The Côte de Beaune Villages In Your Glass(es)

A tour of the villages of this remarkable wine region


The Côte de Beaune produces an array whites and reds thanks to soils that are less homogenous than in the Côte de Nuits. More reds are made than whites and they show more immediate appeal than their Côte de Nuits cousins - Pommard excepted. The whites, however, take top honors. Here’s why:

1. Chardonnay grows better in these lighter, higher limestone content soils. Pinot Noir prefers some clay and silt, too.

2. Valleys make incisions into the hills, meaning more rain and wind assail the vines. Sturdier Chardonnay handles this better than thin-skinned Pinot.

3. The slopes are gentler, making the wrong exposition unforgiving for sun-seeking Pinot Noir.

From north to south, let’s examine this trail of microscopically mapped terroir to see what it delivers to your glass village by village.

Photo courtesy of Megan Mallen via Wikimedia Commons

Aloxe-Corton, Chorey-lès-Beaune, Pernand-Vergelesses and Savigny-lès-Beaune

These villages produce restrained reds and whites, including the Corton Grands Crus. Travel the RN74 and you’ll only see Aloxe and Chorey. Bear right on the D115d to climb to Pernand then head west to Savigny. Aside from Corton AOC, these villages offer affordable, highly mineral and early-drinking wines.

Pour: Simon Bize 2010 Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Bourgeots

This distinguished producer makes this village lieu-dit taste more like Premier Cru. Purple-hued, packed with blueberries and goût de terroir and parading a taut backbone.

Photo courtesy of PhillipC via Wikimedia Commons

Beaune

Most négociants own some vineyards. In Beaune, they own pieces of the most famous, like Clos des Mouches and Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus. Wines of both colors reveal tremendous minerality and lovely palate tension. Stash away the best for a decade.

Pour: Albert Morot 2010 Beaune Les Bressandes Premier Cru (Rouge)

This cru sports the characteristic sappiness of top Beaune reds (emphasized by the sprite 2010 vintage) along with a pleasantly round palate.

Photo courtesy of Megan Mallen via Wikimedia Commons

Pommard

Pommard dons the king’s crown. Power and density rule, a result of the thick clay soils. The village wines, representing one-third of the terroir, often show angularity. With few exceptions, it’s worth upgrading to Premier Cru. Top wines display excellent longevity.

Pour: Domaine de Courcel 2006 Pommard Clos des Epenots Premier Cru

From a softer vintage and with some bottle age, this combines a top site with premier domaine. Technically a Premier Cru, this climat exhibits Grand Cru material.

Photo courtesy of David Stutz via Wikimedia Commons

Volnay and Monthélie

Doing a 180°, Volnay reigns as queen. The key to these bewitchingly scented, velvety reds is their lighter, stonier soils. Like a great matriarch, these wines can live long and nobly. Monthélie makes lean whites and reds, the later nodding to Volnay but showing less aromatic expansiveness.

Pour: Marquis d’Angerville 2006 Volnay Premier Cru

D’Angerville offers the best value in Volnay. The wines are vinous and ethereal with great purity. Red fruits and gentle tannins abound.

Photo courtesy of Bildoj via Wikimedia Commons

 

Meursault, Auxey-Duresses and Saint-Romain

Meursault whites are easily distinguished from Puligny and Chassagne in aroma and mouthfeel. Meursault shows apple and pear rather than stone fruit, and its nuttiness sings alto as opposed to soprano. The mid-palate is broader (rugby player’s, not violinist’s, shoulders), and the texture is mealy not crisp (Red Delicious versus Fuji apples). The next-door whites of Auxey-Duresses and Saint-Romain favor Meursault but show less core and develop earlier; their reds crunch with leanness and show barnyard undertones.

Pour: Arnaud Ente 2005 Meursault La Sève du Clos

La Sève means “the sap” – apropos for this concentrated, harmonic lieu dit from a top vintage. Then again, this epitomizes Arnaud’s style.

Photo courtesy of Gavin Sherry via Wikimedia Commons
 

Puligny-Montrachet and Saint-Aubin

Endowed with the finest Chardonnay plots in the world, none of Puligny’s vineyards are slackers, even at the village level. They evoke descriptors like apricots, chamomile and hazelnuts. Saint-Aubin’s vines sit on the hill above and around the bend from Puligny. The wines resemble Puligny’s but cost one-third of the price.

Pour: Etienne Sauzet 2010 Puligny-Montrachet

Overtly perfumed: hawthorn and peony flirt with white peaches and wet stones. Archetypal Puligny including its mid-palate finesse and nuanced finish.

Photo courtesy of JonCaves via Wikimedia Commons
 

Chassagne-Montrachet

Chassagne doesn’t match Puligny in Grands Crus surface but boasts double the number of Premiers Crus. So there! It’s tough to distinguish these from Puligny, given their similar aromatic profiles, but Chassagne tends to be less chiseled. Chassagne also produces plenty of elegant, if firm, Pinot Noir for which it was better known until the late twentieth century, when world fell in love with Chardonnay.

Pour: Michel Niellon 2008 Chassagne-Montrachet

A classic Chassagne village with fragrances of yellow plum, Bosc pear and Lily of the Valley. A fairly rich palate for a 2008, with a lingering creaminess.

Photo courtesy of Megan Mallen via Wikimedia Commons

Santenay

Reds predominate here - characterized by their mid-weight body and oft-feisty tannins. Raspberry and lingonberry fruits are the norm and it seems a lump of dirt is thrown into every vat for extra terroir oomph.

Pour: Domaine de la Pousse d’Or 2008 Santenay Clos de Tavannes Premier Cru

A most satisfying example showing vibrant spiced red plum and forest floor. Mid-weight with a moderate finish and no evident new oak.

Photo courtesy of Christophe.Finot via Wikimedia Commons

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Comments

  • Snooth User: mrooney16
    1025588 3

    Thank you for such a fine article!

    Maureen

    Aug 16, 2012 at 2:14 PM


  • Great article. But the best buys are the reds of Volnay and the wines of St. Aubin.

    Aug 16, 2012 at 7:16 PM


  • Snooth User: SM
    1097030 218

    Once again Ms. Canterbury a great article. It's refreshing to see a wine critic/writer break down the complex and intricate world of Bourgogne fine wine into a village by village so that we can understand it. I always eagerly anticipate your articles.

    I did have one question for you though, if you don't mind. I think you may have explained it before in a previous article. But I seem to have forgotten what the term lieu-dit refers to.

    Cheers!

    S.M.

    Aug 16, 2012 at 9:22 PM


  • I think with a region like Burgundy there is no substitute for attending tastings.

    Before I got lucky and found a mercahnt that does an annual tasting, I have to say as a retail punter I found the region very hit and miss. At their best, they are really memorable, but others are farmyardy and the corks can let down things by being poor or stuck on in an amateur foil with sticky goo.

    The other thing is that the top whites - and reds- tend to their best after about 4-5 years from vintage and you have to stash them somewhere

    Aug 17, 2012 at 5:26 AM


  • Snooth User: Christy Canterbury MW
    Hand of Snooth
    1060100 60,139

    Howdy, all! (I'm in Texas after all....)

    First, thanks so much for all the thumbs-up on this piece!

    Second, S.M., here is my note on a lieu-dit from the first post of this series:
    "A lieu-dit is nothing more than a recognized vineyard, as you say. You can find lieu-dits at village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru level. For example, consider Meursault Meix Chavaux at the village level and Corton Les Renardes at the Grand Cru level."

    There are three more pieces to come...thanks for following!

    Christy

    Aug 17, 2012 at 10:07 AM


  • Snooth User: vinodm28
    551301 2

    I like Chardonnay wine.Easy,sociable wine. I don't have a preference but i haven;t found a French Chardonnay I enjoy. Weird. Strange: as its originates from France. i found the overtones of apricots and hazelnuts more to my liking in California and Northern Italian wines. Down to personal taste. But I will take your advice and try Aubin wine. I travel extensively for my marketing agency http://www.seosynovation.com and have the chance to try many wines on my travels. and I will try it.Thanks for a great post:

    Aug 17, 2012 at 10:58 AM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 994

    Love The Article
    I;m just beginning to explore Burgundy. Can you explain why the pinot noir grape is so different in Burgundy as opposed to California and Oregon wines.

    Aug 17, 2012 at 7:25 PM


  • Snooth User: topherg3
    921880 75

    Terroir!

    Aug 23, 2012 at 8:44 AM


  • Snooth User: Csquare
    702354 23

    Bravi! I like these notes very much. Clear, didascalic and Immediately understandable. My compliments.

    Sep 05, 2012 at 2:03 AM


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