic, are especially suitable, naturally, with Italian dishes of any kind.

Serve at room temperature. Some, however, prefer their Grignolino or Vino Rosso slightly chilled, as chilling, especially of the Vino Rosso types, seems to bring out their flavor better.