Burgundy Côte d’Or & Côte Chalonnaise


Burgundy Côte d’Or & Côte Chalonnaise


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Wine Guide Burgundy Côte de Nuits – Wine Region Map

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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.

Burgundy Côte de Nuits Wines

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).

Mâcon vineyard at the foot of the Rock of Solutré

Côte de Nuits background

What a difference a new generation and a responsive market can make. Younger, highly-trained and talented winemakers have played their part in transforming quality in this one of the most complex and magical of France’s wine regions. 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. Red Burgundy should enthrall with its perfume, complexity, finesse and textural qualities rather than power, oak and out-and-out concentration.

Côte d’Or hierachy

The basic hierarchy in the Côte d’Or is of grands crus at the top, followed by premiers crus – always associated with one of 25 villages (premiers crus are often blended together due to fragmentation, so labelled simply Premier Cru) – then the level of the village itself (e.g. Gevrey-Chambertin) before the sub-regional appellations (such as Côte de Nuits-Villages) and finally the regional generics: Bourgogne Rouge (Pinot Noir), Bourgogne Blanc (Chardonnay) and Bourgogne Aligoté. The lowest level is not necessarily the humblest, however, as wine from any level may be sold as a generic (for instance, recently replanted vines that have only just come into production or vines that lie just outside a classified area). It is also worth noting that premier cru wine may also be included in part of a village-level bottling. This may be due to insufficient quantities for a separate bottling or a grower’s decision not to compromise the integrity of his premier cru when faced with unsatisfactory quality in a difficult vintage. Also important to understanding the appellation system in Burgundy is the concept of climat or individual vineyard areas. Occasionally only part of a named area may be designated premier cru (e.g Chambolle-Musigny la Combe d’Orveaux) while within the unclassified village areas the named vineyards (lieux-dits) may be added to the label. The best of these will be close to premier cru level, just as several premiers crus are comparable to some of the less well-defined grands crus. Note too that the spelling of a particular vineyard can vary slightly from one producer to another. What follows is a brief breakdown of the most important villages and their most important crus.

The Vosne-Romanée vignoble

Côte de Nuits
Production from the more northerly Côte de Nuits is almost exclusively red. Marsannay and Fixin at the north end of the Côte de Nuits, begin the band of mostly east-facing hills that stretches, with twists and breaks, until Santenay and Maranges in the tail of the Côte de Beaune. Marsannay tends to be light but scented and produces, unusually for the Côte de Nuits, a significant amount of rosé and white. Fixin in contrast, produces quite forceful, earthy Burgundy, including some powerful reds from premiers crus on slopes above the village. The wine, like that from the southern end of the Côte de Nuits, can be sold as Côte de Nuits-Villages. After the briefest of interludes (around Brochon) begins Burgundy’s great rich seam of red.

Gevrey-Chambertin has 26 premiers crus including the outstanding Clos Saint-Jacques (grand cru in all but name) and Les Cazetiers at the centre of an arc of premiers crus on slopes to the east of the town. South of the village itself begins the great chain of grands crus that run almost to the southern edge of Vosne-Romanée. Of the nine in Gevrey, the 12.9 ha Chambertin and 15 ha Clos-de-Bèze are easily the most important. Seven others all append the name Chambertin: Mazis-Chambertin and Ruchottes-Chambertin are arguably the next best in potential; Griottes-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin (under which much of Mazoyères-Chambertin is sold) and Chapelle-Chambertin are also capable of greatness; the last, Latricières-Chambertin, rarely reaches the quality of the best premiers crus. Gevrey at any level should be distinguished by its greater power, concentration and structure than its neighbouring communes. Despite a radical improvement, too much of it remains pretty poor. Morey-Saint-Denis undeservedly lacks the lustre of Gevrey and Chambolle, but can combine the muscle of the former with the elegance of the latter, though which prevails to the greater degree depends as much on the grower as the on vineyard site. A tiny amount of white is made here too. While significantly smaller than Gevrey, it still boasts 20 premiers crus and four grands crus – Clos de la Roche (17 ha), Clos Saint-Denis (6.6 ha), Clos des Lambrays (8.8 ha) and Clos de Tart (7.5 ha) – as well as a thin slice of the 15 ha Bonnes Mares which falls mostly in Chambolle-Musigny. Bonnes Mares, with its mixed soils, is of variable style but is usually sturdier when sourced from the Morey end of the vineyards. Then the chain of grands crus is broken, before continuing with Le Musigny (10.7 ha) at the southern end of the commune. Some fine premier cru vineyards lie between the two, including Cras, Fuées and Baudes, but closest in style and proximity to Musigny are the often superb Amoureuses and Charmes. Musigny, like no other cru, can express the sumptuous elegant beauty of red Burgundy.

Le Chambertin

The commune of Vougeot is dominated by the massive 50 ha grand cru of Clos Vougeot. Though continuous and walled-in, in its lower, flatter reaches it juts deep into what corresponds to only village-quality land in neighbouring Vosne-Romanée. Arguably it ought to be partitioned into three different levels. Without due care you may find you have paid a grand cru price for what is, in effect, only village-level wine, although your choice of grower among the 80 owners of the vineyard counts for as much as the position of the vines. At its highest it adjoins both Musigny and Grands Echezeaux and at its best it is full, rich and complex if less aristocratic than the former. Both of the grands crus Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux (with 32 ha and 9 ha respectively in production) fall in the commune of Flagey-Echezeaux. At their best both produce sturdy, characterful Burgundy, though much of Echezeaux lacks the class expected in a grand cru. Neighbouring Vosne-Romanée is a commune like no other in the Côte de Nuits. Behind the village lie the great vineyards that produce Burgundy’s most expensive and sought-after wines. At the heart of 27 ha of grands crus are La Romanée (0.85 ha) and Romanée-Conti (1.8 ha) with Richebourg (8 ha) to the north, Romanée-Saint-Vivant (9.4 ha) closer to the village, and La Grande Rue (1.65 ha) and La Tâche (6.1 ha) to the south. These in turn are flanked by some marvellous premiers crus including Malconsorts, Chaumes and Clos des Réas on the southern edge of the commune with Nuits-Saint-Georges; with Brûlées, Suchots and Beaux Monts on the northern side, the latter two pressing up against Echezeaux. The best of these are rich, intense and concentrated but with varying degrees of finesse, opulence or silkiness, dependent as much on producer as location. Village-level Vosne comes from east of the village.

The last major village in the Côtes de Nuits is Nuits-Saint-Georges though vineyards continue on south to Comblanchien. Here, the best wines offer power and intensity as well as a degree of finesse in the best of 38 premiers crus (which extend into the more southerly commune of Prémeaux). Damodes, Boudots and Murgers are some of the best between Nuits-Saint-Georges (the town) and Vosne-Romanée; Vaucrains, Pruliers and Les Saint-Georges are the most notable to the south of Nuits. There are no grand crus. Lesser wine can be flavoursome if chunky but the worst is rough and dilute. The cooler hinterland of the Côte de Nuits contains pockets of vineyards in favourable sites which constitute the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. South of the town of Beaune is the equivalent Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. A significant amount of the wine is made by the co-op Les Caves des Hautes-Côtes; these wines or an example from a top grower can be good in an exceptional vintage.

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