Traveling southeast of Chablis, we enter the Côte d’Or (the Golden Slope) which encompasses Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. These two sub-regions hold Burgundy’s most prestigious vineyards. When a vineyard is outside of the designated Côte, then it is labeled by its larger region. Though similar in style, the government does not designate the vineyard to be the same quality as those within the designated “Côte” regions. If you are looking for outstanding wine with value, this is your yellow brick road.
The entire Côte d’Or is made up of layers of diverse limestone and marl combinations. The northern Côte de Nuits has more limestone. The only villages producing white (Chardonnay or Aligoté) are Marsannay, Fixin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Vougeot and Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Here’s an overview of the subregions’ Pinot Noir. Whites noted when applicable:
- Gevrey-Chambertin are the most structured, masculine and intense wines of the region.
- Chambolle-Musigny is all about elegance, structure and beauty. Venus rules here.
- Morey-Saint-Denis is the ying and the yang. Similar to both Gevery-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny.
- Nuits-Saint-Georges likens to Gevrey-Chambertin in intensity; however, it needs a touch of time and an appreciation of barnyard components.
- Vougeot is very similar to Musigny, Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses with more rustic truffle and underbrush notes. Whites are filled with white floral notes, rich tropical fruit (mango) yet a graceful mineral depth and acidity.
- Vosne-Romanée is full and voluptuous, prominent brandied cherries and hedonistic leather and game balance.
- Marsannay is a mouthful of bright morello cherries, strawberries and currants with gentle and firm structure. Whites are full-bodied with bright citrus and minerality. Rosé production is allowed. Anticipate ripe peaches.
- Fixin is much more rustic and masculine than Marsannay but with a similar bright fruit composition. Whites follow the suit of Marsannay as well.
Côte de Beaune can be a bit of a turn around. Just south of Côte de Nuit, one finds the large sub-reigon that encompasses not only the commune of Côte de Beaune, but the town Beaune (and its AOC), and of course, Côte de Beaune-Villages… Deep breath! Simplified: The famous city of (1) Beaune is surrounded by amazing vineyards, which are the (2) Beaune AOC. The entire area is known as the (3) Côte de Beaune (also coined Haute Côte de Beaune which we will use from here on out as it simplifies an otherwise confusing map.) Then the larger region, the (4) Côte de Beaune-Villages, encompasses the several communes (villages), which we will now discuss:
The Côte de Beaune-Villages has slopes that are gentler and hillsides that are more varied with several styles of colored limestone and soils that greatly impact the styles of wines. Overall, the communes in the north produce elegant, floral, expressive reds with simpler fruit flavors, whereas the communes in the south exert dark fruit, supple earth (mushroom, humus), and distinctive tannins.
The northern end of the Côte de Beaune is home to the three AOC communes which have the only Grand Cru vineyards in Côte de Beaune and five Première Cru vineyards. The three AOC communes are Pernand-Vergelesses, Ladoix-Serrigny, and Aloxe-Corton. The latter hosts the Grand Cru Vineyard Corton and Corton-Charlemagne. Corton Charlemagne produces only white wines. The hill of Corton is where the landscape of Beaune transitions from Côte de Nuit. It softens with rounded valleys. Two small communes live on the outskirts of the hill of Corton: Savigny-lès-Beaune and Chorey-lès-Beaune. The latter only produces red and is typically known for easy drinking entry level Burgundy. Savigny-les-Beaune does produce some well-structured and value driven reds and whites.
Beaune vs Haute Côte de Beaune. Haute in French translates to high. The vineyards of the Côte de Beaune are situated higher with more limestone and marl. Like its close neighbor, the reds are bright and rich in color and fruit; the texture is firm and captivating. Seductive. The whites are vivacious, refreshing yet round and supple.
Here are the Côte de Beaune communes with associated styles:
- Pommard and Volnay are reserved for red wines, with Pommard generally showing a harder-edged, tannic structure in contrast to Volnay’s softer fragrance and charm. Pommard is usually the most full-bodied red wine of the Côte de Beaune.
- Monthélie lies between Volnay and Mersault. It produces whites similar to Mersault, with a touch more citrus and reds similar to Volnay yet more rustic in herbs and earth.
- Saint-Romain begins expressing more dark imposing fruits and subtle smokey qualities in its reds, whereas the whites are light, citrus and mellow.
- Auxey-Duresses lends to leathery qualities with age in its reds and whites have a toasted bread and almond undertone.
- Saint Aubin‘s whites are exquisite- almonds and orange-flower with texture. The reds ares silky with currants, bright fruits and occasional spice.
The cluster of villages well-exposed for whites are Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet.
- Meursault is known for having the highest quality with decadent richness, almond and hazelnuts and golden ripeness.
- Puligny-Montrachet whites are leaner, yet still rich. They have less oak, brighter acidity and more tree fruit expression.
- Chassagne-Montrachet whites fall within the spectrum of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. The reds are explosive and hedonistic.
The furthest communes to the south in Côte de Beaune-Villages would be Santenay and Maranges. These wines are expressive and seductive. Maranges produces both white and red and leans a bit more youthful than Santennay. Its whites are round and soft, poetic with floral and honey notes; whereas the reds are layered not just with bright fruits (raspberries and currants) but spice- licorice and black pepper. Santenay‘s whites are creamy and rich, almost begging for rich dishes. The reds pair excellently with meat-driven dishes as the earthy, dark cherry combination balances the notable tannins.
Jaci Kajfas, Sommelier
Manager, Portalis Wine Shop