Wines from the southern part of the Côte d'Or
By Russell Hone and Jean-Pierre Renard
This Guide was last updated on 27 April 2011
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Home to the famous wine auction every November, the Hospices de Beaune is just one place to visit in the undisputed capital of Burgundy. © Mick Rock/Cephas
Whereas the Côte de Nuits to the north can claim illustrious Grand Cru red wines, the Côte de Beaune has the monopoly of great whites like Montrachet and Corton Charlemagne. It stretches from Ladoix at the foot of the hill of Corton to Maranges just south of Santenay. The town of Beaune was historically the capital of Burgundy and beneath many fine old buildings are extensive cellars belonging to the negoçiant-shippers such as Drouhin, Jadot, and Bouchard Père et Fils. Close your eyes to the modern shop fronts and look up to the upper storeys and roofs dating back to mediaeval times.
Heading south, the road meanders through the vineyards and villages of Pommard, Volnay and Meursault, followed by Puligny-Montrachet, Chassage-Montrachet, to Santenay. Deviations to Monthelie, Auxey-Duresses, and St-Romain take you through a hilly countryside with both vines and forests. The atmosphere is more rural than the Côte de Nuits.
Burgundy is renowned not only for its wine but for its cuisine and there are plenty of restaurants of all levels in Beaune and beyond where you can induge in both, revelling in both Burgundian gastronomy and hospitality. To work the food off, Beaune is also an excellent base if you want to explore the vineyards by bicycle, with a dedicated cycle track linking the town with Santenay to the south.
The southern section of the Côte d’Or region in the heart of Burgundy, the vineyards in the Côte de Beaune run along a 20km strip with the same south-southeast exposition, but on gentler slopes than the Côte de Nuits to the north. The best vineyards are located on the middle slopes at altitudes of 250m-300m. The soils, based on limestone as well as oolitic ironstone, are comprised of flinty clay and chalk with some marl particularly present in the good white wine vineyards. Variations in soil composition and slope make the difference between the Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations.
A temperate continental climate gives warm summers and long autumns, but with quite varied weather from year to year which determines the quality of the vintage. Localised hail may be a problem in the growing season and heavy rain at harvest time can sometimes cause rot (a particular problem for Pinot Noir) and dilute the wines.
Côte de Beaune is in the Côte d’Or region in the heart of Burgundy, in Eastern France, and its centre, Beaune, is on the A16 Motorway. The drive from Paris takes about 3 hours coming via the A6 motorway. The TGV train line stops at Beaune twice a day and at Dijon 16 times a day, with a short journey on to Beaune, taking just over two hours from Paris. The closest international airport is Lyon, which is about 1½ hours drive, and Paris or Geneva airports are also reasonably accessible. There is a regional airport in Dijon with some flights within Europe during summer.
Beaune Tourist Office,
6 Boulevard Perpreuil, 21203 Beaune
Meursault Tourist Office,
Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, 21190 Meursault
Santenay Tourist Office,
Gare SNCF, 21590 Santenay
Official Burgundy wine website
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