We don’t need much in the notes besides this wonderful map from the Vins de Bourgogne site, but I’ll throw a few things down here just for recap.
This week’s show covers the Côte de Beaune: the southern part of Côte d’Or, the famed ‘golden slope’ of Burgundy. The Côte de Beaune lies between the villages of Ladoix-Serrigny in the north and the Maranges in the south. In the north, there is delicious Pinot Noir but, in the south, you will find some of the most famed, stunning Chardonnay on earth. The topic is so big and a bit daunting so we cover the northern half of the Côte de Beaune in this episode, laying out the details of what is in each commune. We attempt to provide a structure for understanding this very difficult and detailed topic that is really a study in terroir, mostly as a basis for future podcasts that dive deeper into these appellations.
Here are the show notes:
- The Côte de Beaune is about 20 – 25 km /12 or 16 miles from north to south. This region is not flat, with most grape growing occurring above 200 meters/650+ feet
- The Côte de Beaune is part of the limestone escarpment that covers the Côte de Nuits but in the Côte de Beaune, the soil is younger and the hillsides gentler. The limestone found in the Côte de Nuits is submerged at the southern tip at Nuits-St. Georges and re-emerges in Meursault
- The Côte de Beaune makes both red of Pinot Noir and white of Chardonnay (occasionally with some other grapes added). Although it produces slightly more red than white, Côte de Beaune is most famed for its Chardonnay from the Montrachet vineyards (covered in the next episode)
- Due to the escarpment, Côte de Beaune, faces east, picking up morning sun, rather than hotter afternoon sun
What is here?
- Around the town of Beaune and north, the vineyards are mainly planted to Pinot Noir with some pockets of stunning Chardonnay. From Meursault south, Chardonnay dominates the wines in most villages
- 20 Villages make up the Côte de Beaune
- Grands Crus vineyards include
- Corton, Corton Charlemagne
- Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet (covered in the next episode)
Structure of the AOC:
- Regional appellations of the Côte de Beaune include: Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Côte de Beaune – Villages, and Côte de Beaune
- Village Appellations covered in this episode: Ladoix-Serrigny, Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Chorey-lès-Beaune, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Monthélie, Meursault, Saint-Romain, Auxey-Duresses
And then there are…
- Premiers Crus vineyards/ climate (we refer to a few specifically)
- Grands Crus vineyards: Corton, Corton Charlemagne
This show covers the northern communes only, from the Cortons to Meursault in three “clusters”
Cluster 1: The Corton Cluster — Ladoix-Serrigny, Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton
- These villages make up the hill of Corton and link the Côte de Nuits with the Côte de Beaune
- Corton hill is at altitudes between 200 and 300 m /656-984 ft. The soil is reddish brown with flint and limestone (known as “chaillots”)
- Wines from the northern end are softer, fruity, growing in lighter, pebbly soil
- Wines from the southern end grow in clay and marl soils, and are more tannic, acidic, complex
- Corton is the biggest grand cru in Bourgogne – 1/3 of all grand cru wine is from here
- Corton and Corton-Charlemagne (nested AOC) together make up 150.55 ha/ 372.01 acres
- Corton-Charlemagne is a famed Chardonnay grand cru vineyard
The Village AOCs of the Corton Cluster…
Ladoix-Serrigny (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
- Where the Côte de Beaune begins — Ladoix is the most northerly of the villages of the Côte de Beaune. It has 11 premier cru, plus the grand cru of Corton. Village wine can be good value.
- Ladoix produces mainly Pinot Noir with red berry fruit character, and soft, silky textures. Its Chardonnay is medium-full with acidity and is often like flowers, quince, spicy pear.
Pernand-Vergelesses (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
- Located in the northwest corner of the hills of the Côte de Beaune, Pernand has 8 Premier Crus plus the grand cru of Corton. It makes soft, lighter style village wine.
- The appellation makes a bit more red than white. Its Pinot Noir is like red fruit and flowers, becoming spicier and earthier with age. The red can be bold with tannins.
The Chardonnays are reminiscent of white flowers (acacia) and minerals with honey and spice flavors as it ages.
Aloxe-Corton – (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, pronounced “Alosse”)
- Dominated by Corton on the east side of the hill, Aloxe has most of the grand cru of Corton within its boundaries, with 14 premier cru sites under it. Aloxe is considered the best area on the hill of Corton.
- Aloxe makes almost all robust Pinot Noir with peony, jasmine, nut, mushroom, truffle notes in a fuller bodied wine. Whites are quite rare.
Cluster 2: The Beaune Cluster
The Village AOCs of the Beaune Cluster…
Savigny-lès-Beaune (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
- Savigny is the third biggest appellation by production in the Côte de Beaune, and lies between the hill of Corton and Beaune. It contains no grand cru vineyards and 22 premiers crus. These wines are often affordable.
- Savigny is a predominantly a Pinot Noir appellation. Blackcurrant, cherry, raspberry, violet aromas and flavors are common. The Chardonnay can be quite unique, as it is sometimes co-planted with Pinot Blanc or Pinot Beurot (like Pinot Gris), giving the wines less acidity but adding a spicy component. They show flowery, citrus, mineral aromas and flavors, and depending on producer — creamy butter, brioche, good acidity
- There is a split in styles depending on terroir: northern vineyards make more nuanced, spicier, and more acidic wines, and southern vineyards produce more rustic styles, fruity, tannic styles
Chorey-lès-Beaune (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)– appellation 1970, until then used Aloxe Corton or Savigny
- Another satellite of Beaune producing mostly red wine in a similar style to Beaune and Savigny, but lighter. Chorey is on the lower slopes of the Côte de Beaune and plantings lie on both sides of the main highway for village wines. Since most of the commune is on the “wrong” side of the road (according to Clive Coates, not my assessment) it’s more affordable and a good value
- Chorey is nearly all Pinot Noir that shows bright cherry notes, raspberry, some black fruit, with licorice, leather, earth, and ginger with time. The wine has soft tannins and can be very light and fruity. Chorey produces a very small amount of good, floral, nutty Chardonnay
Beaune (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
- The commercial center of the Côte d’Or, most big negociants are located here or have big holdings in Beaune. It has a deep history in Bourgogne, including the tradition of the Hospices de Beaune charity wine auction, which was started to support the charity hospital for the poor (it is now a museum at the Hôtel-Dieu). The auction of wines on the third Sunday in November sets a benchmark for prices for that vintage for all of Bourgogne
- Although mainly Pinot Noir, with black and red fruit, earthy, spicy notes, the character of Beaune’s wine is VERY Variable because the village is so large with 42 Premiers Crus and no Grand Crus, but plenty of Village wines. Whites of Chardonnay are less common. They have almond, dried fruits, white flowers and bright acidity. Of note is Clos de Mouches by Domaine Drouhin, a Premier Cru wine that is often consider the best white Beaune
Côte de Beaune Villages (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
- Contains Pinot Noir from any one or a combination of 14 villages: Auxey-Duresses, Chassagne-Montrachet, Chorey- lès- Beaune, Ladoix-Serrigny, Meursault, Monthélie, Pernand-Vergelesses, Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubin, Saint-Romain, Santenay, Savigny-lès- Beaune. In the Saône-et-Loire Department:Cheilly-lès-Maranges, Dezize-lès-Maranges, Sampigny-lès-Maranges, Remigny.
- Excluded Villages: Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Pommard, and Volnay
- Wines from Côtes de Beaune Villages are usually for young vines, wines that aren’t up to the standard of Village, OR for negociants who make blends
Côte de Beaune (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
- Is not Côte de Beaune Villages but covers a specific piece of land up on the hill of Mont Batois between Savigny and Beaune
- Grown at higher altitudes, the Pinots are characterized by farmyard, earth, red berries, good acidity, strong tannin and the Chardonnay has marked acidity with citrus, grass, mineral, and occasionally hazelnut notes.
Cluster 3: Super star cluster and some randos
Pommard (Pinot Noir only, pronounced Poe-Marr)
- Pommard makes some of the most tannic and full-bodied wines from the Cote d’Or. With Corton, Pommard’s Pinot is considered the best red of the Cotes de Beaune – rich, chunky, incense-like, spicy with dark fruit, and very complex but fruitier and less complex than the wines from the Côte de Nuits
- The village wines are spectacular, as well as the wines from the 28 premiers crus (the best known of which are Les Rugiens and Les Épenots)
Volnay (Pinot Noir only)
- One of the smaller communes in Côte de Beaune, Volnay is between Pommard and Monthélie and Meursault. It contains no grand cru, only 29 premiers crus vineyards. The soils are lighter, which makes the wines softer and lighter as well.
- The Pinot Noir is aromatic, floral, with cherry and red berry notes. With age it becomes spicy and even animal-like with farmyard notes. Volnay is marked by good acidity with lower tannin, and it can be consumed younger than most other red Burgundies from the Cote de Beaune. Reds grown in Meursault are called Volnay-Santenots to keep Volnay and all red wine appellation and Meursault an all-white wine appellation
Monthélie (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, pronounced Mont’lie)
- Between Volnay and Meursault, Monthélie is a continuation of the Volnay slope. It is a small AOC will 15 premiers crus
- Reds are like black fruits (cherry, blackcurrant), dark flowers with earth and spices as they age. They tend to be light in character with mild tannins and good acidity. The Chardonnay is a very small part of production for this village.
Meursault (Mainly Chardonnay with a small amount of Pinot Noir)
- Meursault is incredibly consistent in quality but styles vary because of the diverse terroir. There are a variety of orientations on the hillsides, from due south through due east. Although many think it shouldn’t be so, there are no grand cru vineyards in Meursault, only 19 premiers crus of which Charmes, Perrières and Genevrières are famed. The village wines can be excellent as well.
- The Chardonnay is rich, ripe and sometimes higher in alcohol with toasted almonds, hazelnuts, mineral (flint), lime and lemon notes. Depending on the winemaker the wines may also show — butter, honey, and toast.
Auxey-Duresses (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, pronounced “Aussey”)
- West of Monthélie at the opening to a wide valley, this small village makes floral, berry scented Pinot Noir that can be harsh with tannin in its youth but softer with leather, spice, and musk notes with 5+ years of age. The Chardonnay is aromatic with nuts, mineral, and apple notes and strong acidity.
Saint Romain (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, 1947 AOC)
- Known primarily for whites that are citrusy, floral, and mineral-like with good acidity, Saint Romain also makes spicy, smoky (albeit less “pretty” than other, more prestigious areas) Pinot Noir that can age well for 10 years.
So ends our first installment of the Côte de Beaune. It’s a lot of information but it gives a backdrop so that when we do deeper dives into these AOC Villages, there is an overview to rely on!
Stay tuned next week for Part deux!
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