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France

Burgundy

  • Location
    The Côte d’Or (golden slope), begins just south of Dijon and continues down to Chagny. It is subdivided into the Côte-de-Nuits in the north, which ends just north of Nuits-St.-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune, between Beaune and Santenay, just west of Chagny. This is the historic heart of Burgundy, and home to its greatest and most expensive wines.



    Climate

    Burgundy generally is a region with a cool, continental climate; winters are cold and summers are warm. The best vineyards are planted on east-, southeast- and south-facing hills, and are thus fairly sheltered from poor weather. In a good year, the wines of Burgundy are among the worlds finest, yet one hallmark of Burgundy is its notable and often annoying lack of consistency. The wines vary from year to year and from producer to producer. Interestingly, however, even wines from the same producer in the same vintage vary greatly. This last type of variation is one of the surest testaments to the importance of terroir in formation of wine quality.


    Soil
    The rock that underlies Burgundy is composed essentially of seabed deposits forming limestone of various types, laid down in different geological eras and mixed with clay, sand, gravel and marl. These marine deposits are rich in fossils and contain high levels of calcium, which contributes to the structure of the soil. There are many types of limestone, distinguished by their age and composition, and different types of clay, marl and marlstone, or clay mixed with limestone.


    Topography
    Gently sloping hills are capped with hard limestone forming hills about 400 meters high, with the best part, or belly, of the slope at about 250 meters. The soil erodes from the tops of the hills to the bottom; it is a bit too thin at the top and too thick at the bottom, while in the center of the slope it is just right. This can change from vineyard to vineyard as small faults cause the depth of the topsoil to vary greatly. Too much soil can hold too much water if it isn’t well-drained which can cause too much vigor in the vines, delaying ripening.

    Temperature varies along the slope as well. The vineyards at the top are cooler because of the altitude, while those of the middle maintain an even temperature because of the heat inversion described above. Vineyards at the bottom of the slope can often be damaged by frost, because the cold air will settle in the lowest part of the landscape. The vineyards of the Côte-de-Nuits face nearly due east, and those of the Cote de Beaune face southeast.

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  • Marsannay and Fixin
    It is easiest to think of the Côte de Nuits as one long, unbroken slope facing essentially due east that stretches from Marsannay in the north to Premeaux-Prissey in the south. In truth, Marsannay forms part of an area referred to as the Côte Dijonnaise, essentially suburbs of the city of Dijon. Marsannay is followed to the south by Fixin and both have essentially eastern exposure and hard limestone.

    There are Premiers Crus in Fixin, but the first major group of appellations is around Gevrey. There is a group of Premiers Crus on the steep hills north and west of the village, including les Cazetiers, Lavaux St.-Jacques and Clos St.-Jacques that are considered by some the equal of the Grands Crus.


    Gevrey-Chambertin
    The main band of Chambertin Grands Crus is located on the south side of the village, as the Côte swings back around to a due east exposure. There is one parcel of 87 contiguous hectares, or about 225 acres, containing eight separate Grands Crus. They are divided between those that are further up the hill, west of the D122 road called, very appropriately, the Route des Grands Crus, and those located east of the road as the slope continues down. The first group includes Ruchottes-, Mazis-, Clos de Beze, Chambertin itself and Latrcieres-Chambertin. Chapelle-, Griottes-, Charmes-, and Mazoyeres-Chambertin (which can be sold as Chames-) form the second group, those on the "wrong side" of the road. The slope here is not as steep as it is on the other side and the soil is thinner and rockier. These produce wines with less tannin and grip than the Grands Crus of the first group.


    Morey St. Denis
    South of Gevrey is Morey St.-Denis. Here the Grands Crus are all west of the D122, and include Clos de la Roche and Clos St. Denis to the north of the village and Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart to the south, on slightly rockier soil. Both are on a base of hard limestone. A part of Bonnes-Mares, a Grand Cru vineyard shared with Chambolle-Musigny, is also found here.



    Chambolle-Musigny
    South of Chambolle is Vougeot. The Clos de Vougeot is the largest grand cru of the Côte-de-Nuits, at over 50 hectares, or around 125 acres. This is one walled vineyard, but the quality is not homogeneous throughout. Most consider the part with the highest elevation to be the best quality.


    Flagey-Echezeaux and Vosne-Romanée
    East of the Clos de Vougeot is the commune of Flagey-Echezeaux, with the Grands Crus of Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, the smaller of the two, usually producing the better wine.

    The Vosne Romanee Grands Crus of Richebourg, Romanee-St.-Vivant, La Romanee, Romanée-Conti, La Grande Rue and La Tache are separated from Echezeaux by Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Suchots, considered to be very high quality. Those parcels further upslope from Suchots include 1er Crus Beaux Monts and Aux Brûlees.

    Behind Richebourg are the 1er crus of Les Petits Monts and Cros-Parentoux, which are often considered to be of Grand Cru quality, particularly Cros-Parentoux. Richebourg and Romanee St.-Vivant are followed to the south by La Romanee and Romanee-Conti, with Aux Reignots further up the slope. Just south of these vineyards lie La Grand Rue and La Tache.


    Nuits-St.-Georges
    To the south lies Nuits-St.-Georges, with a band of Premier Cru at the same level as the Grands Crus of Vosne, and below that village-level wines stretching down to the N74.

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  • Corton
    There is a break between the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune where many marble quarries are found, around Comblanchien and Corgoloin, and the Côte de Beaune begins in Ladoix-Serrigny, on the eastern slopes of the Corton hill.

    The hill of Corton is the largest collection of Grands Crus in Burgundy, with both red and white Grands Crus. These may appear simply as Corton and Corton-Charlemagne or they may have the name of a particular climat attached.

    The Grand Cru climat of Rognet-et-Corton is located in Ladoix. Swinging around to the southwest leads to Aloxe-Corton, where the majority of the Corton climats are found, including Renardes, Clos-du-Roi, Bressandes and part of Corton Charlemagne. Continuing to follow the hill around to the west, one finds the rest of Corton Charlemagne in the commune of Pernand-Vergelesses. Chardonnay is grown on the northern and western slopes of the Corton hill, while Pinot is grown on the lower slopes and on the east- and south-facing slopes.


    Savigny-les-Beaune and Chorey
    The Premier Crus of Pernand face the Corton hill, and continue into those of the commune of Savigny-les-Beaune. Across from Savigny on the wrong side of the road lies Chorey-les-Beaune, which has no Premiers Crus.


    Beaune
    The Premier Cru vineyards continue after the small stream that runs behind Savigny, and run along to the west of the town of Beaune. Beaune has more Premier Cru land by far than any other commune, and the best-known run in a line essentially just west of town, including Clos du Roi, Cent Vignes, Toussaints, Greves and Teurons.

    The wines of the commune of Beaune are mostly Pinot, but not quite 6% of the production is white, from Chardonnay sometimes mixed with Pinot Blanc.


    Pommard
    The Premiers Crus of Beaune continue into those of Pommard to the south. The commune is divided in two by the stream called the Dheune. The well-known Epenots and Pezerolles are to the north, while Les Combes and Les Rugiens are to the south. Those vineyards to the south tend to produce a fuller-bodied wine.


    Volnay
    The next village south of Pommard is Volnay, whose wines have a reputation for delicacy as opposed to the reputation of those of Pommard, which are thought of as generally more full-bodied and tannic. This is generally true because the soils of Volnay are lighter than those of Pommard.



    Auxey, St. Romain and Monthelie

    There are some very good value wines produced in Monthelie, both village level and in the Premier Crus located just north and south of the town. In Auxey there are several expositions, but only a few Premier Cru parcels, under the Montagne du Bourdon. The vineyards of St.-Romain are high in elevation, and many face south or west. Because of this the climate is much cooler. Soils have more clay and less limestone, and the region, overall, is better suited for white wine production for this reason.


    Meursault
    South of Volnay comes the town of Meursault and one of the largest appellations of the Côte d'Or. Both red and white wine are produced in Meursault, but today the white wine is more popular and expensive. Some 1er Cru parcels are an extension of the Volnay vineyard; some Meursault from Santenots can be sold as Volnay. The rest of the Premiers Crus are south of the village in one long strip. Perrières is considered among the best quality and parts of Charmes and Génevrières are considered as good, with Gouttes d'Or, Bouchères and Porusots also quite well regarded.

    This strip of Premier Cru parcels begins with Gouttes d'Or, and moving south includes Bouchères above Porusot, Génevrières, Perrières, and Charmes. These are situated at 200–260 meters elevation, with those at the southern end of the appellation extending further up and down the slope. The soils are thin and stony in the part near Volnay, but more marly south of the village.

    Some of the best parcels like Perrières are sheltered from the west by the woods called the Bois de Blagny, although the part of Perrières further down the slope (Perrières Dessous ["Lower Perrières"]) is considered better, while Charmes-Dessus ["Upper Charmes"], Génevrières-Dessus and Porusot Dessus are at roughly the same latitude. Chames-Dessous is on a low altitude area with rich soil. Many commentators do not agree that this parcel should be rated 1er Cru.

    Blagny is up the hill at the southern end of Meursault and all the wines sold as Blagny are red. If white wine is produced, it is sold as Meursault Blagny Premier Cru. These climats classed in Premier Cru include La Pièce sous le Bois and Sous le Dos d'Ane, among others.



    Deuxieme crus
    In addition to these Premiers Crus, there is also in Meursault a band of village-level vineyards that have the right to use a lieu-dit, or a given name for their parcel, but are not classed as Premier Cru. This band lies up the slope from the Premiers Crus running from Gouttes d'Or to Génevrières. These have been referred to as second growths or deuxième crus. Although this does not have a legal standing in AC law, it has been mentioned as long ago as the mid-19th century in the work of Dr. Lavalle, and it is given credence by many other authors, including Clive Coates in his work the “Côte d'Or,” and the present author. The soil here is similar in structure and composition. The main difference is the altitude and because of the cooler climate the wines tend to be crisp and a bit austere, but they are definitely stylish and high quality. This strip of deuxième crus begins with Les Vireuils in the north, followed to the south by Les Clous, Les Tillets and Les Narvaux, among others.


    Puligny-Montrachet
    South of Meursault lies Puligny-Montrachet. Premier cru vineyards continue south from Charmes-Dessus. The best-known of the 1er Crus lie upslope from the village, and include Clavaillon and Folatieres. Cailleret, Pucelles are next to Montrachet and Batard respectively. This band of Premiers Crus begins at 240 meters elevation; Grand Cru Le Montrachet is at 260 meters. There is also a group of Premiers Crus that lie up the slope from Folatières that are generally considered less interesting.


    Le Montrachet
    The Grand Cru vineyard faces due east and is protected from westerly winds by the hill of Mont-Rachet above Chevalier. The soil is marl over hard limestone, with a high proportion of pebbles. Many explanations for the quality of these Grands Crus exist, but the most sensible explanation is that it is exposition, elevation and field capacity, or soil depth and drainage, which account for the superiority. Within the Grands Crus, Chevalier has the thinnest soils, giving somewhat austere wines, and Batard and Bienvenues-Batard have somewhat less elegance because the soil is deeper with fewer pebbles. Criots-Batard is a small appellation with a reputation for delicacy.

    In Le Montrachet, Bouchard, Marquis de Laguiche (vinified by Drouhin) and Ramonet are on the Puligny side, and Lafon, Prieur, DRC and others are on the Chassagne side.


    Chassagne-Montrachet
    Chassagne, like Meursault, produces more red wine than is commonly thought, and was once known mostly for Pinot. Today it is the Chardonnay that is most highly prized. There are more than 50 Premiers Crus in Chassagne and the quality level is not homogeneous throughout.

    The best area for Premier Cru white Chassagne is below the village, just above the road, including climats such as Champs Gain, Maltroie, Baudines and Caillerets. Many of the other 1er Cru climats are on the south end of town, near the Abbaye de Morgeot, and have the right to sell their wine as Morgeots, a fairly large area.



    St.-Aubin and Santenay
    The N6 road cuts through Chassagne just south of Le Montrachet, leading back to the towns of St.-Aubin and Gamay, which both sell their wine as St.-Aubin. These vineyards often provide good values but seldom the excitement of their more famous neighbors.

    The same can be said of Santenay. This area produces a fair amount of wine. The wines can be a bit rustic but well-balanced with good fruit and structure. South of Santenay is Maranges, producing mostly red wine in heavier soils with a southern exposure. Côte Chalonnaise is located west of Chalon-sur-Saône. The climate is slightly drier than the Cote d'Or, but the aspects are not as uniformly east-facing. The soil is essentially composed of clay over limestone with some iron. The vineyards around Mercurey have more marl.

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  • Rully
    Rully is best known for easy drinking whites that show the same basic structure as the wines from the Côte d’Or while lacking the depth and power. Mercurey is located south of Rully. This is the best-known village for Pinot in the Côte Chalonnaise, and has a large number of Premiers Crus. Givry is another village best known for Pinot, where good values can be found. Montagny produces only whites from Chardonnay, with several very good Premiers Crus.



    Mâconnais and Saint-Veran
    The Mâconnais is an area spread over a series of limestone and granite hills facing more or less east along the river Saône. The soil is limestone atop granite, and the climate is warmer here than in the rest of Burgundy, but it is still fairly continental, with big seasonal swings. Mâcon Chardonnay is well structured and often well made, but sometimes rather simple. Mâcon-Villages is a step up, and covers 42 communes, including Clesse, Chardonnay, La Roche Vineuse, Vire and Lugny.

    Saint-Veran is in the south of the area where Mâcon and Beaujolais meet. Pouilly Fuisse is the most famous wine from this area, but some St. Verans can be great values as well. The best are grown on limestone and granite soils with a southern exposure and provide crisp green apple fruit with a certain minerality and moderate depth of flavor.


    Beaujolais
    The best Beaujolais is not produced in this fashion, however. The finest Gamays are produced in the same way as the best red Burgundies. Wine is largely produced in this traditional way in the communes referred to as the Beaujolais Crus, which include: St. Amour, Julienas, which is more structured, and Chenas. Wines from Moulin-à-Vent are among the richest of the area as are those from Morgon. Many wines from Fleurie are fairly light and easy drinking, as well as those from Regnie, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.


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  • Climate and soil
    The style of the best Chablis shows a citrus/green apple fruit character on the nose with a pronounced minerality. On the palate it is dry, with crisp acidity, but showing a richness on the palate that comes from Chardonnay produced from great terroir.


    Classified vineyards
    There are 17 Premier Cru vineyards scattered throughout Chablis, although some are falling into disuse. Fourchaume and Montmains are among the best-known and the most highly regarded, along with Montée de Tonnerre and Vaillons. These wines show greater concentration and more depth of flavor than AC Chablis.


    Grand Crus


    Chablis Grand Cru wines are among the best values in the world of wine today, because in a good vintage, the complexity and depth rivals that of the finest whites from the Côte d'Or, but the wines cost a fraction of those from the Côte d'Or. There are seven Grand Cru sites located in one contiguous parcel. These are:

    - Les Clos (26.05 ha), whose wines are consistently balanced and steely. These are normally considered the finest wines of the appellation.

    - Vaudesir (14.71 ha), producing wines commonly regarded as ripe and spicy.

    - Valmur (13.2 ha), giving softer wines that still age well.

    - Blanchot (12.72 ha), giving somewhat lighter, perfumed wines. Some sections have a reputation as not being as ripe.

    - Bougros (12.63 ha) produces wines that are very full bodied but not as perfumed.

    - Preuses (11.44 ha) produces wines that are among the ripest of the slope.

    - Grenouilles (9.38 ha) gives wines that are fruity and elegant, but still have the capacity to age well.



    Other wines of the Yonne
    Other wines of the area around Chablis, known as the Yonne, include Irancy, which is known for reds from Pinot Noir and a grape known as Cesar, and Sauvignon de St. Bris (a VDQS). There are also regional appellations such as Bourgogne Côte d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Chitry, Bourgogne Coulanges, Bourgogne Cote St. Jacques and Bourgogne Epineuil.

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