« The Climats of Burgundy » explained in 10 questions & answers

1. What is a Climat of Burgundy ?

The term « Climat » is specific to Burgundy. It is not used to describe weather conditions but in fact refers to terroir. A Climat is a plot of vines which has been carefully and precisely marked out over the centuries. Each Climat has its own name, its particular character and its place in the hierarchy of crus. Over 1,247 Climats extend over a narrow ribbon of land which runs from Dijon to Santenay, shaping the landscape like a mosaic. Nowhere else in the world has thelink between wine and its place of origin been taken to such refined levels as in Burgundy. The result is an extremely fragmented vineyard system and landscape which also includes the historic towns of Dijon and Beaune with their exceptional architectural heritage. This ensemble forms a unique economic and cultural setting based on the centuries-old concept of the Climat.

CLIMAT – Why this word in particular?

The term first appeared in the 16th century. It designates both the cultural and natural identity of an individual parcel or a collection of several contiguous parcels of vineyard. The unique characteristics of each Climat are dictated by its exact location, soil and subsoil, microclimate, together with its name and its history. Burgundy’s Côte wine region is the only vineyard in the world to have continuously nurtured and protected the identity of its Climats (rather than differentiating the wines by estate or village) for over 2,000 years.

2. What is UNESCO ? And World Heritage ?

The United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations whose extensive and ambitious objective is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international cooperation through education, science, culture and communication. Hence its central role is to encourage the protection and conservation of the world’s natural and cultural heritage.

The UNESCO World Heritage label is a certification attributed to sites and monuments which have “Outstanding Universal Value”. In concrete terms, the main objective is to protect these exceptional sites and monuments and thus the world’s culturaland natural heritage.

Since 1978, 962 sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List, including 38 sites in France.

î Find the World Heritage List sites here:: whc.unesco.org/fr/list

3. Why should the Climats of Burgundy be classified as a World Heritage site ?

The inscription application does not only concern the vineyard, which already enjoys worldwide prestige. The objective is to inscribe the historical and cultural construction of Burgundy’s emblematic site, whose value is universal and exceptional for two reasons.

Firstly, the Climats are a remarkable example of a historical viticultural site which has been passed down unchanged over the centuries, and whose activity remains just as dynamic today as ever before. Secondly, the Climats were shaped by mankind, based on the principle of a fragmented vineyard system made up of precisely marked out parcels of land, where references to place and time becomebenchmarks of the quality and diversity of a highly valued product which isthe fruit of nature’s potential combined with human labour and expertise.

It is this centuries-old savoir-faire, born from the interaction between Man and Nature for almost 2,000 years, that we are proposing for inscription as UNESCO World Heritage.

The O.U.V. : 3 reasons for inscribing the Climats as UNESCO World Heritage

  • A unique cultural site shaped by two thousand years of human
  • A model of terroir-based viticulture of worldwide influence
  • An exceptional architectural heritage intrinsically linked to wine-growing

Who is behind the application dossier ?

An Association, with Aubert de Villaine as its President, and Bernard Pivot as the President of the Support Committee, was created in 2007 to draft the application dossier and pilot the inscription campaign, which was set up to raise awareness about the candidature and to mobilise support for this ambitious project among the region’s stakeholders.

All of the following are members of the Association’s board of directors and participate actively in the candidature campaign via management committees : the city councils of Dijon and Beaune, the Regional Council of Burgundy, the Côte-d’Or General Council, the inter-municipalities of Dijon, Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune, and professional associations such as the BIVB (Bourgogne Wine Board), the CAVB (Association of Bourgogne Winegrowers), the FNEB (Federation of Bourgogne Wine-merchants) and the Côte-d’Or Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

4. How many European wine regions and sites in Burgundy have already been classified by UNESCO ?

In Europe, 11 regions where wine-growing plays a central role have already been classified by UNESCO.

Three sites in Burgundy are already on the World Heritage List : the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay, the Basilica and Hill of Vézelay and the Priory of La Charité-sur-Loire as being landmarks on the pilgrim routes leading to Santiago de Compostella. The Climats of Burgundy could well be the fourth site in the region to obtain this certification.            

5. What are the main stages involved in a UNESCO World Heritage Inscription ?

A UNESCO World Heritage candidature is a real marathon : it takes on average between 5 to 10 years for a site to be inscribed on the Heritage List. In the case of the Climats of Burgundy, we are hoping for an inscription in 2015.  

There have been 8 main stages in this application:

  1. Application : 2007 : with the creation of the Association         
  2. Inclusion on the Tentative List of French sites (approx. 20) by the Ministriesof Culture and Ecology : Confirmed in April 2009
  3. Creation of the candidature dossier (with a scientific section, a management section and a section concerning awareness-raising and mobilisation throughout the territory) : 2009-2013
  4. Selection by France (one or two dossier(s) per year) : January 2012 
  5. France presents the dossier to the World Heritage Centre : January 2014
  6. An ICOMOS expert visits the nominated site : Autumn 2014
  7. Presentation of the ICOMOS expert’s opinion : May 2015 ?
  8. Inscription on the World Heritage List : June 2015 ? 

6. Which geographical area is included in the application ?

The area nominated for inscription covers a narrow band of hills and slopes extending over 60 km, from Dijon to the north, to Maranges to the south. Included in this area are of course all the municipalitieslocated within the boundary : Dijon, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Beaune. Thus, besides the Climats themselves and the vines, the towns and villages are also an integral part of the site.

The nominated area comprises two main zones :

  • The Central Zone : which constitutes the core of the site’s O.U.V. (40 municipalities)
  • The Buffer Zone and associated municipalities: which constitutean area of coherence between landscape and heritage (102 municipalities)

The nominated area extends over 5 inter-municipalities, which are all working closely with the Association.

The area’s boundaries have been determined by the results of scientific research and property management requirements.    

7. Why does the area covered by the application not include the entire Burgundy wine region ?

The impact of a World Heritage inscription extends well beyond the boundaries of a nominated site ; Burgundy has chosen its most exemplary territory (between Dijon and Santenay) because it is the most likely area to convince the international experts and reach our objective. However our approach is more global and we are working towards enhancing the reputation and promoting the whole of Burgundy. (Hence the title : « The Climats of Burgundy »).

8. What impact would inscription have on the region ? Would it involve constraints ?

As a general rule, a site’s incription on the World Heritage List generates a number of positive effects. For example, this encourages an increase in tourist traffic (15-20%) and the territory becomes more attractive thanks to official recognition and promotion of its economy and heritage.

Aside from these benefits, a World Heritage inscription is above all a source of pride for the local population and stakeholders concerned ; hence the importance of the degree of support and commitment shown by inhabitants, including those involved in the region’s economy.

A World Heritage classification does not necessarily require any additional constraints and would not involve any further supranational legislation other than that already in place today. On the other hand, it would mean that all the key players involved in the management of the site would have to take their share of responsibility in implementing the management plan set up for this purpose. This territorial management tool, (explained and detailed in the application dossier) is represented by the « Charte Territoriale » (territorial charter), which was signed by all the project’s stakeholders on the 8th April 2011, at the Château du Clos de Vougeot.

9. What is the current state of the application ?

The Climats of Burgundy dossier was officially submitted to Unesco in January 2014, by Ms. Aurélie Filippetti, the French Minister of Culture and Communication.

The candidature is currently being reviewed by a team of experts commissioned by Unesco. There is still a long way to go to reach our goal of official inscription, as the decision will not be made before June 2015, when the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee meets. Until then, all those involved in the inscription campaign will be rallying together and taking further action to show that Burgundy fully deserves its place on the World Heritage List but also to prove that the management plan proposed in the application dossier meets the requirements set by Unesco.

The Association for the Climats of Burgundy would like to congratulate the Houses, Hillsides and Cellars of Champagne, which have also been presented by France for inscription. Our two dossiers are in no way in competition with each other, because the basis of their Outstanding Universal Value (O.U.V.) and the criteria selected by Unesco are different. Burgundy has been presented as a unique « cultural site », shaped by mankind over 2,000 years and whose model of wine-growing based on the concept of terroir is of global significance Champagne on the other hand, has been presented in the « cultural landscapes » category, for its agro-industrial system which has characterized the territorial and social organisation of the region, but also for Champagne’s worldwide reputation as a symbol of celebration.

10. How can I show support for the campaign ?

The support of all concerned is essential in a campaign for World Heritage status : it shows a collective commitment to preserve and pass on our cultural and natural heritage. 56, 000 people are currently supporting the project, including producers, elected representatives, company managers and citizens. The campaign for Unesco World Heritage recognition has been and continues to be an exciting enterprise but one which will only be meaningful if it is supported and encouraged by all of us. In fact, public support is a key asset in our dossier. Let’s not rest on our laurels, the more support the better !

Operational planning: positiveforward-looking action aimed at enhancing and restoring a site, or creating landscapes.

Authenticity: an accurate expression of the characteristics of heritage property, including its design and execution, the materials used, its environment and distinctive components.

« Cep » : vine stock. 

« Cépage » (Vine varietal) : a grapevine variety.

Clergy: the Christian religious communities of France.

Climat : an area of vines which has been precisely marked out and named for centuries. Each climat has its own history, character and place in the hierarchy of crus (wines). Together, the climats form a very fragmented collectionof vineyards, set in remarkable landscapes punctuated by the towns of Dijon and Beaune and their exceptional heritage buildings, creating a special cultural and economic setting.          

« Confrérie » (Fraternity): an association created tosafeguard and promote viticultural traditions.

« Coopération » (Cooperation): actions involving partnerships, exchanges and assistance with other exemplary heritage sites (local or international, included or not included on the World Heritage List) aimed at sharing the outstanding universal value of the Climats of Burgundy and fostering mutual benefit(s).

« Cru » : wine produced on a specific terroir (area of land).

« Élevage » (Cellar Ageing): techniques involved in the ageing process of wine.

« Fumure » (Manuring): incorporating manureinto the soil to improve its humus content.

« Gestion » (Management): actions to monitor changes accompanying socio-economicand environmental changes.

« Intégrité » (Integrity): awareness of the « intact » character of the heritage property, based on its distinctive elements and the values for which it stands.

« Moût » (Must): non fermented grape juice or pressed grapes.

« Négociant » (Merchant): someone who buys grapes, must (pressed grapes or juice), or wine from producers and sells the wine under his/her own label or brand.

Landscape: a part of territory as perceived by the population, whose special features are the result of natural and/or human factors and their interelationships

Landscape policy: a formulation by the competent public authorities of general principles, strategies and guidelines for implementing special measures for the protection, land use planning and management of the landscape.

« Relevage » (Wire lifting): this consists of postioning the new vine shoots between a double wire which is stretched across the middle of the trellis so that they do not grow in all directions.          

« Sarment »: a one-year-old vine shoot which will be removed after the harvest.

Cultural site: according to the Operational Guidelines drafted by the World Heritage Convention (WHC.08/01), this term designates an example of human settlement which is representative of a culture, or mankind’s interaction with the natural environment, which has outstanding universal value in terms of history, aesthetics, ethnology and anthropology.

« Terroir »: a defined area of landwhich produces a specific product thanks to local expertise.

Here are several links to external web sites concerning the Climats of Burgundy application for Unesco World Heritage inscription :