UNESCO status awarded to Burgundy’s prime vineyards

Congratulation Burgundy. On the 4th July 2015 UNESCO officially recognized the unique “terroir” that makes up the 1247 vineyards in Burgundy’s prime Côtes de Nuits & Côtes de Beaune districts. Champgane was also recognized, meaning that all France’s main wine regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy & Champagne are now part of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

The UNESCO committee when giving their positive verdict during the 39th assembly in Bonn, Germany stated that Burgundy was “an outstanding example of grape cultivation and wine production developed since the High Middle Ages,”

This is final recognition of the unique ‘terroir’ conditions in Burgundy that have enabled wine makers to make arguably the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world.

The project was spear-headed by Aubert de Villaine, owner of the Romanée Conti estate.

This new status will inevitably lead to an influx of new tourists eager to discover this region. However, the inevitable difficulty is the management of this new parameter. Is the region equipped “logistically” to deal with these new tourists? Do we have adequate infrastructure to cope with their needs? Accommodation, transport, cellar-door facilities?

I get the impression that we are not quite ready. Accommodation is lacking, transport is only possible by train or car as Dijon airport only exists for private jets! And what about cellar-doors? Only 10% of the estates are open for “tastings” in Burgundy…and those that really need to see the tourists are not found in the designated “UNESCO” area…oops!

The paradox is quite unique…tourists really only want to see (and taste wines from) the famous estates, which are in the designated UNESCO area of the Côtes de Nuits & Côtes de Beaune. Unfortunately these estates are closed to the public…Of course you can stroll or drive through the vineyards …but nothing indicates what you are looking at. There are a limited number of estates you can visit, but they are not necessarily the best. The estates who want to see the tourists are in the Côte Chalonnaise, the Maconnais and Chablis districts.

A solution would be to explain the unique set-up in Burgundy, that this region is not like “Napa” in California or “Hunter” in Australia which are geared towards wine tourists. Burgundy is an authentic wine region whose only true vocation is to make wine…small quantities that have to be spread around the world and that are sold mainly through retail channels…not cellar doors The tiny size of the estates and small yield means that they cannot accommodate cellar door facilities and they don’t need them either. They just don’t have that dimension. What’s more, there is an “everyone for themselves” mentality in this region, rather than working for the common good, which makes for poor synergy. It is common knowledge that the Côtes de Nuit district doesn ‘t get on well with the Côte de Beaune!!!

There is no easy solution and I personally can’t come up with one. I just hope that Burgundy authorities have a few good ideas up their sleeve that they are ready to implement quickly…otherwise the shock could be a brutal!

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About stephenliney

Wine consultant based in Burgundy. Specializing in Burgundy, Rhone & Provence wines, wine investment, brand marketing, wine tourism & international wine export
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