The Côte de Beaune is the more southerly part of the Côte d’Or. The northernmost tip abuts onto the Côte de Nuits, and the region extends south to the Côte Chalonnaise. The geology is more variable than that of the Côte de Nuits. The region sits on a combination of Callovian, Argovian and Rauracian limestones, with much intervening marlstone. Obviously, the climate is the same as for the Côte de Nuits – continental, with a wide annual temperature difference. Spring rains and frost, and Autumn rains, which may interfere with the harvest, can also be a problem here. The vineyards face south-east on the slope between the plain to the south-east, and the hills to the north-west, the easterly aspect aiding exposure to the sun.
Pernand-Vergelesses can be a source of some good value Burgundy, but no great wines. Nearby, however, we start to see some of the more serious wines of the Côte de Beaune at Aloxe-Corton. The wines of this village, as well as a number of other villages nearby, are red as well as white. Red Corton should be a muscular, savoury wine, whereas the white is a rich, intense, buttery drink. Beaune, Savigny-les-Beaune and Chorey-les-Beaune are all best known for their red wines. The wines produced here are well fruited, tasty, sometimes quite elegant affairs, although they are somewhat lighter (and less expensive) when from the latter two villages.
Pommard can make wonderful red Burgundy, well structured and meaty, whereas Volnay is better known for it’s heady, perfumed and delicately textured wines.
Towards the southern end of the Côte de Beaune, however, are the Côte d’Or’s most famous white wine villages. Meursault produces rich, complex, intense yet elegant wines, but it is Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet that lead the pack. The former bears a wonderful combination of richness with mineral complexities, the latter are sometimes broader and more open, although both are lovely, and words cannot really do them justice. Nearby are the villages of St-Romain, St-Aubin, Santenay and Auxey-Duresses. All are responsible for some value Burgundy.
The appellations of the Côte de Beaune are as follows:
Grands Crus: As with the Côte de Nuits, such wines are not required to bear the village name. The Grands Crus are as follows:
Aloxe-Corton: Corton (the largest Grand Cru in Burgundy, with a number of subdivisions, eg Corton-Bressandes), Corton-Charlemagne.
Puligny-Montrachet: Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet.
Chassagne-Montrachet: Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet.
As with the Côtes de Nuits, some vineyards lie in more than one village. Here, the Grands Crus Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet lie in both Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet. Most villages of the Côte de Beaune have no Grands Crus.
Premiers Crus: As with the Côtes de Nuits, these are too numerous to name. As with Chablis and the Côtes de Nuits, a wine blended from several such sites will be labelled as Premier Cru, whereas a wine from an individual vineyard will bear the vineyard name, eg Pommard Premier Cru Les Petits Epenots.
Village Wines: The villages of the Côte de Beaune are Ladoix, Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Chorey-lès-Beaune, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Monthelie, St-Romain, Auxey-Duresses, Meursault, Blagny, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, St-Aubin and Santenay. Blagny is a small hamlet close to the Premier Cru vineyards of Meursault.
Sub-Village Appellations: These include Côte de Beaune Villages (may be applied to declassified wine from fourteen villages of the Côte de Beaune not including Aloxe-Corton, Beaune, Volnay or Pommard), Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits (applies to a large number of communes to the west of the Côte d’Or), and basic Bourgogne. There is also the confusing appellation Côte de Beaune, which refers to wines from the commune of Beaune not deemed worthy of the appellation Beaune.
The Côte d’Or – My top wines. As many producers have vineyards in so many different sites, I have grouped together the good names in Burgundy here. This is a personal list (in alphabetical order), so it doesn’t include great but hardly affordable domaines such as Romanée-Conti. My list of top estates and producers includes Domaine d’Arlot, Simon Bize, Robert Chevillon, Bruno Clair, Michel Colin-Deléger, Drouhin, René Engel, Faiveley, Jacques Gagnard-Delagrange, Jean-Marc Blain-Gagnard, Richard Fontaine-Gagnard, Jean Grivot, Hudelot-Noëllat, Jadot, Jaffelin, Henri Jayer, Leroy, Méo-Camuzet, Albert Morot, Daniel Rion, Domaine des Perdrix, and Etienne Sauzet.