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France_Burgundy_Cote de Beaune

The Cote de Beaune is a fascinating part of the Cote d'Or as it is different things to different people. It is home to the great Chardonnay-based wines of the world with such illustrious names as Corton-Charlemagne, Le Montrachet, Meursault and Puligny. It is also home to sinewy, aromatic and sometimes structured red Burgundies that offer great value compared to their neighbors up north.

The Cote de Beaune is also home to many "value" appellations like Santenay, St. Aubin and Monthelie.  These are appellations that year in and year out offer great value for the money with only nominal increases in price. Many Burgundy connoisseurs say the value lies in the South while the quality is in the north. This applies only to reds. Based on my experience, I love Beaune reds, but the best red Burgs I have had have all been from the Cote de Nuits. 

The Cote de Beaune is around the much larger city of Beaune, versus the smaller Nuits up north. The soils are mainly limestone with some patches of clay and other calcerous types of soil. The best vineyards are on the slopes and the lesser vineyards are on the flatlands and lower down on the slopes.

Many of the larger negociants are based in Beaune. These are firms that may own some vineyard land but principally buy grapes or grape must or in some cases finished wines and raise them. The first firms like Champy and Bouchard set up shop in Beaune and remain there to this day. Negociants, or in some cases Belgian and British wine merchants, bottled wines on their own and had the privilege of putting their firm or shop on the label. Other famous negociants based in Beaune are Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin and Louis Latour. Some famous stores or brokers that bottled Burgundy were Avery's, Nicolas and Berry Brother and Rudd.

In the old days, before 1930, all Burgundy wine was bottled under negociant or other labels. Nothing was estate bottled. Negociants were seen as the leading force in Burgundy, but some producers like Henri Gouges and Armand Rousseau started bottling their own wines and that radically, over time, changed the landscape of Burgundy. Today, the best wines are estate bottled although the negociants are still respected and can turn out killer wines.  Interestingly, those are usually from the parcels they own themselves. Negociants used to be the be-all end-all in Burgundy before estate bottling began to take hold and the role-reversal is one of the more interesting changes in Burgundy's recent (last 100 years) history. 

There are three appellations with Cote de Beaune in the title. These are above Bourgogne Rouge's but below village wines in the Burgundy hierarchy. The appellations are Cote de Beaune, Cote de Beaune Villages and Hautes-Cotes-de Beaune. In genral some excellent values can be found here but buyer beware as many wines can be acidic, thin, weedy and generally uninteresting. As it goes in Burgundy, go with the best producers, preferably, estate bottled stuff and you'll find some tasty stuff.

Cote de Beaune Villages
Cote de Beaune Villages comes from lands that encompass the villages of Chorey-Les-Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet, Auxey-Duresses, Santenay, St-Aubin, Savingy-Les-Beaune, St-Romain, Puligny-Montrachet, Monthelie, Pernand-Vergelesses and Maranges. As one can surmise by the village names, not all the wine is red. The wines at their best are dark, concentrated, lovely structured examples of wines that could be mistaken for village or even 1er Cru wines. 

One would surmise that Cote de Beaune Villages works a lot like Cote de Nuits Villages. Think again! While the Cote de Nuits Villages encompasses land from a very small number of villages, Cote de Beaune Villages comprises of land that can pretty much be anywhere in the Cote de Beaune. The thinking is that someone in Auxey-Duresses can sell off their not quite up to par juice as Cote de Beaune Villages if they don't think the juice is worthy of having Auxey-Duresses on the labels. A way of preserving the integrity of the appellation and creating another income stream on wine that would be otherwise distilled or sold off to negociants. Kind of like the way the whole 2nd label idea works in Bordeaux is how it works in the Cote de Beaune. Typically these wines run from between $25-$45. 

Cote de Beaune
You would think that Cote de Beaune is encompassed by the other two Cote de Beaune appellations, but it is not. This appellation exists solely for a few wines sourced from vineyards near the town of Beaune. It applies to an insignificant amount of wines to the point that I have only tasted a handful. The example from Domaine de la Vougeraie I had was rich, minerally and very clean. I cannot expound on the style of these wines as I have had so few. Typically these wines run between $20 and $40.

Hautes-Cotes-de Beaune
Hautes-Cotes-de Beaune is an area in the western edge of Beaune where woodlands and pasture are interspersed with vines to make one of the more attractive landscapes in the Cote d'Or. It is cooler in the west in the already cool region of the Cote de Beaune so in cooler years many of the wines can be dilute and weedy. Another region where vintage plays an important role below producer in the purchasing decision. The wines are light, supple and fruity and the best ones tend to come from the best producers. Domaine Rollin makes a lovely white one that is a reliable value every year. It is lithe and minerally with a lovely limey acidity. These wines typically can be found for $20-$30.

Notable Recent Vintages for Cote de Beaune Villages, Cote de Beaune and Hautes-Cotes-de Beaune: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2005, 2004 (variable), 2003 (Pommard and Volnay only, avoid whites!), 2002, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1993, 1991, 1990, 1988

Top Producers for Cote de Beaune Villages include:
  • Michel Lafarge
Top Producers for Cote de Beaune include:
  • Domaine de la Vougeraie
  • Emmanuel Giboulet
Top Producers for Hautes-Cotes-de Beaune include:
  • Jayer-Gilles
  • Domaine Billard
  • Jean Garaudet
  • Lucien Jacob
  • Jean-Yves Devevey
  • Henri Naudin-Ferrand
  • Domaine Rollin
  • Roland Rapet

For more discussion on these particular villages, click on through.