Wine Guide Burgundy Côte Chalonnaise & Maconnais

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Wine Guide Burgundy – Wine Region Map

Burgundy /Overview
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urgundy can be considered as four distinct entities. In the north lies Chablis, at its heart is the Côte d’Or (Cote de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), next comes the Côte Chalonnaise then, still further south, the Mâconnais. The main appellations for each are given below, with more detail in the individual sections that follow.

Chablis & Yonne

Chablis and the surrounding vineyards are isolated from the heart of Burgundy, being almost halfway to Paris from the Côte d’Or. All Chablis is produced from the Chardonnay grape and is classified by vineyard site as either Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru or Chablis Grand Cru. Other than Chablis there’s Sauvignon under the Saint-Bris AC and occasional pure cherryish Pinot Noir from Irancy AC. Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from other villages in the Yonne is suffixed Bourgogne.

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Côte d’Or & Côte Chalonnaise

The Côte d’Or is synonymous with Burgundy and includes all its great red wines. The two parts are the more northerly Côte de Nuits (mostly red) and extending southwards, the Côte de Beaune (white and red).

The CÔTE DE NUITS is Burgundy’s most classic red wine district and based primarily on just one grape variety, Pinot Noir. It runs from Marsannay and Fixin through the leading communes of Gevrey-Chambertin (including leading grands crus Chambertin and Clos de Bèze), Morey- Saint-Denis (with grands crus Clos de la Roche, Clos Saint-Denis, Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart), Chambolle Musigny (with Bonnes Mares and Le Musigny) and Vougeot (for Clos Vougeot), Flagey-Echezeaux (for Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux), Vosne-Romanée (grands crus La Romanée, Romanée-Conti, Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, La Grande Rue, and La Tâche) to Nuits-Saint-Georges.

The Côte De Beaune is famous for great white Burgundy made from Chardonnay, although more Pinot Noir is planted. Much of both is at least potentially very high quality. In a confusion of appellations in the north, Aloxe-Corton with the famous grands crus of Corton (mostly red) and Corton-Charlemagne (white) stands out. Beaune, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune produce fine reds but some good whites too, while the celebrated Pommard and Volnay are restricted to red. Monthélie, and Auxey-Duresses provide more affordable red and a little white, while Saint-Romain and the often excellent Saint-Aubin do better with white. The big three white Burgundy appellations are Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet (including grands crus Chevalier- Montrachet, Le Montrachet and part of Bâtard-Montrachet) and Chassagne-Montrachet. The latter also produces red as do Santenay and Maranges in the tail of the Côte d’Or.

The Côte Chalonnaise begins close to this tail. Both the wines and the countryside are distinctly different but the village appellations are again classified for wines from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir – with the exception the first village, Bouzeron, which is classified for Aligoté. Rully makes more white than red, while Mercurey and Givry produce mostly red. The southernmost appellation, Montagny, is for Chardonnay alone. Crémant de Bourgogne is for the region’s sparkling wine.

The Côte Chalonnaise begins close to this tail. Both the wines and the countryside are distinctly different but the village appellations are again classified for wines from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir – with the exception the first village, Bouzeron, which is classified for Aligoté. Rully makes more white than red, while Mercurey and Givry produce mostly red. The southernmost appellation, Montagny, is for Chardonnay alone. Crémant de Bourgogne is for the region’s sparkling wine.

Mâconnais

As in the Côte de Beaune here too there is greatness in white wine (from Chardonnay), with a new wave of excellent producers beginning to emerge. Quality wine production is focused on Pouilly-Fuissé (with its four communes of Chaintré, Fuissé, Solutré and Vergisson), adjoined at its eastern end by the small Pouilly-Loché and Pouilly-Vinzelles ACs. Many other vineyards north and south of Pouilly-Fuissé qualify as Saint-Véran. There is fine quality too from Viré-Clessé and increasingly from several of some 43 villages that can be suffixed to Mâcon (eg Mâcon-Bussières).

Côte Chalonnaise & Maconnais background

What a difference a new generation and a responsive market can make. In the Côte Chalonnaise as in the Côte d’Or younger, highly-trained and talented winemakers have played their part in transforming quality. No stronger argument can be made for the validity of terroir than in Burgundy, where subtle differences of climate, soil composition and aspect identified over the course of centuries and expressed in individual climats make this region so complex and fascinating. The Mâconnais is Burgundy’s frontier region where the full potential of the Chardonnay grape is only just beginning to be realised. Thanks in part to a new wave of producers Pouilly-Fuissé is now at an unprecedented level of quality, increasingly expressed in individual climats that make this region so complex and fascinating. Not only has there been a strong movement away from previously overblown high-octane examples but a handful of growers are also revitalising the soils of exceptional vineyard plots scattered wide across the Mâconnais.

Côte Chalonnaise

The Chalonnaise is not a continuation of the Côte d’Or but an area of less sheltered rolling hills where the grapes ripen later and the wines are lighter. However as a source of quality and value the best growers can provide a real alternative to lesser villages of the Côte d’Or. Bouzeron, the first of five separate appellations is classified for Aligoté only, its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sold as Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise. Rully lies east and south of Bouzeron and makes more white than red – bothof which can reveal ripe, attractive fruit in a top example. Less ripe Chardonnay is likely to be made into Crémant de Bourgogne. South of Rully is Mercurey, the region’s most important AC. Most of the wine is a quite structured red, surprisingly rich and intense from a combination of a top year and producer, but hard and lean when not. A little good white is also produced. Slightly more supple yet stylish reds are produced in Givry, where the balance of red and white is similar to that of Mercurey. The southernmost appellation is Montagny, where exclusively white wine is made. The wines can be fuller if sometimes less distinguished than those from Rully.

Vineyards at Mercurey

Mâconnais Village secrets

The Mâconnais produces as much wine as the Côte d’Or and Côte Chalonnaise combined, though much of it is pretty ordinary. Red under the Mâcon and Mâcon Supérieur ACs is usually poor and Gamay-based; any better reds are likely to be sold as Bourgogne Rouge. Limestone soils are important to the increasing percentage of Chardonnay planted in the region and much of what is produced is sold as Mâcon-Villages or hyphenated with the name of the individual village (such as Uchizy or Chardonnay). This is increasingly a source of good-quality, and often relatively inexpensive, white Burgundy. Many of the best examples come from producers based in Pouilly-Fuissé or Saint-Véran (see below). Of these, Jean Rijckaert has been a leader in realising the untapped potential here. Other good examples are coming from growers based in one of the many communes spread across the rolling countryside who have been brave enough to go it alone instead of selling to the dominant co-ops. Try the wines from Fichet or Maillet. Since 1998, Viré-Clessé has been a separate appellation for a stretch of vineyards near the eastern edge of the Mâcon centred on the villages of Viré and Clessé.

Heart of the Mâconnais

For long the greatest interest has been centred on Pouilly-Fuissé in the very south of the Mâconnais. This large appellation has a little over twice the vineyard area of Meursault and there are considerable differences in both quality and style across the four communes of Chaintré, Fuissé, Solutré and Vergisson – the latter two being famous for the rock bluffs that proved useful in prehistoric times for herding and killing wild animals. Now, these slopes that run down from the foot of the cliffs are some of the best in the region for producing rich, ripe, full-bodied whites. There are still some heavy, alcoholic whites but radical improvement over the last decade or so has seen the emergence of wines to rival all but the most elegant, refined and complete premier and grand cru Côte de Beaune whites. In contrast to Chablis many more growers harvest all their grapes manually and there is better identification of individual climats. As well as displaying increasing balance and harmony there is definite refinement and elegance from the top sites. At a lower level the wines are more immediate and obvious than something from the Côte de Beaune.

A view from the Solutré hill

North of Chaintré at the eastern limit of these hills are the separate villages of Pouilly-Loché and Pouilly-Vinzelles. Quality here has been mixed at best but there has been improvement – the Bret Brothers/La Soufrandière have shown what is possible. Saint-Véran encompasses Chardonnay vineyards from villages to the north and south of Pouilly-Fuissé. Although quality is very producerdependent, ranging from the lean and angular to intense, ripe and minerally wines (usually at lower prices than Pouilly), there has generally been an enormous improvement over the last 5-10 years. From the best plots some growers are actually able to make better Saint-Véran than they do Pouilly-Fuissé. Still more potential is being realised from other sites further along a north-west axis from Pouilly-Fuissé, including Merlin at La Roche Vineuse, Guffens-Heynen/Verget at Sologny and Héritiers du Comte Lafon at Milly Lamartine.

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