Our second day of wine exploration in Burgundy was in the southern part of the Côte d’Or, the Côte de Beaune. For anyone who didn’t read my last post, the Côte d’Or consists of two areas: the Côte de Nuits in the North and the Côte de Beaune in the South.
It started with great coffee, more precisely, Café Noisette, the French version of a macchiato. Sometimes you get a dollop of foam, sometimes you get a tablespoon of hot milk. Sometimes you get lucky and the person who makes it is from Italy.
We met up with François of Chemins de Bourgogne for a morning of exploration.
The Côte de Beaune flows outward from the town of Beaune , making its way up the slopes on either side. The landscape is a picturesque succession of hills and valleys. Here’s the scoop on types of wine made:
- Vineyards on the valley floor produce generic Bourgogne Blanc and Bourgogne Rouge wine.
- As the ground slopes upward towards various villages, Village wine is made, the named village being where the grapes are sourced (or near to it). The primary village appellations are Corton, Corton-Charlemain, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrache, and Chassagne-Montrache.
- Continuing up the hillsides to better soil, Premier Cru vineyards are found. Superior vineyards in some of these villages classify wine as Grand Cru. Both of these indicate the wine is from a specific, designated vineyard.
- The highest band of vineyards along the hillsides have less fertile soil but produce worthy wines called Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beanue.
Stopping at a high point, we got out of the car and looked to the village of Saint Aubin. It’s isolated off the main valley flanked by the two famous Montrachet vineyards: Chassagne and Puligny. Saint Aubin white wines kept appearing on restaurant menus, we had a few and took positive note!
Facts about Saint Aubin:
- Located south west of the town of Beaune.
- Clay and limestone soils from the Jurassic period.
- Slopes that form a natural amphitheater result in prolonged daily sunshine.
- About ¾’s of vineyard sites are Premier Cru.
- Roughly 80% of the wine is white made from the Chardonnay grape.
- Depending on the wine, aging ranges from older barrels, casks and tanks, to Burgundian oak barrels (however lessor amounts of new oak).
- Common aromas include flowers, lemon, apple, pear, pineapple, yellow plum, toasted almond and bread, truffle, beeswax, and honey.
- Some whites have a mineral, steely character.
Led into their vaulted cellar by Emmanuelle-Sophie, daughter of Jean-Louis Moissenent-Bonnard, we lively discussed and tasted twelve wines. The Domaine’s annual production is about 45,000 bottles, which includes a Pommard 1er cru from the “Les Epenots” plot.
Their Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru ‘Hameau de Blagny’, and Auxey-Duresses ‘Les Fosses’ wines, both produced from the Chardonnay grape were stand outs. The latter spending 12-months “en barrique” resulting in sweet wood notes that could charm a skeptic.
Kudos to them for being certified as a High Environmental Value operation, meaning without use of pesticides and herbicides (“Lutte Raisonnée” in French).
Down the valley and back up, driving past historic sites and vineyards, many areas are very sleepy until the lunch bell tolls; the spiritual practice behind this bell is eating!
Restaurant Le Collier Volnaysien in Volnay cooks up excellent, traditional French food from the region. The Oeufs en Meurette, Coq an Vin, and Beef Bourguignonne were excellent- sure bets if you make it to this restaurant.
Pleasantly satiated (and a Café Noisette later) we headed back to Beaune. Two days is not enough to explore the Côte d’Or thus I suspect another trip is in our future.
We’ll leave you with a visual overview of the area and a few good sources for trip planning- Cheers!
(map courtesy of Vins de Bourgogne)