Wines from the northern part of the Côte d'Or
By Russell Hone and Jean-Pierre Renard
This Guide was last updated on 26 April 2011
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Drive along the Route des Grands Crus to discover a litany of famous Burgundy villages. © Mick Rock/Cephas
The Côte de Nuits begins to the south of Dijon and continues until the appearance of the hill of Corton, a stretch of land only 30 kilometres long, but home to some of the greatest red wine vineyards in the world. There are no high fences surrounding these famous vineyards; the visitor who travels the Route des Grand Crus, a small road through the vines, will marvel at the small size of the fabled appellations, and begin to understand the all important geography of the region. Many of the vineyards were first planted over a thousand years ago by monks as much of the land was owned by the church.
There are traces of the past in certain old cellars and in the four immense wine presses at Clos Vougeot. Modern viticultural and vinification practices are now practiced by most domaines; however, it is not unusual to see a horse and plough reintroduced to nurture the soil that became too impacted by the use of heavy tractors. Care for the soil and the vines has become a top priority to conserve the individuality of the different terroirs. The Côte de Nuits has high hopes of being declared a protected and classified wine area under the protection of UNESCO.
The Côte de Nuits is the northern part of the Côte d'Or district in the heart of Burgundy, in Eastern France. It stretches from just south of Dijon to just north of Beaune and is named after the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges. The continuous, narrow strip of vineyards are on the south or southeast-facing slopes, some of them quite steep, giving them good exposure to the sun and a golden glow in the autumn - giving rise to the name Côte d'Or. The vineyards are at an altitude of between 220m and 400m, the best being sited on the middle slopes. The subsoil is limestone, which can be exposed in places, and in general is covered by chalky scree or marl (clay-limestone). However, the variations between sites in both soil types and exposure give rise to the complicated local designations of grands crus and premiers crus vineyards.
The climate is continental with cold winters and warm summers, extending into a long autumn. Localised hail storms can be a problem in the growing season, and heavy rain at harvest time may sometimes cause rot (a particular problem for Pinot Noir) and dilute the wines. Vintages are extremely varied here.
Just to the north of the Côte de Nuits, the city of Dijon is on the A38 motorway, reached from Paris via the A6 motorway, exit 24 with a journey time of about three hours. The N74 which becomes the D974 runs through the vineyard areas between Dijon and Beaune through Nuits-Saint-Georges. The TGV train line stops at Dijon and there are 16 trains a day from Paris, taking two hours. The closest international airport is Lyon, which is about 2 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.
Dijon Tourist Office,
34 Rue des Forges, 21022 Dijon
Nuits-Saint-Georges Regional Tourist Office,
3 Rue Sonoys, 21700 Nuits-Saint-Georges
Gevrey-Chambertin Tourist Office,
3 Rue Gaston-Roupnel, 21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
Official Burgundy wine website
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